November 23, 2005
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What You See Is What You're Thinking

Alistair Weakley observes that word processors are not necessarily good tools for writing. Because they are so concerned with the appearance of the page, conventional programs can lead you to focus on design when you need to be working with ideas.

One tool that I really like is Tinderbox and I use this a lot when I’m writing and for other things too. Basically, you can use it to organize notes. Notes in this case can contain text or images and can link to files and web pages and things like that. You can organize them in all sorts of ways with graphical maps, hierarchies and so on. For writing I make a note for each subheading of the text, then fill it with the stuff I intend to write. I can reorganize the structure as I go then export it all in one long document at the end. It’s only then that I change to a word processor and I try to just use that for formatting.

One thing I like about this method is that you only have to write a small amount inside each note. Somehow it seems much less daunting to me to write thirty or forty separate paragraphs than it does to write a whole paper.

In a later post, Weakley describes his thesis workflow -- including a good approach to integrating EndNotes and Tinderbox.