On Scrivener, Storymill and the value of Timelines

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matt
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 3:43 pm Post

Hi all,
For those who are still interested, just uploading another update of my progress.

screenshot_03.jpg
screenshot_03.jpg (154.49 KiB) Viewed 1308 times


Obviously the aesthetics will be improved a bit, but I am concentrating on functionality first. The screenshot shows numerous 'person born' events, as well as some other standard events.

You can see a person linked to a particular event by the circle at the intersecting point. At the moment it is only showing that for birth events, but I will add it for other events shortly. There will be two 'levels' of participation - based on "active participant" and "observer" but the definitions will be changeable - that will be displayed with a filled circle (as shown) or an empty circle outline. When that is done, I will probably change how births are displayed to make them unique, and probably introduce a death event also.

The character's ages when the event occurs also needs to be listed next to these circles (there will be a toolbar item to turn the age display on and off).

The second-last event is currently selected, so it is highlighted in blue. The part of the background that is slightly orange shows the time span for this event (start of event to end of event, in this case the duration is 2 months). As the actual line for the event had to be shifted down to prevent overlapping with other events, it extends both above and below the event line. Normally this would be just below the event line.


The following is already implemented:

1) Create a new event by double clicking in the "time margin" at the side (this can be either a normal event, or a participant creation event [i.e. birth for a person], which would then create a new person as well).
2) Change event dates by click & drag.
3) A partially working inspector allows you to change title, date, duration, notes for each event (still to come, ability to add/remove 'participants' to an event).
4) Can change the start/end date of timeline in Settings.
5) Can save and load timeline files.
6) Zooming, and the overview bar on the left hand side work correctly.

Obviously there is still a lot of work to do, but I am getting closer to being able to release a very limited alpha version to get some feedback on the general functionality of the user interface etc. (i.e. what works, what doesn't work etc.)

The main steps I have left to complete before I can do that are:

* Allow participation to be altered by clicking at the intersections (cycling through NONE|OBSERVER|ACTIVE as discussed above), and display ages alongside.

* Clean up the inspector so it looks a little neater.

* Implement a granularity feature to solve the "exact date" issue discussed above (basically for now, when you create a timeline, you specify the default granularity to be one of century/decade/year/month/day/hour etc, and all dates are displayed at that granularity, unless you override it to have an exact date to the second for certain events... although not perfect, this should allow people to do the early work without having to narrow down specifics, and then they can increase the default granularity later if they wish to refine the work).

* Go through and fix a couple of minor memory leaks etc. that I haven't got around to solving yet.


Once they are done I should be able to release a functional alpha that will allow people to test the interface functionality, while I get to work on other aesthetic changes (such as allowing changeable fonts, colours, etc) and some missing features like Undo/Redo, event filtering, "fantasy calendars", etc.

Matt

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matt
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 4:04 pm Post

Which reminds me... since I am talking about an alpha release, there are a few other things I need to sort out before then.

1. The application name.

I am using the working name of 'Timeliner', but I don't have any particular attachment to that name (nor have I checked whether it is already used by other applications, etc). So if anyone can suggest another more suitable name, please do. Obviously something that is somehow related to time or timelines would be useful, if it has a relation to 'writers' it may be a bonus.

What did the old historian/record keepers get called (you know the ones, who wrote down general events in the 1600s books so we have some idea now)? Probably 'scriveners', right? :D

2. Application logo + Numerous toolbar icons (eg. Add Event/Add Participant, Remove Event/Participant, Show/Hide Ages [a birthday cake, perhaps ;)], etc.)

I have absolutely zero artistic ability whatsoever, and so will be completely and utterly unable to create any logos/icons for my own use, even if I was just adapting pre-existing icons. If there is someone who has some logo or icon experience and may be interested in free updates to this app for all eternity, please let me know!

Matt

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Hugh
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 4:59 pm Post

Great stuff, Matt <clapping smiley/>. Still strong interest here.

P.S. Forgive my lack of understanding - do you click on the overview bar on the left to get the "tight detail" chronology for any period? And how do you see the app integrating (or not) with Scrivener?

P.P.S. "Timeliner" sounds good - "Storylines", perhaps the most appropriate, being already taken.
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 5:22 pm Post

matt wrote:What did the old historian/record keepers get called (you know the ones, who wrote down general events in the 1600s books so we have some idea now)? Probably 'scriveners', right? :D


They wrote annals or chronicles, and the job names were annalist or chronicler, pretty archaic now. :(

Timekeeper? Timeline? Timelines?
Plotliner? Plotline? Plotlines?

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spinningdoc
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 5:40 pm Post

Not 'Annalist' though. That would be courting disaster.

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antony
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 6:43 pm Post

Looking great, Matt - can't wait for an alpha version to really try it out! (And I think you'll get a lot more usable and accurate feedback from it - I'm sure there are many elements of Scriv that Keith would never have thought of including without user input...)

