Nov 102014

Right off the bat I should say that I’m still learning how to use attributes. Outlines, map views, links, these I understand, and I see how they help me. Attributes feel very different to me, and I’m a bit intimidated by them. 1 As a result, I think I tend to use them more casually than many people who use Tinderbox do.

Two Ways of Using Attributes

For now, I mostly use attributes in two ways: as labels indicating stable information that I will use to identify notes visually; and as “tags” to temporarily keep track of time-sensitive information through an agent. The first use is straightforward. If I see “Organization A” in the key attributes of a note, I know the source of the information I’m looking at. The second is a bit more complicated.

Imagine a situation in which I’ve requested some information from a group, course preferences perhaps. To keep track of who has submitted the information and who has not, I would create an attribute called “CoursePreferences,” set it to boolian so I have a checkbox to work with, and then add the attribute to my key attributes. I would then create two simple agents. One would search for boxes that are checked (i.e. a value of “true”); the other, for those that are not (i.e. “false”). 2 As people submit their material, I would be able to check them off easily and my agents would move their notes automatically from my “checked” to “unchecked” lists. When my “unchecked” agent is empty, I’m done and delete both the attribute and the agents.

For this second situation to be worthwhile, I need to be able to create and delete a user attribute (and to set it as a key attribute) quickly. I give instructions for doing all three tasks below. These are followed by a video that shows what things look like in practice.

Creating an Attribute

To create a new attribute:

  1. Open the Inspector (cmd+1)
  2. Select the Document Inspector
  3. Select “New User Attribute” from the dropdown menu (gear icon)
  4. Enter the name of the new attribute.
  5. Select the kind of value the attribute will contain
  6. Tab or click away to make sure everything registers.

Note: in the video you will see that when I type “Organization” the text goes red. This indicates that the attribute name is already in use or doesn’t conform to the naming rules. Adjust the text to something that shows black, and you are good to go.

Deleting an Attribute

Deleting an attribute is easy.

  1. Open the Inspector (cmd+1)
  2. Select the Document Inspector
  3. Select the attribute to be deleted from the dropdown menu. (Be careful!)
  4. Select “Delete user attribute” from the gear menu.

…and it’s gone. So again, be careful!

Setting (and Resetting) a Key Attribute

Tinderbox 6 has made managing key attributes ridiculously easy. To show an attribute at the top of the text window for a note, simply click the “+” button next to the note title. A pop-up shows all of the current key attributes of the note. Click somewhere in the list, begin typing the name of the attribute you want to add, select it from the menu that pops us, and you’re done.

Remember: If you change the key attributes for a prototype then all of the notes that it controls will inherit the change. That’s a good thing. If the prototype is selected while you create the attribute, you can tick the checkbox to add the new attribute to your key attributes automatically.

If ever you see that a note does not inherit new key attributes from it’s prototype and you would like it to, then you simply click the “+” button and then the “reset” button on the pop-up. This should fix the problem.


Next up: simple on-add actions.

(The next video will be the last in this series. Because I’m out of ideas for the moment. If anyone uses these and has suggestions of things they’d like to see, feel free to drop me an email or send me a tweet. I’ll see what I can do.)

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  1. Attributes remind me of databases. The problem is that to me databases seem like sticks of dynamite threatening to blow everything I know into pieces. They promise big returns, but I never trust I’ll be able to implement them in a way that delivers on their promise. Tinderbox substantially lowers the stakes of a database-based (!) approach by reducing the requirement to plan extensively in advance, but my anxieties remain. As a result, I actually find imagining and making attributes more challenging than writing the action scripts that affect and use those I already have.
  2. I would also limit the agent search to the container with the group members’s notes or by prototype. Otherwise, my agent searching for unchecked boxes would be filled with aliases for every note in my project.
 November 10, 2014  Hypertext Tagged with:

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