The Tinderbox Way

Tinderbox helps you visualize, analyze, and share your ideas. Download and try it.

The Tinderbox Way

The Tinderbox Way

Mark Bernstein,
The Tinderbox Way: 3rd Edition eBook $34.95

You can always remove it later.


Third Edition: AVAILABLE NOW

The Tinderbox Way explores ways to use Tinderbox and the ideas that guide its design.

The third edition has been newly revised, with changes on nearly every page and about 40% entirely new material. Everything has been updated for Tinderbox 7.

Want to take a look? Here’s a free peek at Chapter 9: Shaping Space and its design note about the choice between kibbitzers and the spatial parsers.

The third edition eBook is DRM-free and comes in either pdf or ePub format.

Table Of Contents

  1. The Tinderbox Way
  2. Building Tinderbox
    • Design Note: Artisanal Software
  3. Notes
    • Design Note: How Large Is A Note?
  4. Lists And Containers
    • Design Note: The Hierarchical Backbone
  5. Attributes And Values
    • Design Note: Another Level Of Indirection
  6. Prototypes
    • Design Note: Inheritance
  7. Tinderbox Maps
    • Design Note: Hiding And Revealing Detail In The Tinderbox Map
  8. Emergent Structure
  9. Shaping Space
    • Design Note: Kibbitzers vs. Parsers
  10. Treemaps
  11. Agents
    • Design Note: Aliases
  12. Actions
  13. Dashboards
    • Design Note: Tinderbox Designators
  14. Links
    • Design Note: Internal and External Links
  15. Planning Fiction
  16. Promoting Consistency
  17. Time
    • Design Note: Dates Are Complex
  18. Planning with Tinderbox
  19. Research Notes
  20. Open Questions: Using The Attribute Browser
    • Design Note: The Attribute Browser
  21. Making Tinderbox Your Own
    • Design Note: Gradual Customization
  22. Sharing Lists and Outlines
  23. Sharing Notes: Export Templates
    • Interlude: Living With Notes
  24. Why Is Tinderbox Complicated?
  25. Cooking The Software
  26. Discovered Geometries
  27. Project Management
  28. The Information Farmer’s Almanac
  29. Art And Engineering

Tinderbox is a tool for notes, a personal content assistant. The Tinderbox Way takes a close look at Tinderbox and its underlying ideas, exploring not just the program's mechanics but also its design and its spirit.

From the elements of writing more effective notes to the frontiers of information farming, from the classroom and conference hall to the research laboratory, The Tinderbox Way explores a new approach to working with and representing interlinked ideas.

From Chapter One:

Tinderbox is designed to help you write things down, find them, think about them, and share them. Tinderbox is an assistant. Its meant to help, to facilitate. Its not a methodology or a code. Its a way to write things down, link them up, and share them. Its a chisel, guided by your hand and your intelligence.

Tinderbox is personal in another sense, as well; unlike most corporate software today, Tinderbox was designed and implemented by a person — not by a committee, a corporation, or a focus group. That person is me: Mark Bernstein. I designed Tinderbox, and wrote just about every line of the tens of thousands of lines that make Tinderbox run. Tinderbox is the product of an individual vision. It wasn’t written to meet requirements or specs or to adhere to business rules. Along the way, there have been thousands of decisions engineering decisions, artistic decisions, operational decisions. In the end, I made the choices.

"A delightfully original treasury of wisdom on the interplay of information, work and life. This collection of pieces is not a manual, but a practical guide to Tinderbox's special features and an exploration of related information management issues.

For a novice user, the book provides valuable insights into the breadth of Tinderbox's potential applications and its flexibility. An experienced information farmer will find it sparks the imagination and inspires one to hone one's craft. Any reader will come away with a deepened respect for the process of working with information - any information - and an appreciation for having the right tool for the job.

Good software design is an art. It is rare to gain such a clear view of the philosophy and intent of the designer and such thoughtful consideration of everyday scenarios. Some chapters alone, such as the one about preparing for, taking notes at, and following up on meetings, are worth many more times the cost of the book. Wallys W. Conhaim, Columnist, Information Today

I write and read manuals for a living, and The Tinderbox Way is one of the most interesting I've encountered. Not only do you find out how Tinderbox works, you learn the deep thinking behind why it works the way it does, and in the process discover new ways of thinking about and organizing information. I think every Tinderbox user will find The Tinderbox Way a valuable companion. Gordon Meyer, author (Smart Home Hacks, O'Reilly MacDevCenter, Usable Help)

The Tinderbox Way provides a framework for thinking about, organizing, and transforming information. And for those like myself who, on occasion, feel compelled to sit back and marvel at the depth and the power of Tinderbox, The Tinderbox Way provides a valuable glimpse into the mind of its creator, Mark Bernstein. Stefan Keydel, data analyst, Apple Computer

As a companion text to the tool for notes, The Tinderbox Way shows the variety and range of discourse that readers have come to expect from blogger and software developer Mark Bernstein.

By turns a 'how-to', a history, and a heffalump hunt, this treatise ultimately strikes me as being a kind of genre all its owna 'wherefore-to' or perhaps a 'manual of manners.' It is bound to inspire others to mine their own minds 'the Tinderbox way.' Lisa Firke, writer and designer

"Tinderbox is powerful software, and it does some very sophisticated things. Accessing all of that power requires looking at Tinderbox in a different way than people typically look at more single-purpose applications - and that's what a lot of people find challenging about Tinderbox.

The Tinderbox Way is the book I've been most asked about by people seeking to learn and understand Tinderbox. More than a manual, The Tinderbox Way can help you grasp what's essentially different about Tinderbox, while providing concrete examples to help you make the most of the application. Tinderbox users have been craving this book for years. Doug Miller



Mark Bernstein
The Tinderbox Way: 3rd edition
Eastgate Systems, Inc. 2017. 492 pages.
isbn 1-8845-1154-6

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