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The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for! (Read 25676 times)
richardstephens
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #15 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 2:08am
 
Stacy and Mark.
Thanks so much for your replies.

That is the tutorial I got free with my purchase and found pretty confusing first time around.

I am a step-by-step do-this-do-that kind of guy. And not into programing so all the $BlahBlah pretty much goes over my head.

But I will keep slugging away at it and certainly appreciate the fact that I can ask a question (are stupid ones OK?) when I get stuck.

Thanks again. I feel taken care of.
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Steve Zeoli
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #16 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 1:56pm
 
Richard,

I'm the author of this "tutorial" of Tinderbox (I put tutorial in quotes, because the article is supposed to be a review of Tinderbox, but I did sort of create a hybrid between a review and a tutorial I must admit).

Like you, I have a hard time with scripting and expressions. My use of Tinderbox generally eschews any deep use of those featuares. Yet I still find Tinderbox remarkably useful. So what I'm getting at is don't feel you have have to "get" Tinderbox in whole, especially from the start. I've got a series of posts on my blog that (I hope) make this point, and may perhaps be of additional help. Look here:

http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com/tinderbox/

Steve
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #17 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 2:46pm
 
Let's not exaggerate the complexity of actions, either.  

You may not need actions at all. Actions are just a way for your notes to automatically modify themselves, or other notes. For example, an agent can look for (say) new notes, and add red borders to them. You can do lots of stuff with actions, but you don't have to.

Here's pretty much everything you need to know:

An action looks like this:

     $Color="red"

sets the color of this note to be "red".

If we want to change the color of some other note:

    $Color(/container/note)="red" .

Multiple actions are separated by semicolons:

    $Color="red"; $ShadowColor="white"

The "$" means, "this is an attribute of a note".  There are lots of attributes; they're described in the Help and in aTbRef.  

Tinderbox has a bunch of operators that let you do things like add numbers, extract phrases, modify dates, and fold napkins into pheasants.  They're also listed in the help and aTbRef. You probably don't need them, but they're handy when you do.

Strings are enclosed in single or double quotes. Numbers are things like "42" or "-3.1415927". Booleans are true or false.

When you get stuck, there are lots of people here who are happy to help.

What have I left out?
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« Last Edit: Dec 22nd, 2011, 2:50pm by Mark Bernstein »  
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Mark Anderson
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #18 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 3:15pm
 
Forgive an Aspergic view…

Quote:
Strings are enclosed in single or double quotes. Numbers are things like "42" or "-3.1415927"

I this this to mean is:

Strings are enclosed in single or double quotes, e.g. 'car' or "sans pareil".

Numbers and not quoted and are things like 42 or -3.1415927. N.B. lack of quotes.

If you're not overly literal it's all the same, if you are it's a whole world of difference!
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« Last Edit: Dec 22nd, 2011, 5:14pm by Mark Anderson »  

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russ lipton
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #19 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 3:23pm
 
@Mark, agree with you.

I suspect that folks get nervous beholding the remarkably powerful, but seemingly arcane results, which actions + operations + conditionals can achieve, complete with their concise, mysterious 'code'. And that is a great thing. Finding the limiting wall, so we can bang our heads against it, becomes a difficult task when using Tinderbox.

At the risk of repetition, an action inspects (gets) the value of an attribute (property/characteristic) of a note. Once the value is retrieved, that value can be used for a variety of purposes. An action may also change (set) an attribute value. That's it, nuances admitted.

Once one makes a (renamed) backup of the document to calm nerves, experimentation with actions is danger-free. Starting simple, as you illustrate, provides a satisfying sense of 'aha' ("wow", all those notes changed color!") and leads to the addicting behavior of chaining multiple actions. From there, it's nothing but 'aha', interspersed with the occasional 'oops' or 'huh?'

(... and not making fun of those simple 'aha' moments. Unexpectedly, merely changing the color of notes - e.g., of a well-chosen attribute -  proves tremendously useful for self-notifications, unexpected discoveries of relationships between ideas, etc.).
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richardstephens
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #20 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 4:00pm
 
Steve:
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

I had already discovered your very good "tutorial" and have it bookmarked for further reference and study.

I am starting to understand the complexity and possibilities of TBX but am wondering if what I am really looking for is something much simpler to organize my thoughts and structures (Scrivener?).

It seems to me that just learning to work with TBX is keeping me from my real goal: writing.

But as I said before, I keep slugging away at it when I can. It's always nice to learn something new.
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #21 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 4:10pm
 
There's no need to master every aspect of Tinderbox before you get down to writing.  

Go ahead: write.

When you need more representational power,  it's there. But you probably won't need it at first.
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #22 - Dec 22nd, 2011, 5:14pm
 
Lest my last seem an uncharitable restatement of Mark B's original point, the issue is simply what's obvious to the user - and to TB. Under the hood TB has to effectively guess whats a number and what isn't, unless told otherwise. As single and double quotes both delimit a string, "42" implies a String whereas 42 implies a Number. Ergo, it's better to be unambiguous in what you state to TB. An unquoted number is a number and there is also a String.toNumber, e.g. "42".toNumber or $SomeNumber.toNumber --> 42.

