Writer’s Diary #43: Tinderbox 10 and the Guadi View

I’m a long time user of Tinderbox from Eastgate Systems. A Mac app, that is a Swiss Army knife for notes.

This summer, once again, I’m working on the book. I have hundreds (or more) of pages of notes. Now is a good time to find some order in my madness. For that, I really like Tinderbox’s brand new Gaudi view.

The Tinderbox Gaudí View — the first novel hypertext view in years — tessellates the idea plane to keep more notes in sight. Tinderbox continuously adapts the shape and placement of each note to give each a fair share of the available space, while avoiding unwanted distraction. Gaudí view is especially good for brainstorming and conferences!

It is great for brainstorming, for bringing notes that are related together by dragging them while the other notes slide smoothly out of the way, and for lingering and attending and playing with and getting a feel for the notes.

The thousands of new badges, via SF Symbols, are just really nice to have as well.

For example, this is a sample of the outline of the book.

Screen Shot of Gaudi View

Update July 22 at 1:50 pm.

I learn from Mark Anderson’s wonderful TBRef that with a force expression in the Guadi view control at the top, it’s easy to get related notes to come together.


Notes with related tags, are drawn together. Super useful.
Guadi View, organized with like minded notes brought together.

Multi-Column Text Editor on Mac?

I’m working on a piece of writing today. I often write in markup, and enjoy the multi-column view of Markup 2. But, editing in multi-column view is a different story. The Mac has excellent apps to work with text. I use Highland 2, BBedit, and Tinderbox. Each brilliant, in their own way. None of them support multi-column editing.

Do any apps on the Mac?

It is possible to create a Word file that does this. (e.g. Make a custom page size to fit your screen, adjust the margins, add columns, adjust the font, etc.) It is far from elegant, however. You have to do it again, for each file.

Multicolumn text editor.

multicolumn text editing.docx

With so many full screen Mac and iOS text editors that work with markdown, do none of them support editing text in a multi-column mode?

If so, send me an email. If not, and you write one, I’d love test it.

Notes on Running #3: Aîka

Aïka is five months old. A border collie, and new to our family. Rambunctious. Fast. She loves her walks. This morning, I took her for a run. We went slow, but it was quickly clear that running with a puppy forces one’s attention to her rhythms, her pace, and her speed. I took my full presence and attention. Feeling the leash, plating it, never letting it tighten because we got out of rhythm. Quickening as she did. Slowing with her. I’m sure she made my run better.

Aïka at five months.

Writer’s Diary #42: Steady Improvements in Tinderbox

I’ve been a long-time user of Eastgate Systems’ Tinderbox. At least since 2010, when I first bought a copy to do fieldwork. It’s a tool that I keep coming back to, even if I leave from time to time. Every time I come back, I am impressed, once again, by its steady, evolutionary, sometimes revolutionary improvements. Mark Bernstein has created a brilliant, powerful piece of software for knowledge workers. I think it’s criminally underused by anthropologists. But, that’s for another post. I’ve long thought of it as a Swiss army knife for notes. But that doesn’t really do justice to the software. Do check [Tinderbox] out.

For now, I just wanted to call attention to one of the little changes made over time that Mark has worked into Tinderbox, which make things just nicer.

Between the version I was using, and what I upgraded to yesterday, a small change, is that it is now possible to make the left-hand pane (map/outline/etc any arbitrary width. Before, there was a minimum size. It’s a change that perhaps most users will probably never notice.

But, I write books. And, often, when I am in the thick of writing, I want to make the text pane on the right as big as possible, and make the left hand pane as narrow as possible. This wasn’t possible to do to quite as narrow as I wanted before. It now is. Thank you, Mark. Just one more of the steady refinements that makes Tinderbox indispensable.

Screenshot of narrow left hand side map pane in Tinderbox.

Rules for Writing #2: Delaying

Stats: 20,759 steps, ran for twenty minutes, stretched rather too quickly, one coffee, beans and rice for lunch, and 6 pages, tight, longhand, which doesn’t quite match my goal, but I am going to be nice to myself.

