Tinderbox Attributes

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Tinderbox is personal content assistant assistant for making, analyzing, and sharing notes.


Tinderbox offers you lots of ways to make, organize, and share notes.

Tinderbox notes are lightweight. They don't take up much memory or use much computer power. You can make new notes quickly and move them around easily. You don't need to worry whether you need a note or not.

At right, we see three Tinderbox notes, as seen in the Map View. Each note has its own title. The topmost note is blue-gray, the others are warm gray. The note "Fresh Styles" has some text, as we can see from the dog-ear icon in its lower-right corner. The other notes have no text right now.


Inside A Tinderbox Note

Each Tinderbox note is a long list of attributes and their values. Each attribute describes some aspect of the note: its name, color, position, size. Each attribute has a value; values can be numbers, character strings, boolean (true/false) values, dates, colors, files, and so forth.

Whenever you rename, edit, or change a note in Tinderbox, you are actually changing the value of one or more attributes of that note.

Many Tinderbox attributes are automatically defined by the Tinderbox itself and have special meaning to the program. Tinderbox always uses the attribute "Color", for instance, to select the color in which the note is drawn. These built-in attributes are called system attributes.

You can use the Attributes window to add new attributes to a Tinderbox document. These user attributes can mean whatever you like. Attributes give you a handy way of storing specific information in a specific place, making it easier to find later.

The same set of attributes are used for every note in a document, so defining a new user attribute makes that attribute available in every note. Tinderbox is very clever about managing its memory, though, so adding new attributes requires very little memory.


Default Values

If Tinderbox needs to check the value of an attribute, it first sees whether a specific value has been assigned to that note.

If a specific value has not been assigned, most attributes define a default value that applies whenever no specific value exists. In the example at right, no width has been assigned to a note. Tinderbox needs to know the note's width in order to draw it, and so Tinderbox uses the default value of the note.

The Attributes window lets you change the default value of System and User attributes. Changing default values can be very powerful. For example, if you set the default value of Color to, say, Red, then all newly-created notes will be red, and all notes for which no specific color was chosen will also become red.



Setting Attributes

Tinderbox provides special shortcuts for editing the attributes you change most often. The Color Menu, for example, changes the value of the Color attribute, and the Text Window changes the value of the Text attribute.

Text windows can also display a table of especially-significant attribute-value pairs for the note. The key attributes in a table displayed at the top of the text window. (A few attributes, such as "text length", are read-only, but most values can be changed by double-clicking their value)

The key attributes for a note are determined by the value of the attribute named KeyAttributes. This attribute is simply a list of attribute names, separated by semi-colons.


When using Tinderbox, we often want to create a group of notes that describe similar things -- books, or Web sites, or journal entries, to tasks to be remembered. Tinderbox lets you designate a note to be a prototype for a family of notes.

If a note has a prototype, Tinderbox will look to the prototype whenever it needs the value of an attribute that isn't defined for that note. If no Key Attributes are defined for a specific book, for example, Tinderbox might look at the prototype "ProtoBook" before using the default value. This lets you add, say, "Author;Title;Publisher" as key attributes to all books, or set the color of all Tasks to bright red.



Using Attributes and Values

You use attributes and values whenever you use Tinderbox. Much of the time, of course, you don't think about attributes in general -- just about the specific attributes you're using right now. As you gain experience with Tinderbox, you'll find new ways to use attributes and values.

You can inspect and change the value of any attribute in a note's Get Info... window.

Agents often use attributes in order to locate notes accurately. If you define a user attribute Author to hold the author of books mentioned in your notes, then it's easy for agents to locate books written by Booker T. Washington without being confused by notes on events in Seattle, Washington. In the same way, we might add a Keywords attribute to let us add hints to help agents that assign journal entries to categories or departments.

Date values can be expressed relative to the current time; for example, today+36 hours. This is often a great convenience when defining agents and actions.

The value of any attribute can be exported to HTML using the expression ^Get(attribute_name). This has a host of uses! For example, if different notes should be exported with different background colors, we could set the desired color in a user attribute and then fetch the value in the export template:

<body bgcolor="^get(CustomBackgroundColor)^"....



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