Tinderbox users: Has Scrivener changed your usage of TB?

Apologies if this should have been posted in the “Software by other folks” section, but this question is geared towards those of you who (like me) prepare extensive manuscripts with lots of research material. Common tools are one or more Word processsors (often including Word, Mellel, and of course Scrivener), a reference manager (Endnote, Bookends, Sente, Jabref, Bibdesk, Papers…), a data warehouse application (Devonthink, Yojimbo, Eagle Filer…) plus whatever other application may have proved useful to you.
If the above description applies vaguely to you AND you are a Tinderbox user I am burning to know what it is exactly that you are doing in TB. In principle I am trying to cut down the number of applications I am using. The main reason is not the cost it would involve to succumb buying every app that loookks appealing but the time involved to actually use them. Keeping data in sync between the applications that I am using (mostly Scrivener, DT, Sente) is already a challenge at times. Being the visual person that I am something liike the map view in 'TB is appealing to me but is it really worth it? Or maybe I am getting this all wrong and the big advantages of using TB in this particular context (getting your act together in research…) are something totally different.

Please feel free to relate your experience (or convince me that I am on the verge of some serious sort of procrastinaton crisis).


I find Tinderbox invaluable. I put all my notes into one large Tinderbox file, which enables me to find connections between different subject areas. Tinderbox also allows me various productive ways of developing an individual writing project. For example, I am currently writing a catalogue essay on an artist. I have a note for each work, sorted by date. In those notes I have a user-defined attribute “themesâ€

Tinderbox is wonderful, but needs more refinements to its mechanics, some of its GUI, and lacks any included beginners manual of substance—all this can easily be overcome and overlooked (in the case of the GUI) when time is spent delving into Tinderbox. However, the biggest Tinderbox constraint is your computer monitor size. If I could transform my entire studio wall…nay, the entire walls and ceilings of my residence, into a monitor, I could exercise the power of Tinderbox with the hand of Zeus.

I am not a writer, but I use Scrivener, and Tinderbox for matters of process to great success; both are very organizational in nature.

P.S. I am also not Zeus, but that would be nice too. :smiley:

I did the math, at Apple’s current price for 30" monitors, it would cost 54,000 USD to cover one average sized wall in pixels. So, assuming a roughly square office: 324,000 USD. That is, of course, without the cost of a retractable ramp and plexiglass office chair, mounted in the centre of the room by a suspension system of hundreds of tiny invisible wires. So, let’s just call it 380,000.

I think at this point, a high-resolution virtual reality environment would be cheaper, and more fun, because those Zeus Moves would be so much more tactile!

Oh, yes, and $90/year for Tinderbox.

Amber, you are limiting yourself. Why not something like this?



Thanks for your responses so far and my apologies for dragging the discussion back to the topic. I am still not quite clear as to what tasks you think Tinderbox is doing better than the rest? Is it mind-mapping and outlining? I have to admit, I find the map view very attractive and more functional than the typical mind maps because in TB the data are not merely described but also present, very cool. On the other hand, it requires to either live in TB data-wise or at least keep the data in sync with whatever application you store them in generally.
Or do you feel it is the export capabilities?

I must admit, that playing around with TB without having my own data in there linked and all, it is no suprise that it is hard to see the point of using yet another app.

Thanks for your input

Never used Tinderbox. It looks interesting - but is it worth $198? Wow, that seems a bit steep!

Yes. You can also check the Tinderbox site as it occasionally goes on sale or is bundled with some offer.

I wish parts of Tinderbox were the frontend to a bottomless data repository like Devonthink. As a standalone app, it fails for me because it only links to documents and web sites, and doesn’t index their contents like DT. Because I make limited use of my own notes, but make extensive use of research papers, web clips and emails, DT is a better catch-all for my purposes. But I love TB’s metadata capabilities and map views. I’d like to see it become a Cocoa + Core Data type app, capable of swallowing and indexing every file that was chucked into it and then presenting them using its current metadata toolset (via a modified GUI). A fantasy, but a pleasant one.

Alternatively, it would be great to see a Cocoa version of the Windows programs Zoot or Ecco Pro. They have/had great metadata capabilities, and are the only things I miss from my PC days.