I struggled with social media and the news until I blocked them on my computer as well. It’s amazing how often I reach automatically for the news. There is more time to think, when not reading short pieces.

Today is one of the few times I’ve exercised before writing. I did it yesterday as well. It used to be that I treated a word count as a thing I had to do, come hell or high water. Today, I’m equally committed to the words, but I kept delaying until quite late because of kids, because of meetings, because of presentations. By the time I got to words, I knew what I wanted to write. A draft came easy.

I used to think I was only a morning writer. Now, I’m not so sure.


A forest field replaced with yuca, Suaita, Santander, 2014.

Rules for Writing #1: Success

Quick update. Today, we travelled by bus from Santander to Socorro, up the Canyon of Chicamocha. It’s a steep canyon, and the bus drive is probably four or five hours door to door.

Lunch was a Colombian meal at 3:00 pm. I had it sin proteina. It was rice, chickpea stew, a beetroot salad, and yuca with tomato sauce. Lemonade to wash it down. The kids ordered Colombian Chinese rice. It was rather large.

Most of the day was on the bus, so I had not done much moving. I did a quick run first thing this morning in Bucaramanga, then a longer run when we got in at 5 o’clock. Both were slow and steady. First, up the hill there and back for 2 km, then since it was raining, an hour and a half around the balcony of the Casaredonda. This got me my 20,000 steps and my stretching. No social media, podcast, or news was essay. No coffee, too. I wrote this post, and revised it, after writing 1,500 words for a chapter on Rules.

In short, today, I hit all my rules, despite traveling for 6 hours.

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Writer’s Diary #41: Rules, for a Month’s Writing

Here I am, once again, with my rules. Rules for writing. Temporary ones, mind. They never last more than a month. But, that’s good enough. Good enough to get some momentum. I know the book’s structure. I know the argument. With a little effort, I could make headway. My sabbatical is coming to an end, so why not finish on a high? So I’ve turned to rules.

I wrote them.

I have had some success with rules in the past.

To start my first book, I had a writing challenge with a colleague. To finish it, I did a writing challenge with other colleagues. Both worked. I have tried this other times, and it has not worked. No matter.

This time, the rules are my own. Just me, this time. The rules I will adopt for the next month, starting now.

The rules? The rules are not just about writing this time. Writing is part of it, but writing is an embodied activity. It is a thing we do in the world. Therefore, the rules are for writing and to be in a good place for writing.

  • Run for 20 minutes a day, perhaps longer, and cool down and stretch for ten minutes.
  • Take 20,000 steps.
  • Eat whole food, plant-based.
  • No caffeine after the first coffee.
  • No news, social media, or podcasts.
  • Write (or revise from notes) 1,500 new, good words into the manuscript.
  • Write a post about the day, with a photograph.
  • Stop.

Notes on Running #2: Slow and Steady

I ran down and then up the hill today. It was straight forward: a kilometre down, descending 150 m, a kilometre on the flat, and then gong up 150 m over a a kilometre and a half. Today, like yesterday, I held back, kept a steady pace, never pushed myself, and did it in about 35 minutes. I remember doing the same run in in January, but this time, I don’t feel totally spent and exhausted by the end, as as I did in January. In running, as in writing, slow and steady?

Notes on Running #1: Hold Back

Where we are living for the next few months is in Santander, Colombia, halfway up the hill, at about 1550m. Any direction, out the door, means either going up or down 500 m. Every run is a hill trail run. Today, I went for an accidental long run.

For the first time, in months, I seriously held back. I ran up the hill, focused on form. Any time I felt myself going hard, I consciously went easy. I held back, up and down the hill. I never went beyond easy. As a consequence of deliberate restraint, today felt like I ran further and more steadily than I have before.

My run turned into an hour of easy running, I took the time to walk for five minutes. Then I spent ten minutes stretching. The result? Holding back made for an enjoyable run. It wasn’t my fastest or my most intense, but it was one of the more pleasant runs.

Hold back, who knew.