December 10, 2012
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Tinderbox has always had two preference dialogs: one, called Document Preferences, that controls the behavior of the current Tinderbox document, and another, called Tinderbox Preferences, that determines the defaults for newly-created documents. So if you want this document to use Helvetica, you do it in Document Preferences, and if you want every new project to start out using Helvetica because it’s your font, you use Tinderbox Preferences.

Over in the forum, a new users – actually, someone kicking the tires – took us to task for this cockamamie system. And I’m not entirely sure we don’t deserve it! But I think my reply, edited and expanded here, might be of some general interest.

Tinderbox uses Preferences extensively. They're not just cosmetics: a number of preferences change the way your Tinderbox document works.

There are two distinct roles that preferences can play in any document-centered program:

When Tinderbox first decided to separate "TINDERBOX PREFERENCES" (which apply to new documents) and "DOCUMENT PREFERENCES", things were even more complicated.  At that time, one convention held that the document-level preferences would be called properties.  But that word originated in the Windows world, and at the time it evoked unpleasant emotional resonance among a significant part of our audience.

Some applications apply preferences to the current document if there is one. To edit the application preferences, you open the Preferences window with no documents open. But that would be inconvenient for the many Tinderbox users who keep a Tinderbox journal or daybook open all the time.

More recently, lots of applications have dispatched document preferences to a document-level inspector pane.  Apple’s iWorks pioneered this. We didn't do that in Tinderbox because, as that time, inspectors were discouraged. (There were also some uncertainties about asynchronous changes to defaults in the presence of active agents and actions.)

And so Tinderbox has always separated document and Tinderbox preferences.  It's not ideal: getting the wrong preference is an FAQ, and every time we write the words we have to emphases DOCUMENT preferences.  It might change in Tinderbox 6.

But we're not idiots: there's a reason things behave as they do.