Tinderbox Technique: drop-stamp adornments

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I've been revamping the architecture for t.org behind the scenes, and some nifty features are coming out of my explorations. I'm used to working in the Outline View, which is strange because I'm a very spatial thinker. After watching Mark Bernstein take notes in Map View at eNarrative 6, though, I decided to give Map View another shot. I soon came up with one technique that you could easily adapt to your own files: adornments that act like stamps. This and the pen have made the Map View just as useful to me as Outline View.

As of Tinderbox 3, adornments can have actions. This is huge! Since adornments cover an area of the map view (without taking up space in other views), this means that you can make a section of a Map View a functional 'drop box'. Make a note; drag it so that it touches the adornment; the action is applied to the note. Now drag it wherever you really want it.

Read on for the hows and whys and examples.

An example: canvassing the web

Here's an example. I made a Tinderbox file to organize my ongoing search for freelance work. I do this in stages: I search for postings and leads, drop them into Tinderbox, and then after a round of that I go back into Tinderbox to work on the promising ones. I want to drag URLs into a Tinderbox window, quickly assign a bunch of attributes like how interesting they are and what my next action should be for each, and then I want to move on to the next lead. I can't do all that easily with prototypes because I'd need a multitude of them: "should apply, really hot", "should apply, mildly interesting", "contact for information, really hot" and so on.

Instead, I put a bunch of adornments onto my drop-box Map View, and each assigns a couple of attributes-- some metadata and a visual attribute to accompany it. Here's a picture of the setup, arranged in their own window. I can drag notes to that window so that it functions like a custom OS X palette.

In this window, I'll take a new lead and drag it onto the first column to assign a step in the process, basically a "next action". That assigns it a "to-do" attribute and a border color so that I can quickly, in Map View, see all my next steps. Then I'll drag it over to the second column to assign how interesting it is; that turns the main face of the Map View note into a gradient, with the second color correspondingly bright. I can then quickly look at my Map View to see where my most interesting leads are. Here's a piece of the map view, where you can see the border colors and gradients assigned above.

This has unlocked the Map View for me because it finally lets me use the visual attributes easily without a lot of time assigning and typing.

The quick how to: assigning actions to adornments

This is easy to do if you're comfortable with actions and attributes.

Open the adornment Rename Adornment dialog by choosing "rename" on it or selecting it and hitting 'enter' (not 'return'). In the "Action" field, put the attributes you wish to assign, like this:

AppStatus=ShouldApply;Border=3;BorderBevel=plain;BorderColor=red

That's for my "Apply Stamp" adornment shown in the example above. It flattens out the border, makes it wide so that it's visible, turns it red, and sets another user attribute (AppStatus) so that I can gather it up with an agent later. I could have the agent look for BorderColor=red, but I find it easier to keep track of what means what with a separate attribute.

In order to do the funky gradient (I was so smug about making 'hotness' look like a flame!), use an Action like this:

Hotness=3;Pattern=gradient;Color2=bright red

When you assign a Pattern other than the default, Tinderbox uses the Color and Color2 attributes as the two colors, in this case shading from the default down into Color 2 which I've made the visual for 'hotness'.

Other tips:

  • You probably want to make the adornment locked but not sticky. That way you won't accidentally move the adornment, and even if you do you won't start the 'katamari effect' where sticky adornments start gathering other sticky adornments.
  • Make the adornments big so that they're easy targets.
  • If you have a suite of 'drop-stamps' like this, you may want to make one more that clears all the attributes in case you make a mistake. In my example, those are grey.
  • This would be really snazzy for GTD.

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This page contains a single entry by Scott Price published on March 9, 2006 1:06 PM.

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