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Tinderbox

Have any of y'all ever used Tinderbox or something similar? I'm trying to find ways to organize the tons of information I need to stay on top of the The Witness and other projects I've got going. For most things in my life requiring organization, I use electronic rather than hard-copy ways of managing information. That way, I have just about all of my information everywhere I go (though I now carry around an 80MB external hard drive to supplement the 80 MB internal hard drive in my PowerBook). Perhaps more importantly, I find that information stored electronically is much easier to search. That's crucial when you've got a mind that works like mine. I can usually think of at least a dozen ways of looking at any given thing, which is great for things like writing software manuals (I can figure out in an instant a dozen ways that readers are likely to look in the index for a given piece of information) and coaching people in conflict (I can usually grasp the points of view of most people involved, plus a few additional points of view that might make a decent “third way” for the group to move forward. But that's a really inconvenient way to think when what you're trying to do is set up or find something in a filing system.

So, right now, I'm using a system to track contributions and potential contributions to The Witness that I developed when I was editing a newsmagazine in college: the BAWaB (pronounced “bah-wab”), or “Big-Ass White Board.” There are columns for article topics, author assigned, due date, date the reminder should be sent to the author, publication date, and so on; when all the columns have been filled in for a given row, the row can be erased, as I've done everything with it that needs doing. It works. But honestly, I'm not sure I've got enough wall space for all of the articles I'm tracking, and I only have access to the BAWaB when I'm in my office — if I need that information while I'm traveling to a guest preaching gig or somesuch, that's hard luck.

Tinderbox looks like something that could be used as a technological BAWaB, and probably way more than that. It also looks like it might be difficult to learn, so I'd love to hear about your experiences with it or similar programs.

I'd also love to know about any Mac OSX-compatible programs for contact management and calendaring programs that you use. I used Now Contact and Up-To-Date happily for years, but then a horrible glitch arose: something went wrong with synchronizing my Palm Pilot with the Now programs, and my To-Do list items multiplied — dozens of times or more for each item — and now I've got over 21,000 items in the list, and no way to get rid of them except delete them one by one. Understandably, I think I might want to get a new application. Apple's iCal and Address Book are fine for the very basics, but what I loved about the Now programs is that I could enter notes as long as I wanted for every meeting, every phone call, and in loads of other fields. When I was trying to remember who the parishioner was who did graphic design and asked me that question about the book of Revelation, I could pull the information up in thirty seconds or less. I could also link contact information with appointment information, so when the reminder to call someone came up, so did my history of conversations with that person — a very, very handy thing! Address Book and iCal just don't do all of that. Entourage isn't quite as powerful either, and furthermore, I switched from that a few years back when someone sent me an email bomb exploiting a well-known security hole in Microsoft's software and it erased all of my email and contacts.

So, what's a gal to use? What do you use for this sort of thing? I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

November 18, 2005 in Technology | Permalink

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Comments

I am no help, as I am a BAWab/multiple bulletin board type myself. Really, I'm a pen-and-paper girl. Plus I'm reading Getting Things Done, which is enabling my pen/notebook habit.

Posted by: betsy | Nov 18, 2005 4:04:33 PM

I could be of great help, but you said Mac OSX. There are two computer worlds, as you well know. One is Mac and the other is IBM/MSN. Traditionally, the Mac has appealed to artists and educators and IBM/MS has appealed to business types. Your job at "The Witness" is a business management job and requires buisness management tools. In the IBM/MS world there are myriads of programs to do what you want to do. Personally I use Microsoft Office. It has several tools for handling the kinds of information you are using.

Another source may be web-based tools like e-project. In fact, this is probably your best bet since you can access it from any computer in any place as long as you can get on the web.

When can we see your bio on the "Witness" website?

I know your heart is in ministering to people in need. But, you must admit, you have a great deal of acquired skills in the publishing arena. I'm glad to see you putting those skills to profitable use. When you can settle the "bring-home-the-bacon" issues, it leaves you free in your spare time to do the servant things. That's what I do. In your case, your paying job is also connected to your servant interests. That's great.

Many blessings on your work.

Joel

Posted by: joel | Nov 19, 2005 12:22:31 PM

I have a PC and use Microsoft OneNote for my "electronic notebook." It works well, especially in conjunction with a SmartBoard or Tablet, but I don't know anything about Mac systems.

The only drawback to using OneNote on a PC is that the pen features aren't applicable. Phooey!

Posted by: beingshielded | Nov 23, 2005 12:33:45 PM

I have nothing to offer, but I do want to say that I'd lvoe to hear what you find out. I've been looking for something like this for a long time.

Even better would be a system which would remind me how I filed my paper files, because it's inevitable that you'll have a few of those.

Posted by: Abby | Nov 25, 2005 5:29:43 PM

I'm a very big Tinderbox fan. However I haven't upgraded to 3.0 yet. It's a delightful app that certainly has all the technical 'BAWaB' capabilities you're looking for. I've had some trouble using it as "fluidly" as I'd like. There always seems to be one more click/keystroke than I want in order to get to something.

OmniOutliner is actually very nice (and the basic version ships with OS-X.

One thing I particularly like about the mac is the fundamental interoperability of applications. As such, I use their address book software for contacts, iCal for some scheduling, etc. But I'm far enough off in 'tech weenie' land that I write little scripts that pull things together.

For a single contact/calendar management thingie, people seem to really love microsoft entourage (i.e. outlook for mac) but I've yet to crack the seal on putting MS stuff on my mac.

I would very highly recommend pulling down Tinderbox (they allow a 30-day demo of the full featured software.) Their development team is very enthusiastic about feedback.

(got to you via Pascale, fyi.)

Posted by: Mad William Flint | Nov 28, 2005 9:16:09 AM

I stumbled across your Tinderbox post and can add the following:

Although you don't seem to like Mail, iCal etc, CRM4Mac integrates Apple's iCal, Mail and address book for a medium weight, low cost contact management solution.

Microsoft also makes Office2004 which is basically the equivalent of Office for XP and has some project management abilities built in. The security on it should be as good as many other Mac apps.

MarketCircle Daylight is also supposed to be good. For the record, I use the basic Apple stuff and sometimes Office 2004's solution.

Tinderbox seems like an awesome application but it does require some investment in time. It is very much a free form application and can do just about whatever you need in terms of information management.

There are myriad other applications for gathering and organizing information available for OS X, depending on your needs. I highly recommend DEVONthink Pro as well (www.devon-technologies.com). It also has a learning curve as well because it too is another free form database-based application.
(I do not work for them or their partners. I simply love the product. The developers are very responsive as well.)

There is almost no limit to what you can do with OS X today, especially given the thousands of Unix apps available at no or little cost.

Good luck!

Posted by: bluloo | Nov 30, 2005 9:48:41 PM

I'd be delighted to answer any Tinderbox questions you might have!

On my own weblog, I've been working through a related sort of Giant Whiteboard task -- Tinderbox travel planning notes for someone who travels for work, for family, and sometimes because it's fun to visit new places. You can start at the beginning at http://www.markBernstein.org/TravelNotes.html

Posted by: Mark Bernstein | Dec 12, 2005 3:50:55 PM

In response to Joel,

Macs are dominant in publishing. With all due respect, you don't know what you are talking about. "IBM/MSN", indeed.

Posted by: Brad | Jun 7, 2008 5:54:36 PM

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