Eastgate Tinderbox: the tool for notes

October 13th, 2004

Eastgate Tinderbox: the tool for notes: Any of my readers use this? Any comments/suggestions? Every feature sounds like something I have been trying very hard to forge out of an amalgamation of weaker tools such as wikis and PIMs.




  1. J. Nathan Matias (1 comments.) says:

    Doug has some good comments, but remember: the HTML/RegExp learning curve he describes is much less marked if you’re not interested in exporting to the web.

    I use Tinderbox for more than my website. I use it to store historical research, sort through it, and plan my final articles. I use it to brainstorm and storyboard short documentary film. I recently used it to organize a speech my brother and I gave over the weekend. We’re in different states, but by sharing a Tinderbox file back and forth, we were able to collaborate closely.

    Heh. I even used Tinderbox to implement a web-based tool that carries people through a decision-making model outlined in a leadership textbook.

    Others have used Tinderbox for mind-mapping, taking notes, creating slideshows, and even for keeping track of appointments. Since it’s an information swiss-army-knife, it can do all of these things easily.

    The hardest but most beneficial parts of my learning curve were these two:

  2. Getting away from the idea that a single piece of software does only one thing
  3. Getting one’s mindset away from the limitations of linearity (word processors), “one window at a time” (the Web, wikis, etc)…i.e. being only able to view and interact with your data in one way.
  • Mark says:

    Im hearing a lot of support for Tinderbox. I will have to download it tonight and test it on my (soon to be gone) G3. Next step is to get that iBook that Ive always wanted.

  • Vlad Spears (1 comments.) says:

    Tinderbox is one of those rare programs that becomes what you make of it. You can use the capable surface features just as they present themselves: outlining, conceptual mapping, free-from database, weblogger, etc. Or you can dive in and make it your own, which is akin to soaking up a new programming language or learning how to think in new and improved ways. As I’ve logically developed and progressed in the program, I’ve found the working methods I’m uncovering and creating in Tinderbox have grown outwards into the rest of my life. This is the mark of a serious tool.

  • jb (1 comments.) says:

    Tinderbox is an exceptionally sophisticated product. It’s something that users typically either love or hate but it takes time understand just how adaptable it is to your work routines. I’ve written at length about some of the things it can do ( Cf) but what I will say is the reason I choose to use it is that it I’ve been able to adapt it to practically everything that I need to do: I can write in it, create websites, think thru ideas, edit a manuscript: the list goes on and on. I first discovered Tinderbox because i was looking for a blogging tool; but it goes far beyond that IF you’re willing to think differently. As Doug mentions, the sample files are a good place to start. Otherwise, visit the Tinderbox Wiki and ask for more help. You’ll find most of the community very supportive.

  • Jonathan Greene (12 comments.) says:

    I’ve given it a try a few times since I constantly read good things, but find the UI and learning curve get in the way…

  • Doug Miller (1 comments.) says:

    As a long time user of Tinderbox, I can attest to it’s brilliance. I have heard a few people, like Jonathan, comment on the UI and the learning curve. As to the UI, it can be spartan – Tinderbox doesn’t come equipped with lots of toolbars and buttons and what not – something I find very functional and zen-like in it’s minimalism. In truth, you don’t need all that stuff with Tinderbox – if you can press ‘Enter’ and the space bar, you’ve mastered over 90% of the controls you need to operate the program.

    The learning curve is not actually as steep as some people think it is. The real issue is the unlike many other programs, Tinderbox doesn’t present you with a strict metaphor for it’s use, but rather is nearly infinitely flexible. You can view your information in multiple, rather than a single way, but beginners tend to gravitate towards a single view, generally dependent on their preconception of the program. I’ve know of folks (myself included) who got stuck in the default map view for a period of time, never realizing the other views were there, and quite possibily more suited for the particularlapplication they were working on. I’ve also ran into users who settled on Outline or Explorer view, and neglected to use Map view when it was appropriate. Part of mastering Tinderbox is letting go of your preconceptions about what the program is.

    Mark Bernstein, the developer, freely admits that he has difficulty telling people how to use Tinderbox, since it he wrote it according to how he thinks. My experience has been that Mark actually does quite a good job of helping people learn to use the software, even going so far as to run training sessions for groups (Tinderbox Weekends) that are barely break-even affairs for his company. If you plan on using Tinderbox, one of these sessions is well worth attending. Their technical support is also excellent – they are simply the most responsive software company I’ve dealt with in nearly thirty years of working with computers and software.

    The recent addition of the Tinderbox Exchange as a place to find sample files should go a long way toward helping people come up to speed on the power of this program more quickly. Yes, there’s a learning curve, but like other powerful pieces of software (i.e. Photoshop), you can do powerful things once you’ve mastered it.

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