Tinderbox is a note taking application for Mac OS X. A Windows version is in the works – in fact the author Mark Bernstein’s blog includes a link to his development peekhole for Tinderbox.

Tinderbox has a range of powerful features for organising and visualising relationships between notes – such that I am going to try using it as a presentation tool soon. Notes can contain notes, and notes can link to notes. The program stores information in XML format files – including images copied from the Preview application. The program is small and fast – memory use appears to be the size of the XML file plus about 5 Mb.

Tinderbox includes a very flexible HTML export with templating available on a per-file basis and on classes or categories of notes within a file. Imagine a collection of hypertext pages such as Rice University’s Galileo Project documents. Here there is a lot of information organised under various headings, but the pages cross link accross the headings. A given page deep in the project would have pages above it in a given category, but would also make links across to pages in other categories. It might also be useful to show what pages link to the page in question to allow the reader to explore the rich context.

Below (displayed in the text editor mi) is the mark up for a bare bones HTML export template that will automatically generate the page links from a Tinderbox file.

Tinderbox export template (bare bones)

  • Lines 12-14 is the conditional template tag block that generates the ‘bread-crumbs’ across the top of the page except on the home page (which has no ancestors)
  • Line 17 is the tag that generates a list of notes contained within the current note (sub-pages of the current page)
  • Line 18 lists the pages that this page links to as being related
  • Line 19 is the master-stroke, Tinderbox records both ends of a link between notes so that a page can also display a list of pages that link to it.

This template does not use the more powerful features of Tinderbox such as Prototype notes and Agents but as Mark Bernstein remarks in a post on the Tinderbox wiki, it is best to start small and simple.

There are a couple of reviews of Tinderbox on the Web – most of these focus on blogging. I’m interested in a richer use of this program to manage a topic based project with full cross linking. A wiki could handle the cross linking but the linking would be embedded in the text: I like the way Tinderbox can establish links between notes as a whole so that links on the resulting Web pages can be organised under headings so as not to distract the reader. Tinderbox can provide links in the text, and these may be more appropriate for non-instructional hypertexts.

Watch out for a set of pages on statistics at about level 3. The bodmas blog will stay server side as I need to update from various computers.

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