I’ve used Scrivener off and on for over 2 years and love it. I’ve had DTP for about 18 months and use it almost every day. I bought Tinderbox during the same offer last Christmas, and so far, I can see ways in which it will be useful, but I’m really still coming to terms with it.
I wouldn’t say I was an expert in any of the programs (certainly not Tinderbox), so please don’t treat any of these thoughts with anything but polite suspicion: your mileage will certainly vary, and those who know the programs better will probably able to point out errors and omissions, and there certainly isn’t space to list everything the programs do: they are all very fully-featured.
At the moment I’m using DTP far more than the other two, because I’m in the process of taking notes on a subject that may one day (possibly, hopefully, fingers crossed) turn into a historical novel. I collect everything relevant into it (websites, pdfs, images, notes from books etc) and DTP is really good at this ‘accumulation and classification’ phase, where the AI will help you classify your research and highlights links between items that you may not otherwise have found. I also use it to create my own notes on the things I’ve accumulated. It’s OK at that — there are some useful scripts included which allow you, for example, to highlight sections of a document and automatically create a new document where you can add your own notes, cross-referenced to the original. Text entry is bog-standard TextEdit standard, but serviceable enough (if you don’t mind swearing a lot at the programmer from Planet Zog who wrote the styles and lists implementations). So, a long way from Scrivener 2 in ease / pleasure of use for text editing, but OK.
Tinderbox is based upon notes, although its text-editing features are non-standard and more basic than DTP’s - bold, italic, colours and limited bullet points and indenting. Perfectly fine for the intended purpose of taking notes: I personally wouldn’t want to spend all day editing in it, but lots of people do. It’s a lot better than DTP though at outlining and visualising the structure of your notes. When you factor in its ability to have prototypes for different types of notes, to define attributes for each note, to define different types of links between notes, and to run regular programs (‘agents’) to act on the attributes and links, it is incredibly powerful — so powerful that it’s overwhelming at first.
I’m feeling my way with it, but the basic workflow I’m developing is:
Collect all the documents etc I need in DTP and annotate them there
Import relevant annotations into Tinderbox, automatically assigning each note under its source, character, date, location as relevant
Using agents to pick up the links between notes: for example, finding out what different authors have said about Ostorius’ spell as governor in Britain, sorted by date and displayed on a visual map.
Each of the notes has more detailed text within it, taken from the DTP note:
The lines at the top include the user-defined attributes, including a link back to the original Devonthink file.
The notes are all pulled together as you see them in the first screenshot by the following ‘agent’:
, which also automatically adds the date of the event to the note title.
The next stage will be for me to extend this sort of thing so I get an idea of what the general consensus is, where there are gaps or conflicts in dates / interpretation etc. For example, I can build up similar maps of all references to Verulamium and display them in a timeline, add my own characters to link to events and locations etc.
Eventually, I will try to pull all this together into something that makes sense as a coherent narrative into which I can write the actual story: if you like a research spine on which I can develop characters, and develop the outline of what I think should happen.
The final stage will be to transfer the outline to Scrivener and refine and actually write the Opus futurum sed incertum…
Bearing in mind that I’m right at the beginning of this process, my initial thoughts are that each of the three programs adds something useful - DTP for the massive data collection; TBX for visualisation, assimilation and large-scale organising; Scrivener for final outlining and writing.
Well, that’s the theory anyway: there are a few obstacles stopping this being as seamless as I’d like. e.g. DTP and Tinderbox don’t talk to each other particularly well, so there are a few hoops to go through to get data from one to another, which in my case involved amending some applescripts to avoid endless copying and pasting between the two, and as I’m not a programmer there has been some fun in trying to set up agents in Tinderbox the way I want them. But both programs do have very helpful user communities and I think I’ll be able to do everything I want to do in one way or another in the end.
So that’s how I plan to use them: apologies for the length of this post from someone who isn’t an expert, but I hope it’s given you a bit of a flavour of what’s possible and how I see the three programs interacting. (And if anyone has any easier ways of doing any of this, please let me know…)