the best way to use key words

What is the best way to use key words to help organize a big document with a lot of research files on different–but interrelated–topics?

In another thread, AmberV talked about how key words substituted for some of the things she had previously done in Tinderbox, but I didn’t understand what she was describing.

I’m fairly new to keywording, but do a lot of photography and I have started using it in Aperture to tag photos.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that you should tag in whatever way is most meanful to you.
The best thing I did to my Aperture tags is delete the suggested, default tags. I can see how many of them would be extremely useful, especially in a collaborative setting, however, for my needs, it was much better to have much less of them and that those I did have were right for me.

I think the way I should have worded this is to ask how other people use key words.

I began my book by adding keywords to each research document, wily nilly. I put a keyword for topic or idea I thought I might want to reference later. The result is that when I do a search now, I get such a hodgepodge of results that it’s not all that helpful.

I can certainly go back and start over with keywords–I imagine I’ll have to if I want them to be useful. But before I do anything at all, I’d like to know what others have done that has worked for them.

I agree with you Sebbi. It’s important to be selective with what you use–which I wasn’t at the beginning of this–and only use keywords that mean something to you. My problem is that I began assigning keywords before I knew where I was going and now they don’t help.


Generally I ask those smarter than me (which is just about everyone) to classify stuff. then I use those key words. For writing I have given up. Requires more brains that I possess. BUT If I searched for an items in spotlight, find, google, or other references (like a concordance or dictionary) I use those search terms. I figure that I am likely to use the same things as keywords. Doesn’t really work too well for me.

I guess I am used to not being right. Consider that statement applicable to mental state and decision making. Heck I am married and have teenage daughditor so even when I am right I am not allowed to BE right.

my teens are sons. everyone i ever gave birth to is male. when our cat (the only other female in the house) had kittens, they were male. this means i never have to do ANYTHING to fix a computer problem. my only contribution is to tolerate being called a “blond” while they fix it for me. (i’m a brunette, so the insult is entirely metaphorical.)

i haven’t been right about anything since the first one hit puberty. we’ll see if mark twain was right, and i do get smarter when they turn 20.


Unfortunately, Twain was only referring to his father. I think you have to have daughters for the same thing to kick in with mothers.

While I agree with you on the connotation of Twain (I still find it fascinating that “twain” was used for scanner drivers), the daughtidtor claims that I am not as dumb as I used to be last year (13 to 14 for her). So I wonder if conceptually the notion should be that as kids get older parents get less stupid?

i’m with you jaysen.

i know literalists about the first three chapters of genesis, the bill of rights and george bush. but antony is the first literalist i’ve ever known about mark twain. personally, i think there’s room in Mr Twain’s analysis for all adolescents and their parents, whether they have a y chromosome or double xs. of course, my adolescent y chromosome people would probably disagree with me. you can imagine what it’s like for them, living with a blond mom with an attitude.

It was his Dad he referred to. He was amazed by how much his Dad had learned, in just seven years.
But it applies across genders. It`s called ‘growing up’ :wink:
Take care

…You do all realise I was just making a joke, right?


of course I do. i was joking back at you.


I on the other hand have no sense of humor.

And vic-k has no sense whatsoever.

Aw-shucks! :blush: thanks matt

could i nudge the discussion back to my key word problem?

do i need to come up with key words that are unique in order to get search results that are helpful? right now, when i do a search, i get so many files that it’s really not useful to me. maybe i’m just not doing the search well enough. or maybe i need to put things in another software–devon? filemaker? tinderbox, which i do not grok as of yet? what?–for that.

i’m afraid that if i don’t get on top of this, the book is going to get to be such a big pile of stuff that it will all fall over on me and smother me.

how have the rest of you, who are much more experienced at this, handled these things?


I handle research organization by dumping everything into DevonThink Pro. Scrivener’s research functions are okay, but DTP’s are world class.


Ditto, although I do bring a subset of key documents into Scrivener for the writing process.

Even then, however, I don’t use use keywords (although I’m mighty glad they are there for recourse if necessary). This is because for me the research documents are there more as a comfort blanket than a real reference. When I’m writing I tend to refer to research before and after, but not during. (And I believe that for myself organising and re-organising research can turn into a form of procrastination.)


You should know that once that vic-k guy starts posting, nudges will not be enough. A ball bat to the back of the head might get it for him, but he is pretty hard headed. Then again you may prove me wrong.


Can I add this:

Keep your keywording consistant. If you start using a keyword, stick with it.

In Aperture (which supports heirachical keywording), I tag ANYTHING with people in it with a “people” keyword. I’ll then look at all the people keyword and then ANYTHING where those people are family I’ll tag with the “family” keyword.

I notice you talk about coming up with a new keyword for an odd document that stands out to you - instead of using a keyword (which are very useful for groups of files) use a caption instead.

That way, to search for that file, you key in that caption.

See what I mean?

Hope this is helpful

I’ll have to say I haven’t really quite got the hang of what ‘keywords’ are about. I understand that clicking on, say, a character name listed under keywords will bring up all the documents in a draft featuring that name; but that lacks context. I can get the same just by typing the same thing into the ‘search’ box at the top.

What I really need is a way to more quickly make sure that the things characters say to each other remain consistent. Character A says X here, yet I have a niggling feeling they’re actually saying Y about twenty-five thousand words back; and so I go searching by the more traditional route to check on plot consistency.

One way for doing that, for me, would be to somehow tag two different sentences in different documents and ‘link’ them somehow, so that typing in a common keyword connecting those sentences would reveal not merely the documents containing those sentences, but the specific paragraph containing them. That way I could have an immediate list of wherever Character A is saying X, and make sure he’s saying X all the way through, and not Y or Z. Otherwise I end up scrolling backwards and forwards through individual documents within the draft, trying to locate the precise relevant statements.

Or, just possibly, my books are getting much too complicated.

Or, just possibly again, I’m trying to use keywords in completely the wrong way.