Setting Attributes with On-add Actions

In my admin file, I want to keep track of where information in a note came from: at what meeting, from which organization, on what date, etc. But I also don’t want to have to remember to enter all of this information when I create notes. So when I make a container note for a meeting, I immediately set the on-add actions to enter this information automatically. For this last video in the series, I’m going to explain how I do this.

To Create an On-add Action From Scratch

If you want to set attributes automatically when you create or add notes in a container, you simply:

  1. Open the Inspector (cmd+1)
  2. Select the Action Inspector
  3. Select the Action tab
  4. Begin typing an attribute name, select it from the dropdown to complete it
  5. Assign a value for the attribute using “=” followed by the value in quotation marks
  6. Tab or click away to make sure everything registers
  7. Shift+Tab and then Tab existing notes to apply the action. (It will apply automatically to new notes.)

Note: in the video you will see that I place parentheses around my attribute values. I’m not sure where I picked up that habit, but I learned recently on the Tinderbox forum that it isn’t necessary. The quotation marks are sufficient.

Creating On-add Actions for Additional Notes

Once you have one on-add action written, you are living on easy street. Need to set attributes on another set of notes? Then simply:

  1. Open the Inspector (cmd+1)
  2. Select a nearby note and copy-paste the action to the new note
  3. Edit the bits that should be different
  4. Tab or click away to make sure everything registers
  5. Shift+Tab and then Tab existing notes to apply the action

And that’s it. So there’s nothing to remember. Figure out how to do this once, and when you need to set attributes the next time, open an inspector for an old note, and copy-paste what’s there.

What You’ll See

This video is longer than the others I’ve posted because I shows how to create and apply an on-add action to existing notes as well as how to revise and apply this action to additional notes. I include all of these steps because I think it is worth showing how little time the entire process requires. For a more automated approach to be worthwhile, it would have to be something I could imagine, write and revise more quickly than I can use this less automated approach.


Working Auto-manually

This system isn’t automatic in the sense that I type something once and forget about it and everything I want happens magically. It’s low-level automation that ensures consistency without being overly complex or abstract. It requires some work on my part, but I find that this work keeps me in touch with my materials. Neither do I have to know any complicated, conditional syntax or how to fetch information from other notes. I just enter the values I want to set directly.

Because the actions are so simple to manage, I also don’t feel much pressure to predict all of the attributes I will eventually want to set. In my admin file for example, I started out setting only two attributes. I added to these slowly over time, and my basic meeting containers now set five. Each time I realized I wanted to set a new attribute, I simply added it to my list, did some copy-pasting and some shift+tab/tabbing, and in fifteen twenty minutes everything was up to date.

Adding to Attribute Values

Finally, as I move notes around, the on-add actions I show here can create problems. If I’m not careful for example, a new container’s on-add action will replace the attributes set by the note’s previous container. I asked how to deal with this on the Tinderbox forum, and it turns out the solution is pretty straightforward.

If I type:


this action sets the attribute value to “A,” replacing any existing value.

But if I the attribute is a set, and I type:


this action adds “A” to the existing value of $CollegeOrganization without deleting any previous value. And because the attribute is a set, I can’t get duplicate values. So everything stays tidy.