I'd concur @russlipton's point about making back-ups and diving in.  As a community helper it's always frustrating trying to convince folk to just try things before assuming they're too hard. Indeed, a wander through past threads will show show the forum's helped novices quickly get in to some quite complex Tinderbox usage. Using colour changes 'confirmations' was exactly how I started out using using TB code. Try it!
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« Last Edit: Dec 22nd, 2011, 5:20pm by Mark Anderson »  

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russ lipton
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #23 - Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:05pm
 
Not sure exactly what Mark A. meant by color confirmations, but I think he meant that actions which modify the color of a note can be used alongside other actions to confirm things are working as one expects - this in addition to using color for direct brainstorming, notifications, et al. In other words, we can experiment with Tinderbox, using simple actions, as well as use them for real stuff.

As for Scrivener, I love it. I use it regularly and especially like its easy integration of media/pictures (I'm looking at you, Eastgate Wink, how much longer do we have to wait?) and its ebook compilation features.

I could probably do 90% of what I do in Tinderbox with Scrivener. Since I am not an idolatrous fan-boy, I ponder occasionally, but deeply, whether I should switch over to Scrivener for my main work.

However, I would say that to take advantage of Scrivener's power requires a surprisingly steep learning curve, even though, or maybe because, its UI is extraordinarily rich. We who are so charmingly termed 'end-users' have been sold a bill-gates of goods by the industry. Even Apple's desktop metaphor, now incredibly long-in-the-tooth, remains crashingly far from easy. It was never intuitive. Steve Jobs saw this as early as the 1980s: hence, his own meandering journey towards the iPhone/Pad, the industry's second interesting, but still crappy UI.

Thus, with both products, Scrivener as well as TbX, it makes sense to begin writing, keep writing, learn features as they are needed for writing and, then, finally, to write some more.

(Wasn't this true when pencils were introduced? Nothing beats using our tools to ... write.)

Personally, I keep returning to the rich, but relatively minimalistic design philosophy of Tinderbox as less intrusive and, so, better-suited to support my (actual) writing.

Granted, TbX seems a heck of a lot of money wasted if we just use its end user features, but who says so? Those features include the most usable brainstorming tool anywhere (maps), an effective sequencing view (timelines) and the simplest 'smart' collection implementation I have ever found (aliases of notes forming collections, whether dragged by hand or collected by simple agents). I could go on.

Finally, and this pertains to the remaining 10% of the feature set, I concur with the discreet, yet oft-repeated, claim that TbX rewards our slowly-growing user expertise with unexpected insights into our ideas. I have not experienced this with any other software product over the past three decades.

How can I quantify the hours spent mastering TbX with the emergence and subsequent expression to others of my most original, personal discoveries? I believe these are termed ideas? I can't, because ideas worthy of their dictionary definition surprise us less often than we fancy. When they do, we find them - to ape a famous credit-card ad - priceless.

No doubt, TbX offers a rough feel, compared to products like Scrivener, even in the former's deep maturity after a decade of development. But this is, for good or ill, rather intentional or so I continue to imagine. Eastgate knows how to manufacture a slick interface as the latter are judged in the marketplace. Teen-age programming beginners know how. Instead, Eastgate steers by a design principle that matches their goal for us: don't foreclose unforeseeable, productive usage by premature product design decisions.

This isn't a zero-sum goal. TbX's interface and ease-of-use improves with every major release. The key phrase above is "foreclose ... by premature ...").

I believe, frankly, that it takes years, somewhere between two and, erm, ten (and counting) to master TbX. But I do not see this investment as stolen from my writing. Actually, I regret not spending more hours simply exploring TbX for fun, intuiting it would work wonders for my 'real work'. I think of Tbx more like playing the piano than not: practicing a Beethoven sonata is different than performing it for others, but not radically different.

In this sense, using TbX actions, once I became comfortable with its amply large end-user canvas, is like practicing musical scales or playing several difficult lines in a musical piece repeatedly until they are mastered. In one sense, those scales distracted me from performing the piece for others. Or did they not rather make that possible?

Do I want an instrument 'like' a piano but tricked up, if awesomely, with a gaggle of buttons, sliders and other (even useful) doodads to make a crazy-cool electronic keyboard (cf Scrivener)? Well, yes! I do! Oooh. Shiny cool! Gots to have me some!

Or do I want ... merely .... a piano?

Well, I want both the whizzy keyboard and my virtual Steinway. I use both. But I find something uniquely satisfying about my TbX-piano. It seems to intrude, rudely (!) into my music (writing) at times, but only because it seduces me into opening the case and fiddling with the strings. That's my bad, isn't it? Then, I discover the fiddling allowed me to produce tones (content) I could not have achieved with any other software tool.

Naturally, everyone's mileage will vary.

(Long-time TbX forum users may chuckle at this post. About once-a-year, I repeat nearly the same arguments, altered slightly by insights gained since the previous rave. Is that such a bad thing, or itself a reinforcement of this year's rave, at least? So, back in twelve months more or less, I'm guessing.)


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« Last Edit: Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:08pm by russ lipton »  
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russ lipton
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Re: The Excellent Intro we've all been asking for!
Reply #24 - Dec 23rd, 2011, 2:41pm
 
An addendum re: Tinderbox and Scrivener.

Scrivener's cork board works simply and integrates elegantly into the global UI. So, I was surprised to find myself preferring Tinderbox maps to the corkboard for, let's say, end-user brainstorming. Why?

While Scrivener does allow me now to freeform a cork board, Tinderbox maps enable out-of-the-box alignment or freeform plus lots of virtual space to play-in, convenient display of a note's text (and now its optional subtitle), grouping/locking of notes with adornments, etc. All simple end-user stuff.

Again, Scrivener's cork board has been implemented quite well. I cite this only to suggest that TbX's out-of-the-box end user features are plentiful, powerful and, generally, easy to use.

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