Put my ideas on fire without Tinderbox (TM)
February 21, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for general, "easy to use" note integration and relational database software like Tinderbox, but for Windows.

If I had a Mac, I would have Tinderbox right now. But I don't and I cannot justify buying a new computer at the moment.

I am looking for tools that are general purpose for idea organization. At the moment it is primarily for fictional story and world building purposes, but I have lots of other interests too, and part of the attraction to Tinderbox is that I can learn one tool and apply it to a number of different activities. Another activity that is likely: board-game design.

Also, I can probably pick up any software with enough time, but I am not a "database guy" so steep initial database learning curves are not desirable (but I like knowing the power is there when I get used to basic functionality).

I found yWriter and like that it is free and I will likely use it for story creation, but is a bit too specific for "wold building" and not suited to idea collection, integration, and organization. Finally, I use evernote, which is great for writing notes anywhere and knowing I won't lose them (or my HD won't crash), but doesn't do anything with deep organization, and honestly getting a bit annoying to use.

Also, personal reviews of Tinderbox (positive and negative) would help me inform my decision if it would just be better to wait (or not wait) till I do own a Mac, whenever that is. I think partly I have this idea that because I can't have it it will be a panacea, which it isn't, so some "bring me back to earth" feedback is needed.

So, enlighten me Hive Mind! Thanks.
posted by DetonatedManiac to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I attempted to use Tinderbox over a few months in 2007. Tinderbox's onboard 'tutorial' offered the equivalent of teaching the alphabet through the letter G then handing you some Hegel and expecting you to get it. Additional help required purchase of their book – this was after we shelled out a few hundred for our licenses. I posted a comment regarding the incredibly narrow scope of assistance given to paid users on their user forum and it was deleted. Perhaps it is intuitive software for those with previous programming knowledge, who knows – it is certainly not anywhere near as user-friendly as their marketing copy implies. Maybe things have changed since then but it was a total clusterfuck. YMMV.
posted by avocet at 3:22 PM on February 21, 2010

You might want to experiment with a bunch of stuff and see what suits your needs: OneNote, Freemind, ConnectedText, and PageFour might be some good places to start...
posted by shivohum at 4:52 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

OneNote would be a good organizational tool and my basic review of the website from ConnectedText is that it seems like a suitable alternative to devonthink which assimilates and groups stuff. DevonThink has no plans to program for windows though, they have that written on the website.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 9:13 PM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've just discovered the Zim desktop wiki. I like it because it's free, works on Windows, Mac (with some fiddling), and Linux. And it stores all of the data in plain text files, so it should be pretty easy to get your data out of it if you want to use another program later.
posted by JDHarper at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2010

Thanks for the ideas guys. I like many of them and I am examining a number of options at the moment.

For the record, JD's link for zim was neat but (as they admit) not quite done, BUT it got me looking for "Desktop Wiki's" and that lead me to TiddlyWiki. So far that looks very promising. Have a lot to digest now.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:07 PM on February 22, 2010

Visual Understanding Environment might be something up your alley.

I've been thinking about working on creating (for sale?) a tool (though I'm a fan of free software, but hard to find developers and designers with skills for free for such an application)...

I think I'll cut and paste here this idea, to see if it's something that piques your curiosity. I'm trying to gauge support for such a tool, and want to get feedback...
A suite of tools that are integrated. Ideally, a touchscreen app, like on an ipad, or other such devices. But to start, since the market for such apps is tiny, I figure it can be a regular computer app (though not nearly as slick as I envision)

It would be a sort of world building system.

You would have something like google maps that can either import real world stuff (like gmaps) or create your own maps with tools (and even random terrain generation if you so desire, ability to tweak parameters). On the bottom would be a timeline you can scroll to see the evolution of regions (so you can have empires gain and lose territory, etc...) You can mark locations of characters/special places on the map and ensure they're not in the same place at the same time.

You would have character sheets/bios, etc... Color coding and easy to read with portraits if you want (maybe in the future "make your own" using something like an avatar builder -- or if you prefer imagination, just use text)

A relationship chart that shows links between characters and organizations (whether corporate, familial, political or any other form of relationship)

The ability to drag scenes/chapters onto the timeline. Objects can have entries as well.

It's a very spatial metaphor (as I'm a spatial thinker) and I like the idea of object oriented system like this.

I certainly don't want to spam with my own idea, but it sounds like what you want is sort of what I want...

I could see this being used for writing stories, and also RPGs and perhaps historical studies (watching empires fall, notes on historical events, etc...)

Anyways, aside from my own thing - please check out VUE. I'm curious if it would work for you. It's always intrigued me.
posted by symbioid at 10:57 AM on September 3, 2010

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