Tinderbox is billed as a “personal content assistant,” which gave us happy visions of a devoted digital concierge at our beck and call. It’s a tool for recording, organizing, and connecting bits of information called notes--snippets of text about which you can record copious amounts of metadata. Options are vast, but Tinderbox can feel more like a chore than an assistant.
To get the most out of Tinderbox, you’ve got to load it up with notes. You then characterize the notes with various attributes. Some attributes, like Shape and Color, pertain to how the note appears onscreen. Others, such as Path and Creator, are meta information about the note. Still more attributes describe how to treat a note when exporting to HTML. But unfortunately, seeing all those choices all the time made using them more cumbersome than necessary. We like having options, sure--but we don’t always need to see every possibility.
Tinderbox stores your information and information about your information, then gives you seven ways to see your information.
Notes can have links to other notes in the same document, and the nature of each connection, say “example” or “exception,” can be tracked. Hooking up two notes is generally a drag-and-drop affair. Well-planned linking can help you get a handle on the relationships between your data.
When it comes time to use all this info, Tinderbox’s Agents watch your document and maintain a list of notes that match search criteria. The search an Agent performs can be very detailed, but you’ll have to learn Tinderbox’s implementation of Regular Expressions, a powerful but complex query language. For example, $Email(\.edu$) finds email addresses from .edu domains.
Tinderbox offers seven views to look at your notes. All the views update in real time, so a change in one is immediately reflected in all the others. The most visually appealing is the Map view, which loosely resembles a mind map. The Chart view lays out your notes in an organization chart style, while the Outline and Explorer views are variations on nested list views. HTML view presents you with raw code that can be saved as a webpage.
Our time spent learning Tinderbox was peppered with enthusiasm followed by frustration. Many appealing capabilities are needlessly complex to execute. Regular Expressions in Agents are super-powerful, but require careful query-crafting and debugging; something like Mail’s more understandable filtering rules would do just as well. We also found the user interface somewhat dated and cumbersome. Maybe iOS apps are spoiling us…but in this age of compact and visually appealing apps, Tinderbox looks tired.
Tinderbox offers vast options for organizing information, but it’s complex, and presents a huge learning curve, not to mention being pretty expensive.
COMPANY: Eastgate Systems
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.4 or later
Deep feature set. Huge variety of metadata attributes. Powerful search abilities.
Dated interface. Many features are cumbersome to use. Expensive.