Sources and Methods. And Tinderbox

I have just listened to Sources and Methods, a podcast “about interesting people doing interesting things”. This episode was their interview with Mark Bernstein, the creator of Tinderbox app. I fully agree with Mark that note-taking is a very important activity which we usually give too little thought. I am not entirely happy with my note-taking workflow and I wish someone would help me to make it better. I have a pretty good system for naming, tagging and organizing most of my notes. But academic thinking requires much more than classifying information into a set of unmovable categories and keywords. Academics try to develop new categories based on discovering and documenting new connection between ideas.  If I hear correctly, this is what Tinderbox is about.

Frankly, I tried Tinderbox a couple of years ago and abandoned it after a while. Perhaps my work at that time did not require such sophistication and creativity in note-taking. Now, I am starting a new exciting project which requires complex thinking and I decided to give Tinderbox another try. I have started with buying “The Tinderbox Way” to understand the philosophy behind the software.


About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He researchers energy and environment and coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
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12 Responses to Sources and Methods. And Tinderbox

  1. Les R Becker says:

    The app seems interesting. Can you share any information with us re: IOS integration?

    Thank You.



  2. art2science says:

    Good luck. I’ve tried Tinderbox several times, most recently 3 months ago. The effort to figure out how to set up the right templates for note taking was too large. I had the feeling that once I had a working system it would be great, but there was not much in the way of starting models for such a system. (And the book was not much help.)
    What it needed was 5 or more fully worked out systems for different kinds of academics, where you could gradually start adding your own entries and in that way start to notice nice features.


  3. I tried it and abandoned it soon. The trivial functionalities are intuitive, but then there is not that much of a steep learning curve as a glass wall to climb. The book is about philosophy, but not practicalities, if I recall it right. They sell some DVDs with relatively useful examples, but I have not found there anything I could use immediately either. My impression was that people who remember the 1990s prehistory of web might be better positioned to grasp it conceptually than the clicking crowd of the later years. However, they have a new version out so it would be nice to learn that the glass wall was replaced with something easier to grasp.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Luísa Mano says:

    Perhaps I misunderstood your needs but why don’t you consider using concept maps / mind maps or a personal wiki?
    I use mind maps a lot for organising notes around a theme and while designing them I discover connections between the branches. I can add files, notes and links within and between maps (same file, different sheets). I also like the visual approach, but that’s me. There are no analytical automation to that and I’m not dealing with “tons” of information.
    I think my needs are simpler than yours…


  5. ctietze says:

    I have long abandoned the search for a perfect utility in favor of designing useful habits of reading and note-taking. I think that’s a more sustainable route.

    I hate to sound like I toot my own horn here, but consider creating a Zettelkasten note archive for your needs with whatever tool you feel comfortable with. You can discover connections with any archive you feed regularly. Tinderbox is a premier tool for creating hypertextual notes. But so is ConnectedText for Windows. Or Open Source Wiki softwari. (While I haven’t invented the term myself, I advocate the use of the Zettelkasten method recentl on and my personal blog for a while.)


  6. I have Tinderbox 6 and have made concerted efforts to learn it to no avail. Just started using Evernote Premium and thus far, am really enjoying it. It integrates with everything and is intuitive so I can focus most of my time using and less time learning how to use it.


  7. @doctornerdis says:

    What about Has anyone tried it?


  8. @doctornerdis says:

    Is there a mac version for Connected Text? Looks like a great app!


    • rfgeor says:

      Tinderbox is very complicated; the learning curve is as steep as Mt Everest. Spent more time trying to learn it than using it. For quick notetaking, suggest Evernote as it is across all platforms and linked to many apps. Can access from any app or browser and works with handwriting apps. Easy learning curve too and good support.


  9. Hugh says:

    The series of posts on Tinderbox by Steve Zeoli on his blog Welcome to Sherwood is a good place to start: The posts deal with Tinderbox 5 (the current version is 6), but they remain an excellent guide. One thing you learn from Steve’s blog is that Tinderbox can be as complicated as you wish to make to make it, or as simple: you can start with a straightforward outline that can be converted into a simple mindmap for a novel, a dissertation or an article, or a todo list, or you can use the application, as some have, for analysis of academic quantitative or qualitative surveys. Yes, the learning curve is steep, but not impossible for ordinary human beings to negotiate! Essentially, Tinderbox is a tool for applying metadata (potentially huge amounts) to notes, and then viewing and manipulating the notes with the help of the metadata. Once you understand that, you begin to perceive the potential of the application (or the fact that you may have no use for it): what you then use it for is up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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