Tinderboxing

I got my Backstage pass for Tinderbox 6 yesterday and stayed up late into the night exploring (a.k.a. playing with) some of it’s new features. This is a young-ish beta and so there are not yet things in it that will be, but the solid new features offer tremendous improvements, for example in ease of use and navigation.

I bought Tinderbox to use as a front-end for Scrivener for complex writing projects (I have a Scapple-Tinderbox-Scrivener workflow) and I think that for writers in particular these changes are going to be very welcome. I am a long, long way from being a Tinderbox (or Scrivener) power user, but even used at my bozo level these tools work very well together.

I got the email invite for the Backstage. But I had an appointment for three hours. By the time I clicked on the link, all Backstage passes were sold out. :frowning:

Would like to hear more about your use of TB in the newest release.

Are there any decent demonstrations on the internet of how one would use Tinderbox? I was providing support for the company I work for, and commented to the user about how I am always encouraged when I see someone with Scrivener on their dock. They suggested I take a look at Tinderbox when I expressed part of what I have been using Scrivener for. I’ve looked around but have not been able to find some kind of demo for Tinderbox that would illustrate it’s capabilities and uses.

To be honest I’ve never been good at synthesizing notes, nor have I been good at completing quality outlines and was hoping that Tinderbox could meet those needs. Does anyone know of any quality demonstrations on Youtube or elsewhere? Eastgate’s website isn’t overly helpful, as all their “tutorial-ish” content is for training purposes and costs money.

Aeolus, if by demonstrations you mean moving pictures, I’m sorry to say that I don’t think that there are that many. There are some videos on the Eastgate site, and I’m sure that there are some on Youtube, but they are not comprehensive to the degree that you imply you need, and some of them are, or at least were when I last looked, out of date - and threaten to be even more out of date when the new and by all accounts greatly refreshed release Tinderbox 6, mentioned above, comes out. A year or two ago, Eastgate released some videos and other material as a bundle - again the Eastgate site will tell you whether these are still available, but again they may become outdated before too long, and if available they will cost money.

But in my opinion by far the best introduction to Tinderbox is the words and pictures (but not moving pictures) in a series of posts in the blog Welcome to Sherwood: http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com/tinderbox/. The blog, which also has other attributes to recommend it, is incidentally written by a user of Scrivener and occasional contributor to this forum.

Perhaps one reason for the overall scarcity of guidance is that learning Tinderbox is a bit like learning a language. You can achieve quite a lot with a little understanding, and a whole lot more with much more. But by far the best way to progress is to plunge in and use it.

With the hubris of excitement and things suddenly clicking for me with Tinderbox a few months ago, I posted a few indecent, naive (and static) posts about my Scapple/Tinderbox/Scrivener workflow:

thecreativecardigan.com/tool/tin … s/#more-34

and the beginning of a series:

thecreativecardigan.com/tool/bak … take-away/

I got some nice comments from novices and some frankly snotty ones from more experienced users (Mark B. himself was very encouraging), but that series was left hanging because I suddenly had a lot of other calls on my time and because I have moved most of my work to Backstage Tinderbox 6 - which is very interesting indeed (as is the process of its gestation). There are other Tinderbox - non-project manager - posts in the pipeline for the New Year.

‘decent demos’. Not easy - I’ve the scars on my back to prove it. Every offered solution is either too broad or too narrow. ‘Just right’ is usually a personally tailored file rather tan a demo. It’s a problem with very open ended tool that people tend to assume everyone else is trying to do something very similar; experience suggests otherwise. Thus it’s much easier to turn the problem around and ask: what sort of problems are you trying to solve using Tinderbox?

I’d say Tinderbox’s strengths are:

  • Incremental formalisation - in other words you can re-structure as you go. Very useful in a project that has structure but of which you don’t have a clear view at outset.
  • Spatial hypertext - maps. Very useful - especially for early stage exploration.
  • Agents/Action code. Powerful queries and macro action based on them. Trivially you can change things like note colour. More powerfully, attribute values can be changed conditionally, links can be investigated or created/deleted.
  • Very powerful and nuanced formatted (HTML, XML, whatever) export. Admittedly this involves some self-assembly - such flexibility doesn’t sit well with click-and-go ‘wizards’. That said, once assembled, you usually never need to touch it again and it can be as simple to use as just exporting the file and only selected elements get exported in a precise format.
  • Prototyping and inheritance. If you do know your structure, it is possible to create quite complex data structures and apply them to new - and existing - notes via prototypes. In a software support type scenario this might mean you’d define prototypes for different types of issues each of which might need to record different sorts of metadata.

The first item might seem a bit abstract. In the context of a map I think of it like doing a jigsaw. As I turn over the pieces a few structural bits are obvious, like corners/edges. Otherwise being able to put, for example, all the ‘green’ bits together until I can see they may not all belong together, etc., is something hard to do in a more normal database where you need to define all table, fields, etc at outset. Here you can tinker and let patterns emerge and then 'reverse the structure back into the document via prototypes and such. This can be hard to visualise as different people tend to need a different presentation of the same topic before the penny drops (said with >8 years of doing community support for Tinderbox). If you don’t mind reading, a wander through my web reference ‘aTbRef’ will give you some insight as the the depth the app has to offer (the site is all exported from one Tinderbox document including the RSS feeds, sitemap, etc.)

I don’t think Tinderbox 6 will be radically different. A noticeable change for existing users is a move to a single window tabbed interface where Tinderbox 5 would have many discrete windows. In fact, v6 probably will allow more than one window per doc. These changes are driven by the move to current Apple frameworks (improving lots of usability things the old Mac OS era frameworks couldn’t support). The iOS-ification of OS X and the possibility of an iOS companion app (of some sort) mean that some UI changes are inevitable.

Rather then derail this topic, I’d encourage you to stop by the Tinderbox forum and ask a few questions. I hope that helps…

[FWIW, I use Scrivener, Scapple and Tinderbox in my current MSC studies; each finds a different role]