Some inconveniences adding data

de
derick
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:58 pm

Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:09 pm Post

Hi
I am demoing Aeon Timeline and began data entry of a timeline with about 400 items which currently resides on a big piece of paper behind my desk.

A couple inconveniences were rapidly evident.

Even if the date format is set to 1999 (i.e. only the year) one has to tab through all the date fields when manually entering events.

Events always default to the first label in the list, not the last label used. This is a pain when entering a lot of events that belong together. Moreover, the tab key won't tab down to the label field - one needs to switch from keyboard to mouse in order to change the label field.

After a couple of minutes, I realized this was not going to be an efficient way to work. I decided to try importing data instead, and set up a file with a few test entries based on the User Manual.

The first thing I noticed is that the Import... menu item opens a modal dialog box in front of the Import Events panel, so I can't actually change the options on the Import Events panel until I've selected the file.

Then through trial and error I discovered that one needs to include year, month and day for a file to import successfully. It would be nice if AT would insert a default day and month if these are missing.

Another frustration with import was that AT doesn't import Notes or Tags. This makes the import feature a lot less useful for existing datasets. In addition to the paper timeline I was experimenting with, I have a Filemaker database with a couple of 1000 entries which are dated and tagged with keywords. But for a timeline to be very useful as a way of representing this data, I need to be able to filter by tag, and there is no way I am going to reenter all this info. manually.

Hopefully these can be addressed in later versions - I think if I were beginning a project from scratch, AT would be a great tool, but for my needs at the moment, quick data entry and fuller importing are key features.

de
derick
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:58 pm

Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:16 pm Post

Also....now that I look closely, the Arc and Label fields in the text file to be imported don't actually affect the imported data.

Here's the import file:

Start Date, End Date, Event Title, Arc, Label, Notes
1889 May 1,1889 May 1,forests not commodifiable (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1889 May 1,1889 May 1,sheep purchases (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1901 May 1,1901 May 1,hut tax in tobacco season - sales (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1907 May 1,1907 May 1,taxes main use for cash (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1907 May 1,1907 May 1,absence of discussion of usury (S97), Commoditization, Midnight

But all of these items were imported into the Global arc with label of Ruby.

ma
matt
Posts: 1180
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:35 am

Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:30 pm Post

Hi derick,
Thank you for the feedback.

derick wrote:Even if the date format is set to 1999 (i.e. only the year) one has to tab through all the date fields when manually entering events.


I am considering ways to make this kind of thing easier for a future release. I may implement something similar to the current "All Day" checkbox to cover month-only, or year-only, thus allowing you to specify the level wanted.

It needs to be flexible though, as you could easily decide to switch to more specific dates later, and then we would need to be able to handle the data.

Right now, the date formatting used on the main timeline window is considered to be a display choice only, and won't affect the underlying data.

derick wrote:Events always default to the first label in the list, not the last label used. This is a pain when entering a lot of events that belong together. Moreover, the tab key won't tab down to the label field - one needs to switch from keyboard to mouse in order to change the label field.


I agree that the last used would make more sense - I will update accordingly. I will also look at the tab order, also.

derick wrote:After a couple of minutes, I realized this was not going to be an efficient way to work. I decided to try importing data instead, and set up a file with a few test entries based on the User Manual.

The first thing I noticed is that the Import... menu item opens a modal dialog box in front of the Import Events panel, so I can't actually change the options on the Import Events panel until I've selected the file.

Then through trial and error I discovered that one needs to include year, month and day for a file to import successfully. It would be nice if AT would insert a default day and month if these are missing.

Another frustration with import was that AT doesn't import Notes or Tags. This makes the import feature a lot less useful for existing datasets. In addition to the paper timeline I was experimenting with, I have a Filemaker database with a couple of 1000 entries which are dated and tagged with keywords. But for a timeline to be very useful as a way of representing this data, I need to be able to filter by tag, and there is no way I am going to reenter all this info. manually.

Hopefully these can be addressed in later versions - I think if I were beginning a project from scratch, AT would be a great tool, but for my needs at the moment, quick data entry and fuller importing are key features.


I am working to improve the import functionality now, so your feedback will be useful with this. I have just now added the default day and month, as per your suggestion.

Importing notes and tags is slightly more complicated due to the difficulties of formatting those fields for CSV, but I will work out an appropriate way to make it work.

derick wrote:Also....now that I look closely, the Arc and Label fields in the text file to be imported don't actually affect the imported data.

Here's the import file:

Start Date, End Date, Event Title, Arc, Label, Notes
1889 May 1,1889 May 1,forests not commodifiable (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1889 May 1,1889 May 1,sheep purchases (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1901 May 1,1901 May 1,hut tax in tobacco season - sales (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1907 May 1,1907 May 1,taxes main use for cash (S97), Commoditization, Midnight
1907 May 1,1907 May 1,absence of discussion of usury (S97), Commoditization, Midnight

But all of these items were imported into the Global arc with label of Ruby.


Currently, the arc and label values need to match an existing arc or label in order for the import to assign them correctly. If they do not match, it will default to the Global Arc.

Have you already created a "Commoditization" arc? (I recognise the Midnight label not importing properly may be a bug, unless you have changed that label's name).

I have been tossing up whether to create new arcs and labels for non-matching data. Obviously, there would be benefits for some users, but there is the risk that hundreds of inappropriate arcs or labels could be created by someone with a malformed CSV file.

I think I will at least make it a user option.

Anyway, again, thank you for your feedback. I will be improving the CSV import over the weekend for a subsequent release, and will let you know when it is done.

Regards,
Matt

de
derick
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:58 pm

Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:59 pm Post

Thanks for your prompt response.

I like the idea of checkboxes (and/or maybe a default setting for the timeline that applied to data entry as well as display) for the add event pane.

I've done enough programming involving CSV import to know what you mean about the formatting difficulties....maybe enclose the list of tags and notes in double quotes, since the current CSV import doesn't require quotes, then each quoted string can be parsed into its components? This could still get messy with notes including lots of punctuation, etc., but would prob. be ok for tags.

The Commoditization arc did exist in the document already. Likewise the Midnight label.

I'd be in favor of creation of new arcs and labels, as long as Undo will reverse the entire import operation.

Thanks again
best
Derick

ma
matt
Posts: 1180
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:35 am

Sat Jun 16, 2012 4:16 am Post

Hi derick,
I have just implemented a new CSV import that will allow you to choose between creating new arcs/labels, or reverting to the default.

It also has Notes and Tags being imported, and gives a live preview of what will import as you change various settings to ensure you get what you want.

That will obviously require a reasonable amount of testing still. If you are interested, fire me off an email to support (AT) scribblecode (DOT) com [sorry, avoiding spam bots], and I could send you a preview version to test its behaviour.

Matt

ma
matt
Posts: 1180
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:35 am

Sat Jun 16, 2012 8:01 am Post

Hi Derick (and anyone playing along at home),

I have just uploaded version 1.0.4, which improves the CSV importing to include notes and tags, and to be more robust to variations in the CSV file format.

The user manual is also updated to better document the import process.

I hope this helps with your data input concerns.

Regards,
Matt

de
derick
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 9:58 pm

Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:16 pm Post

Brilliant, thanks - I just imported a csv with 258 entries without problems.

One thing I did notice - the option to create new Arcs appeared in the import pane, but I couldn't actually check the box. I went back and added the Arcs manually before the import, though, and everything appeared in the correct Arc.

I appreciate the quick update.
thanks
Derick