TBX on the Go?

Tinderbox only runs on macOS. There’s no iOS version. Generally, this is fine because if I’m going to work, I’m usually going to be working at my computer. The one major exception to this is when I’m drafting. This is tough work and I need to be able to move from computer to paper and back again, and I need to be able to decide that “this isn’t working” and to pick everything up and go to a cafe.

How’s this supposed to work if the research materials I need to reference while I’m writing are bound to my desktop? It occurred to me today that the obvious answer is HTML export.

When I’m writing, I never really need to change my TBX file. In fact, in a perfect world I would probably be prevented from making changes to it because it’s way too easy to sit down to write only to discover, an hour later, that I’ve produced a beautiful new map rather than 500 words. But here’s the thing: if all I want to do is to be able to read my notes, then it should be easy enough to just export and post them onto my server. I don’t even have to worry about whether the pages look good, right? They just need to work.

So to try this idea out, I copied the CSS and the main page template used in this blog into my research file. I wanted a template for each prototype (I’m using them to ID different kinds of materials) so that I could make sure that the appropriate information for each note would appear on the web pages that exported. To avoid making stupid HTML errors (I’m not a computer tech), I just kept duplicating and editing the main template I’d copied over from this blog. As I edited, I expected to be pulling info from attributes with value() statements, but I soon realized that, because I’ve been relying on links and link actions to organize my research ever since the new link pane was introduced, I could get most of the work done (and much faster) by using outboundBasicLink or inboundBasicLink to pull together lists of links by type. (e.g. Inbound links of type “directed” always originate with the director of the film.) 

After a quick two hours of work, I had a set of sensible HTML “notecards” that interlink like a wiki. I uploaded them to a folder on the server and voilà. A set of notes on the web.

Export is daunting at first, but once you figure out the basics (or at least, the basics that you need), it’s incredibly powerful and insanely fast. And so I walk away feeling like, with a bit of creativity and some careful thinking, I could make it do anything…