Importing from Tinderbox

Is there a good way to import notes from Tinderbox into Scrivener? I use Tinderbox for writing notes, organizing these into a structured outline, then adding text to the note body until I have a rough draft. Until now I have been pasting text from these notes into Word to write articles and books. Ideally what I would like to do is import the Tinderbox notes into a Scrivener project, either at the outline stage, so that I could take advantage of the different Tinderbox views for the development of structure, or a little later with some text already in the notes. It would be nice to be able to preserve the outline structure developed out of the notes from Tinderbox, then add to it and do the drafting in Scrivener. The best of both worlds!

Hopefully AmberV will field this one - I know she is a big fan of TN and uses that for brainstorming before bringing work into Scrivener.

Tinderbox is very flexible in its output. At the very least, you can just use the built-in “plain text” export and move your data over using a simple text format. Have you tried using the File>Export As Text command in Tinderbox to see how close that is to what you want?

Thanks. I could do that, export a selection of notes from Tinderbox as text, then use “Split with selection as titleâ€

I would definitely recommend using the HTML exporter for this. While it is called HTML export, it is in reality much more flexible. The format is only what the template dictates it to be. You can use very simple templates like:

^title ^text

And you’ll get a bunch of text files, arranged in folders to match the Tinderbox outline, with a title on one line and then the content of the note. There are a few things to watch for. Set the default for the attribute HTMLMarkupText to false. This way you will not get

tags around paragraphs and so forth. You might also want to extend the length of HTMLMaxFilenameLength to 128 or so, and set HTMLExportExtension to txt, instead of html.

Once you get things exported the way you like it, you can just drag the folder that Tinderbox creates into Scrivener’s Binder, and the outline structure will be retained.

If you did wish to retain formatting; if you used bold and italics in Tinderbox and you want to carry that over to Scrivener, then you probably should let it create very simple HTML files, and make sure to set Scrivener to convert HTML to rich text in preferences.

Has anyone contacted Mark Bernstein about this matter? I too am a Tinderbox licensee.

My arsenal consists of:

SOHO Notes

P.S. And I am not even a writer, but I am very much into processes.

Would someone please enlighten me re brainstorming with Tinderbox? I tried the demo, and it seemed like a more complex and inconvenient version of Stickies.

I used to use SOHO notes, but now use Yojimbo because it’s faster.

I really am interested in learning why people swear by Tinderbox. Always looking for a new tool to unlock the imagination.


Tinderbox is more than an application—it is a means of thought. You must delve deep into Tinderbox to start to understand it process. It is rather like what the CREB protein is thought to be in the human brain—you can build long-term relationships.

I had quite a lot to say about Tinderbox, here. Short answer to your question: I do not use it so much to brainstorm; I use it to keep track of every detail. Outside of a writing context, I’ve also used it to publish my web site, and as a massive, complicated to do list.

I knew Jay Bolter a long time ago when he invented StorySpace, the ancestor of TinderBox. His ideas arose from using HyperCard, a single-card interface. Jay created a GUI that featured boxed spaces in which users could write notes, drag them into arrangements, and draw lines of relationship and sequence between them. It was a fascinating use of Mac technology, and initially it was free or inexpensive.

Later he sold it to Eastgate, and the price exploded. The product has improved, but I can’t see paying $200 for any software under the sun. You may get many of the same effects from Inspiration ($69), and personally a combination of OmniOutliner and Scrivener is all the outlining or mind-mapping that I need.

I’ve tried Inspiration, and while it is definitely a very good program, it does not have nearly the capacity for information processing that Tinderbox has. If you use Tinderbox for something along the lines of Inspiration, then it would be a rip off. However, its built-in logic language, template exports, and UNIX connectivity is something Inspiration cannot touch.

Thanks for your posts and references, AmberV. I’m one of those folks who could never get into TB. As you point out in your posting on the other thread, TB’s learning curve is long (and for me at least, steep). I just wasn’t prepared to invest the time.

In addition, a personal predilection. It’s so darned ugly. I mean ug-lee! For me, one of the great pleasures of Scriv is its attention to aesthetics. Maybe it’s just me, but staring at that homely, design-challenged TB interface for more than a short while became truly irritating.

Again, AmberV, thanks for your knowledge and insight.



When you get to know about Tinderbox, you will learn it is not at all about the looks. I do agree with you, visually it is a letdown from the opening screen, but it is so powerful that you quickly forget about its looks.

I feel the same way. Sure there are some obvious aesthetic things that could be improved, but much of what could be considered ugly is actually an expression of information. Given that the project is basically being created by one individual, I’d rather see him focus on refining and expanding the core functions of the application, than retooling the interface in subjective appearance directions. Remember, what looked good 10 years ago looks “bad” today; mostly for reasons of aesthetic fad. Appearance refinement does not advance in the way that other technological achievement does. While there is a clear advancement in the way of say, chip design, there is no real advancement in fashion or widget design.

Now, all of that changes when it comes to creative application (for me, anyway). For an application to be effective at allowing my creativity to flourish, it must not be jarring or cluttered. I have long stated that Tb never suited me at all as a creative interface. As a tool to help my creative mind be free? Absolutely, but to actually be a canvas upon which I can write? Not so much. When it comes to visualising information, though, it is excellent at that; it can “say” so much immediately. So it is really a matter of focus. It is vital that an application like Scrivener can be a canvas.

And this is of course different for every person. I have heard of people writing novels in Tinderbox. More power to them.

Tinderbox is hard on the eyes, and challenging to the mind of a new user, but totally unique and invaluable once you “grok” it. I’ve used it since v1.0 and there are nooks and crannies I still don’t use or fully understand.

I’ve written dozens of articles, organized one commercial book, and tens of thousands of words on my professional blog, which is about to turn five years old, using Tinderbox. Clearly, I think it’s a great tool.

If you think you might enjoy the product, but aren’t quite sure, invest just a small amount and buy the book The Tinderbox Way. Read it, and you’ll know if the product is for you.

That said, the last few things I’ve written have been completed using Scrivener. I don’t see it as a Tinderbox competitor in any way, but its aesthetics are certainly quite enticing.

:frowning: It’s not meant to be a competitor to Tinderbox any more than it’s meant as a competitor to Photoshop. :slight_smile:

I have to admit that I never quite “got” Tinderbox, but then again I never was much of a mindmapping person…


Incidentally, I’ve been considering buying this book, but holding off until I hear some feedback on it. In your opinion, is it worth the price for a reasonably advanced user?

Keith – That’s OK, I’m not a “mindmapper” either, but I understand that some people see Tinderbox as a tool for doing that. Perhaps someday I’ll try it. And of course, in regards to competition, just pointing out that trying to decide between Scrivener and Tinderbox is like trying to decide between eating breakfast and tying your shoe. :slight_smile:

Amber - I think there’s a lot of value in The Tinderbox Way, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll discover several “aha!” bits that make it worth the money. It’s also much more interesting to read than the TB documentation.

Now, Keith, when will The Scrivener Way be out? :slight_smile:

The Scrivener Way cannot be out because it cannot be in - the Scrivener Way is everywhere. It is all around you.


Interesting that you say that you have never used TinderBox as a mindmapping tool - I guess I am missing a lot in that program. I agree with your analogy - the two programs do completely different things, and they can probably be used alongside depending on your workflow…


That’s an understatement! :wink: