DT and Tinderbox

I have been using DT since the very beginning and it is now the center of my organisation and workflow.

Recently I have downloaded Tinderbox, I am still trying to figure out how I can use it.
Their doc is not very friendly …

Has anyone any experience with TB ?
Do you know if you can link a note to a DT file ?
I put all my notes in DT already. What would be the benefit to integrate TB with DT ?

I like the map view in TB, I am wondering if DT could not implement this view and if there are such plans ?

Is TB redundant when you already use DT ?

Thanks for your input

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I use DT daily and have used TB for a number of years. You are right, the documentation for TB is lacking the intro level lessons on how to use it - the developer has said doing so will lock user perceptions of what TB is. The reference file for TB (also a TB formatted file) does cover all the details, but it’s purely a reference, not a tutorial.

I know I have come across postings regarding integrating TB with DT (actually, the other way around is more like it, since TB notes are part of one file), but I haven’t paid much attention to those. You should try doing a search here on Tinderbox, and also search the Tinderbox forums for references to DT (use “DevonThink”) - there are many references to DT in their forums.

Just so you are aware, TB version 6 is currently in development, and from what I’ve seen, it should be a good advancement. Also, TB is not a DT lookalike - it is used for very different things. It’s agents are for gathering notes and the built-in programming language allows you to do many things with the notes, like dynamically editing them. In my mind, a note in TB is really a record in a database, since it’s fields are not tags, they take on values. At any rate, if you are interested in exploring TB, you should spend a lot of time exploring their website - it’s the only way to really learn what it can do.

Thank you pvonk for your answer, I will most certainly explore their forum.

What do you gain in managing your notes in TB rather than in DT ?
What can you do in TB you cannot do in DT ? (apart from the map view)
I would be interested in the way you are using both software ?

At first glance TB looks very powerful and similar to “The Brain” still I am amazed the doc is so poor for such a “complex” software despite I generally never read doc !

Can you link a data in TB to a file in DT in an easy way?


Because of my varying needs, I use several tools for notes. There’s Evernote for my “immediate reference notes”, those that I need no matter what device I currently have access to. These are data that I want within easy reach and that I may need often, like sticky notes on my desk and desk lamp. They are short-term, well up to a year or a little more.

There are the “less immediate notes” that I keep in Dropbox and indexed by DT. These are “notes” like PDFs of user manuals, and many other types of long-term data. These are like references one keeps on the bookshelf, not quite within arm’s reach.

I now use NoteSuite on Mac and iOS devices for “intermediate notes”, those that eventually end up in Dropbox or elsewhere. On iOS, Notesuite can suck in a web page either the whole page or the main panel from Safari. I do a lot of research on my iPad that way.

I also have TheBrain, but have abandoned that. I’m a very visual person and thought that its interface would be great for certain spheres of information, but somehow its look and feel didn’t work for me in the long run.

Then there’s Tinderbox. It’s very different. More like a database, complete with fields and a scripting language. You would use this for notes that are not static, in the sense that they are not just a collection of data that you reference. TB is used when your notes need to be processed in some way. DT is not designed to do this. It’s for static data that you need to search using powerful means and for cataloging and placing in its library.

For example, I have used TB to collect tidbits of stock market information and have it dynamically tell me when a collection of notes referring to one or more topics of interest and not too “stale” come into being, or flag notes that become too old when referring to specific topics. TB is a system where the notes are dumped into a big file drawer and a collection of agents automatically pull data out and present it to you. You can do less sophisticated with it, like just have a collection of notes, period. But I’d rather use my other “note” apps for this. TB is like that sexy woman whose name you ask and whose reply is “what name do you want me to be”. And like that response, TB requires you to do a lot of learning to understand it.

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Thank you for your very enlightening answer. I am impressed !
I “feel” what can be done with “dynamic notes”
I wonder if this could be implemented in DT together with map view.

Many thanks

Just caught this exchange about Tinderbox and Devonthink, and I’m wondering if there has been any further thoughts about how creating a workflow process that better integrates the two apps. By way of background…I keep most of my documents (PDFs, annotated files, and documents) in DTP, I’m starting to increasingly write long-form document in Scrivner, I write short notes (mostly interviews) in TextEdit – and then save them in DTP groups. (I’m still trying to work out a better way of annotating my material w/ DTP and other apps, but that’s another story…)

Anyway, many of my colleagues rave about Tinderbox. I’m just starting to understand how it’s work (seems like a steep learning curve at first), and how I might profit from it. To me, it seems like it would really work best if there was a way to have these two apps better interface – especially since I’d be making notes that would directly reference material stored in DTP, and in which my annotated files link to other, related DTP files (PDFs, documents). Is that an accurate perspective? If so, is there a way in which other DTP / TB users work to facilitate this kind of integrated, synergistic function? If not, that’s Ok, too. Just wondering how others best work between the two apps…

Thanks very much!

TB stores its notes in one big XML file. I don’t see how that can interface well with a file based database like DTPO or its siblings.

Ah. Gotcha. That’s a shame. So, I’m guessing you don’t have a work around solution – you just use the two apps independently of each other? Or is there some way to export some of Tinderbox’s output into DTP?


I don’t use them together at all.

It’s definitely not the case that these two product do not work together. XML is not the issue. Many users have workflows that incorporate Tinderbox, DEVONthink, Scrivener, etc. The internet knows. Do your research 8) .

For example, on the DEVONthink side, there are scripts that I posted here in past years, and others that Charles Turner posted, to export an OPML file containing data from DEVONthink. The file is opened, copied, and pasted into Tinderbox, creating notes. The notes have attributes (Tinderbox’s term for metadata properties) that include links back to the DEVONthink file, and other useful information.

On the Tinderbox side, there are scripts posted in Eastgate’s Tinderbox forum that work in the other direction.

Simple examples: text content can be dragged from DEVONthink to Tinderbox. A document’s item link can be copied from DEVONthink and pasted into the body of a note or into the URL attribute of a note – clicking the URL icon in Tinderbox will open the file. Experiment. DEVONthink is a hard product; Tinderbox is a harder product – but if you experiment diligently you’ll surely find very effective ways to work with them together. :laughing:

Example of what my script does – you’ll find the original script back a few years in the forum;

Top of the image is what I selected in DEVONthink before export. Bottom is the result of dropping that OPML file onto a Tinderbox document.

Mind. Blown…


Ok, I’ll scour the DTP forums for the DTP->TB scripts you referenced, and will experiment away. For the record, I did research this, but did not find a lot of info about integration between the two apps. Hence the question. Thanks.


i’ve been checking out the devonthink & tinderbox forums, and i’m trying to get a sense of how best to use the two apps together. this post is especially intriguing. i’m rethinking the way i annotate my files, and process and organize my notes. i’ve read through some of the ways that devonthink users are annotating files, and my sense is they’re still deliberating over the best approach with new scripts and apps. this is one demonstration of how how tinderbox users break down notes in atomic parts: vimeo.com/8772338 though it could be too involved & labor intensive for most users.

i’m just curious to hear how some of the devonthink users have found the best way to interface tinderbox. and if there’s a suggested way to do so with annotated notes and file organization. thanks.

@NZT-48 I’ve been looking at that same video, and admire the way Tinderbox can be used in that regard. I’ve been experimenting w/ various annotation and tagging methods and

I find this to be among the most useful scripts (written for DTP usage):

[url]Make an Annotation with Links, Notes, Tags v2]

I also use an app called Highlights to reference my annotations while I’m putting selecting and tagging sections of text from the PDF document (although I’m hoping that app gets developed further…and would even include some kind of tagging system - something akin to the best features contained in another app called TagNotate).

Anyway, I’m still reading about ways to successfully use DTP and Tinderbox together (you should check out Tinderbox’s forum).

Quick question for other folks who use both: Is there a way to incorporate the “Make annotation files for each citation plus notes+tags” system into Tinderbox? I ask because it seems like it would be really neat to have a mapped out representation of those tags in Tinderbox.

Thoughts? Ideas?


that’s interesting. thx for the advice. that does look like a good script, and approach to organizing annotation. is it possible to somehow transfer devonthink tags into tinderbox? or the devonthink tags and tagged files? i’m not sure how tinderbox responds to tags. thx again for the tip.

The short answer to the tag question is “yes but not automatically”. Tinderbox does not know about tags or most extended attributes of files. You have to teach it what to do.

There are various methods to get the result, and you’d have to invest time to code and test. One method would have you find or create a script that exports records from DEVONthink into OPML format. Your OPML would have a field for “Tags”. Separate the tags with semicolons (a;b;c). When that OPML is imported by Tinderbox it will create a “Tags” attribute. (This attribute is not built into Tinderbox.) You’d then have to modify the type of the $Tags attribute and make it into a “set”. Sounds like a lot of work. It is. There are some DEVONthink-to-Tinderbox scripts posted in the forum by me and @cturner – I think none of them handle tags, but that’s an easy fix.

i see. thx for that explanation. very helpful. so, with the scripting that you mentioned would tinderbox be able to replicate tags - as devonthink is able to do? also, I assume this would all have to be done through repeated imports, instead of through a synced process in which the devonthink - tindbox tagging would be automatically updated as tagged files & their contents are added, removed, edited, etc. is that a correct assessment? obviously, the latter is desirable, though i fully understand how tough that might be to acheive. anyway, once i have further clarity on that, and what to expect out of such a tagging relationship between devonthink and tinderbox, then i’ll start looking into the scripts you mentioned. thank you very much.

You would need to do periodic imports. There is no sync between DEVONthink and Tinderbox.

Get a trial copy of both software and experiment.

i see. what about replicating tags? would the scripts you mentioned be able to replicate devonthink tags in tinderbox? thx for the trail suggesting. i’ve already got devonthink, but am evaluating if it’s worth interfacing with tinderbox. and whether it’s best to use tinderbox at all. thx.

Tinderbox is very expensive, and, IMO, should be tested carefully before buying. It is difficult to understand for new users, but is very powerful once you understand how it works. Don’t buy Tinderbox if all you need is tagging. I’m not sure what “replicate” in means in this context, apart from the export/import already discussed above.