At the same time as I was finishing up work on the new version of my site using Tinderbox, a few threads popped up on the Tinderbox forum talking about the perceived difficulty of Tinderbox export. This got me thinking yet again about the source of all the trouble. At various times and in various moods, I have both agreed export could be a pain and been astonished at how easy it made creating complex documents. Thinking about it again led me to jot down metaphorical thoughts about car dealers and Mad Libs. I also tried to describe what I see as the fundamental difference between TBX’s export and other common tools.
Once I had those ramblings out of my system, I decided to use what I’d learned making my web site file to offer up a short series of posts that tries to show how I’ve come to think about basic export. Obviously there are other examples, instructions and information about Tinderbox available elsewhere. (The TBX help files, Mark Bernstein’s The Tinderbox Way, Mark Anderson’s TbRef, Welcome to Sherwood, and the videos of Dominique Renaud are only a few). I try not to repeat that work here.
Instead, what I’ll try to do is show how working backwards from the desired output rather than forward from a note is a useful (and manageable) way to think about export. In my opinion, working this way resolves a lot of the difficulty I initially experienced.
Each of the examples in these series will begin by creating a concrete instance of the desired output. Once this instance is written, I show how to transform it into an export template that will generate the same output from any note. I’ll be using the same sample file throughout (download .zip).
You should start with exporting a form letter. All the other examples take the information it provides for granted.
You can find the rest of the examples here:
- Turn a note into a citation for a MLA works cited page
- Turn a note into a page for a set of book notes
- Turn a note into a row in a spreadsheet
- Compile a container of notes into a single document based on any of these formats
In the next few days, I’ll close out the series with a few thoughts about what’s involved in exporting to the web.