Exporting a Form Letter

When first learning Tinderbox, I thought of my notes as mini-word documents. When they were ready, I expected to be able to click “Print” and that they would just print. When this didn’t happen the way I imagined it would, I was pretty frustrated.

What I’ve realized with time is that this Word-style model is exactly the wrong way to think about what Tinderbox export is doing.

When I select the menu item “export a selected note” from Tinderbox, I’m not actually exporting a note. I’m exporting a template and that template is pulling pieces of information from my note to complete itself and generate the output I’ve requested. (I think this is maybe similar to how things work in databases and even spreadsheets.)

In other words, Tinderbox’s export templates are like form letters.

To explain what I mean, I’m going to write a letter to send to one of the authors in my sample Tinderbox file and then turn that letter into a template that will let me generate a letter for each of the authors in the file.

The steps for doing this are:

  1. Write the Letter
  2. Make the Letter a Template
  3. Assign the Template & Preview the Export
  4. Format & Export the Output

The first time through, this process may seem complicated, but once you see how it works, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Or jump to other examples.

Suggested First Steps

In any Tinderbox project where you will be using export, it’s a good idea to:

  • Click File->Built In Templates->HTML.

This will import a basic template as well as the template prototype. Having them on hand will make some things easier later on.

  • Click Window->Show Text Pane Selector.

This will add three buttons to the top of the Note Text Pane that are incredibly useful.