Tinderbox Forum

Will it do what I want it to do


I’ve been reading about tinderbox and played around with the the 30-day trial. It intrigues me and if it’s half as good as people claim then it should do what I want it to do. Which is…

I am pulling together 30 years of work into non-fiction book. The source material includes lectures, pptx presentations, docx files, pdf files, stuff in devonthink, stuff in finder folders, stuff in photos etc. etc. So, my tasks is not so much creating new notes as organising notes/files already created. I have so much material I’m not sure how to start and a lot of what appeals about Tinderbox is that the way material is organised can emerge as you go.

So the question is, will Tinderbox help me organise this wide range of stuff, in a wide range of formats, in a wide range of places on my Mac and dropbox and some paper files.

I’m happy to put up with the steep learning curve if I can be sure at that start that Tinderbox will let me link to, use, organise etc the wide range of source material I’ve got.



I’m explicitly not vouching for how this system might end up meeting your specific needs and working-style tastes.

But for me, over the past decade, it has been a workhorse and reliable tool in the functions you name, and more. I’ve organized data for my past three books on TB; and the dozens of magazine articles I’ve done in that time; and other blog post and other chores. Give it a serious look.

Thanks for that. I’ve been exploring the help files and I see that you can import a wide range of files. What comes in seems to be images or text. Now I can see the value of that in a number of ways - I don’t want TB simply as another place to store files. However, when I import a file I would like an easy way of going back to the source file. Can that be done.

Sorry if these questions are all very basic.



Although Tinderbox can import files, I don’t think its design favours use as an everything-bucket. However, it is very good with metadata - data about you data (e.g. files). Tinderbox File-type attributes let you link to files on your system. clicking such links then use Finder to pen the file in the relevant app. Tinderbox URL-type attributes allow you to link not only to web resources but local resources in apps that have a pseudo-protocol, e.g. DEVONthink, Bookends, MarginNote and others.

Indeed, DEVONthink (DT) seems a very popular ‘everything bucket’ - I’m not to versed in DT myself but others here are so I hope they’ll chime in on co-sue of DT+TB.

In summary, store links to or proxies for your files so as not to bloat your Tinderbox file(s) leaving space to concentrate on the organisation and understanding of your data.

If it’s any help, I use DevonThink as my “everything bucket” but if I were starting from scratch, I’d probably actually just use files and folders. I don’t really use tags as I find them very time-consuming to maintain (and they only work if you maintain them). I think if I used scripting more, DevonThink would be more valuable to me.

Where it shines for me is search. Spotlight is good but for whatever reason, DevonThink is better at finding things than Spotlight for what I do. For many apps, the more stuff you dump in it the more unwieldy the app becomes. DevonThink seems to be the other way around - if you only have 100 or so notes, there’s little benefit to it, but with thousands of notes it can be the lifesaver that finds something you’d never remember by yourself.

Thanks for that. I am increasingly using DTP as my 'everything bucket and it is great for that function - the more that goes into it the more useful it is becoming. I want TB as a thinking, organising tool and from what I am reading it seems to be good at that. As long as I can easily link that thinking to ‘source files’ I think it may do what I want it to do.

Thanks for your responses

I have used Tinderbox and DEVONthink together for most of their respective lifetimes. I definitely would never put files into Tinderbox.

Let’s break the problem down. You have 30 years of source files and you want (a) a place to store them, (b) a method to “organize” them, (c) an approach to extract sense from the collection, (d) a tool to develop notes or annotations about your source files, so that (e) you can evolve those notes / annotations into material for publication.

DEVONthink is used by many authors to do (a) store, (b) organize, (c) classify and relate, (d) make notes, (e) create new work. Tinderbox (in my opinion) excels at (c) classify and relate, (d) make notes, and especially (e) create new work. Tinderbox 7 works very well with DEVONthink to do (d) make notes in DEVONthink and transfer to Tinderbox, and (e) create new work.

In other words (and very tersely without explaining how to):

A few cautions:

  1. Get a trial of Tinderbox and a trial of DEVONthink Pro Office. Both trials are very generous and both developers will work with you to help you succeed. Both forums can be very helpful with specific questions.
  2. You can start and fail and reassess and start again in both softwares, and that is perfectly ok and normal. You are working with an emerging understanding of your library. It took 30 years to get here and might take a substantial fraction of that for the lightbulb to flicker on.
  3. Use DEVONthink’s See Also & Classify and auto-classify features extensively. This is not the place to explain how to do that – go over there and read and talk to folks, or read Joe Kissell’s books on using DEVONthink. Just remember, you need some ideas on how to start with the classification of your files otherwise DEVONthink will do it’s own thing which might miss the mark.
  4. Start your work with theories about what themes you might discover in your library. You will change your mind as your understanding evolves, but if you don’t have a starting point to seed the exploration you probably won’t find much sense in your library. You don’t walk into the Library of Congress thinking “I want to write a book. Let’s see what this place might suggest to me.”
  5. Tinderbox is not good for classifying source files on its own – don’t bother to try.

(Personally, I don’t like the “everything bucket” term at all. It’s very 80’s and doesn’t do justice to what DEVONthink and Tinderbox can do for you, and how software should be used. After all, you already have a bucket or lots of buckets and they are not serving you well. If you want a place to dump stuff in a bucket, buy a thumb drive. :smile:)


Point well made … and taken.

Thank you that’s very helpful. DTP and Finder work well for me for a) and b). I’ve got better at using those two over the years and have got to a point where I can collect, organise and find most of what I want quickly. c) I’m getting better at and as I use DTP more and more (I’ve been using it for about 2 years) that function is also working better, but d) and e) is definitely where I’m falling over. My translation of d) is building on my 'knowledge base by making notes and thinking about the work I do, problems I am trying to solve, and using that to create new work. I do not want to store files in TB, but I’m fairly sure that I will constantly want to relate my notes, my thinking, back to source material and from what people are saying TB can do that very well

Looks like I should get a trial version.

Thanks for all your help

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Tinderbox has had a number of recent improvements to aid TB/DT co-use, as you’ll see from notes here, : http://www.acrobatfaq.com/atbref7/index/Formatting/Supportforotherapp-speci/DEVONthink.html