I have some experience and know-how with icons, but my time is increasingly limited, so you should really only consider me as a last resort :\ If anyone else can step up, go for them instead.

The first name idea that comes to mind is "Timewriter", an obvious combination of the two main elements and play on "timeline", but I'm sure we can come up with better than that.
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 7:10 pm Post

Hi !

I'm reading this forum for a while, but I never wrote something (it's easier for me to read than to write, since I'm french ; by the way, sorry if my English is wrong...)...

I just wanted to say your application seems really great for me. I've tried many timeline's apps for managing my characters life, but none of them was good enough for me. Yours seems to be promising, and if I could help by alpha-testing it, it would be a pleasure.

So, thank you very much for doing this ! (and even if it's not the subject, thank you Keith for Srivener !)

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gr
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Sat Jun 07, 2008 7:52 pm Post

"Timewriter" works on a number of levels. Sounds like "time righter"--as in something with which one can right (as in a ship) the temporal order of things. Not to mention that it sounds like "time rider" -- which for some reason reminds me of Pecos Bill bronco-busting a tornado -- the writer as temporal cowboy/girl. Git along little dogies!

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Sat Jun 07, 2008 10:31 pm Post

Hiya Matt

How about "Time Plotter"? "Time" is dominant and unambiguous as it should be, but "Plotter" incorporates the notion of plot, as in a story, plot as in plan, and and plot as in graphical representation.

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matt
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Sun Jun 08, 2008 1:51 am Post

Hugh wrote:P.S. Forgive my lack of understanding - do you click on the overview bar on the left to get the "tight detail" chronology for any period?


The overview bar on the left shows you the entire timeline. The horizontal lines mark where events are. The blue background indicates which part of the timeline is currently visible in the main window. As you scroll in the main window, this will move accordingly. If you click anywhere in the overview bar, the main view will scroll to that location.

The zoom bar down the bottom controls how zoomed in/out the overall view is. I am not sure whether I will leave it where it is in the final interface or not. Once I have menu commands for zoom in/out etc. it might be taking up too much real estate that could be used for displaying more timeline.

Hugh wrote:And how do you see the app integrating (or not) with Scrivener?


See my post, 4th last on the previous page, for the eventual plans with that. Basically, I hope to have a way to arrange "events" into a narrative order (separate from the chronological order), and that would then be able to be exported to Scrivener as a series of index cards.

But that is a fair way off... obviously, I need to get the underlying timeline part working first, before worrying about the rest.

Everyone else wrote:... lots of name suggestions...


Thanks for the support, and all the suggestions for names. I quite like a few of the presented options.

* TimeWriter seems like maybe the best of them at the moment.
* I like the thinking behind TimePlotter, but the name itself doesn't grab me... I think 'plotter' just sounds a little clunky. But maybe if we play with the theme we can find a good alternative.
* I thought about Timekeeper previously, but decided it sounds too much like a StopWatch application.
* The Plotlines option is also a good one, but I think I would like to keep the word 'time' or something similar in there somewhere (in case the app is useful in other fields, eg. historians).

Annalist would be hilarious. But Keith has enough trouble with people asking how to pronounce "Scrivener" :D

Matt

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Wock
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Sun Jun 08, 2008 3:13 pm Post

"Writers Hour Glass"

Nice work!
The wheel is turning but the hamster is still dead.

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antony
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Sun Jun 08, 2008 3:39 pm Post

matt wrote:The zoom bar down the bottom controls how zoomed in/out the overall view is. I am not sure whether I will leave it where it is in the final interface or not. Once I have menu commands for zoom in/out etc. it might be taking up too much real estate that could be used for displaying more timeline.


Noooooooooooooooooo! Please leave it in, for the sake of redundancy (nothing wrong with being able to do the same thing in different ways, so long as they all make sense) but also for ease of use for those who will be new to the app.

The slider bar for magnification has become such a staple of Apple's own apps that it will ensure anyone who comes to this app for the first time will understand the principle. Otherwise you risk new users not realising that zooming in and out of the timeline view is even possible.

Of course, that shouldn't stop you putting keyboard shortcuts in as well :)
Antony Johnston
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JRP
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Sun Jun 08, 2008 3:46 pm Post

I like Antony's suggestion on the name, but I also like alliteration, so for what it's worth, another suggestion for the mix: Time Trace or TimeTracer.

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vic-k
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Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:14 pm Post

...considering who`s gonna be using it, The Scurvy Mangey Curs and Reprobates that crew Scrivener

it should be called Time-WARPED
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Jaysen
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Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:27 pm Post

Oooooo vic-k is being witty.

Problem is I kind of like it. DARN YOU!!!

I still vote for Time-Annalist.

Although vic-k might encourage you to drop one letter.
Jaysen

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