You and me both, brother, on both counts. Ecco, especially: so good that it just had to fail in the Windows world.


I bought tinderbox about a month or so ago on a special educational discount offer. It came with yojimbo which I have enjoyed using as a quick filing solution.

Having tinkered with tinderbox a bit, however, I must say I still don’t get it. I’ve used it for mapping out ideas, theories, etc., but find it frustrating that I can only view the maps on one level, though I imagine there’s a simple way around that. What I want it to do, and know it can do, has eluded me thus far. Anyway, I’ve now ordered ‘The Tinderbox Way’ and am hoping that will help, as the wiki and other info on the web has left me less than clear on how it works. But I don’t want to put in much more time or if it doesn’t start to pay me back soon.

I am beginning to work on an MA dissertation on early medieval history and have many, many bits and pieces of information: texts, (old norse, old english, latin), archaeological findings, coins and coin studies, stone sculpture research, place-names, etc., etc., and I am trying to establish patterns and links between these. I’m sure tinderbox can help, but it’s frustratingly difficult to break into the thing.

The mapping feature will be improved in the next point release. It’s currently working through beta right now and has just reached feature freeze, so a proper release could be out any time between now and the end of the month, I would guess.

Look for the ability to see a note’s text in the map, if it has any. Also, the ability to see a container’s contents. Not just a iconised representation of them as we’ve always had, but the will be named if the container is large enough. This will let you see 1+1 levels of heirarchy. Notes will also have assigned shapes, so you can ascribe meaning to whether or not it is a circle, or whatever.

The best piece of advice I have in regarding the philosophy of Tb is to think of it as a toolbox, rather than something like Yojimbo, which already has all of the systems pre-built and ready to use. Effective Tinderbox usage is a process of building your own systems over time, as the data population in the Tb file expands. It is essentially a programmable outliner, with only the most basic stuff already available. You can get by just using the basic tools in a literal method; but its real flexibility comes out once you start using them together. There is no good way to explain how that works in practice, because pretty much every project requires slightly different treatment. Hence, there isn’t a lot of good “how to” documentation floating around. Downloadable examples are the best it gets in most cases, and generally they never work precisely the way you need it. Another problem is that a lot of examples do not really work that well without a raft of information, and since most Tb files contain some group or individual’s valuable IP, the really practical files just don’t exist for the public to try. Granted, I’ve not read The Tinderbox Way, yet. It promises to bridge this documentation gap.

It stymies me that a) Ecco died in the first place, and b) no Mac developer has picked up the concept and run with it. I live in the hope that someone, somewhere, is secretly working on a Cocoalicous version.

Can it really be almost 20 years since I’ve used Lotus Agenda?

Loved Zoot and Ecco Pro. However neither matched Lotus Agenda (DOS). Absolutely amazing for its time: small, fast, indexed CompuServe… I’m getting all teary at the memories.

From Agenda, I moved on to Ecco Pro - and there’s still no replacement. Fantastic program. Sniffle. :slight_smile:



Oh, yes. Lotus Agenda. Incredible. Maybe the most clever program ever written.

The Wikipedia article on Lotus Agenda says:

“On August 7th, 2006, Wired carried a report that Lotus Agenda was being redeveloped as a FOSS application, named Chandler. As of August 2006, Chandler is available as an alpha release for Windows, Linux and Macintosh.”

To download, see chandlerproject.org/

:confused: Well…

At first glance, this “Chandler” looks (judged by the tiny screenshots available) rather like a monstrosity. “iGTD on steroids”, one is tempted to say, would this not be very unfair towards the honorable efforts the developer of iGTD puts into his baby.

FYI: There’s a new version of Tinderbox out today, Tinderbox 4. (Naturally, it is literally the day after I buy the book for the old version. Sigh.)

(OT sort of: Has anyone read the Hans Christian Andersen story titled Tinderbox? I checked it out of the library a week or so ago… very odd story. Didn’t make a lot of sense, but there was, indeed, a tinderbox in it. :slight_smile: )


The book is about principles not about a particular version of Tinderbox.


(Naturally, it is literally the day after I buy the book for the old version. Sigh.)

Do you know of a widely-accepted/most-recommended Tinderbox book?