Notes, observations and suggestions

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antony
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Sat Nov 08, 2008 5:55 pm Post

Right, then.

First of all, Matt: as one of the initial people who egged you on to do this, and complained incessantly about the lack of such an app, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Once Aeon is ready for the public, I will plug it just as much as I do Scrivener. And while I'm no internet celeb, I know I've shifted a fair few copies of Scriv to other writers, so hopefully I can do the same for Aeon.

OK, notes and suggestions. These are based purely on what's in the documentation - I've been out travelling all day, so printed the doc out to read and make notes on. I apologise therefore if any of these are based on my own misunderstanding, or lack of actually using the app yet! (I intend to experiment with it in the next day or two). Or, indeed, if they've already been addressed in the new beta.

As I missed the launch, I also apologise if any of these points have already been made and I just missed them. Finally, of course, they are all merely suggestions. If you or anyone else has a good argument against them, speak up! :)

(Warning, tl;dr)

###

---
THE APP
---

SUBTITLE
"A Story Told in Time" seems a little vague; it doesn't get across well enough that the app is primarily for creative writers, and makes me think of something that's going to be presented to me, not that will help me create. As the app name doesn't suggest that either, I think it's a missed opportunity. Off the top of my head, I would suggest something more blunt, like "Time for Writing", "Time to Write", or even "Time for a Story".

Heh, or "Your Story, From Cradle to Grave."

OK, maybe not that one.

(I know you asked for suggestions for this before launching; I was away from the forums at that time. Apologies to whoever it was suggested the final subtitle!)

UPDATES
Are you using Sparkle (or similar framework) for automatic update checking? It would make things like ensuring people are using the latest beta version very simple. I have no idea what the logistics of this are (or if Sparkle requires a licence, which of course may deter you) but it's a very popular, mature and stable framework.

---
INTERFACE
---

SELECTED EVENT
The blue outline isn't quite prominent enough, especially when looking at a crowded timeline. How about making selected events 'pop up' with a dropshadow, like in the weekly/daily views of iCal?

ZOOM BAR
The zoom bar should have some kind of label, or icons at either end, to explain its function. Perhaps just a plus and minus sign would suffice. It also seems very wide, is there a reason for this?

INSPECTOR WIDTH
A "grab handle" at the bottom of the split between the central pane and Inspector, a la Scriv, would be useful.

OVERVIEW TIMELINE
This could probably be thinner, thereby giving the central pane more room.

FUNCTION BAR
A title/control/function bar at the top of the window (but underneath the menu bar) could be very useful, again a la Scriv's document title bar. I understand there's a desire to maximise the space devoted to the central pane for those of us who work on laptops, but in my experience the best and most common way to do this is to turn off the menu bar itself. In Scriv, for example, I always have that bar hidden, as the only time I ever use it is when I need the search field - which isn't very often. Such a function bar (horrible name, but you know what I mean) could contain, from left to right:

- A title label for the overview timeline. "Overview" or "Master timeline", perhaps.

- A label for the central pane, perhaps "Focus" or "Detail view".

- Then, when appropriate, the story arc title (I know this functionality isn't in there yet, but when it is, it will be useful to know at a glance which arc you're looking at).

- A "Show/Hide characters" dropdown. I think this would be more intuitive than just right-clicking in the names' "invisible field" to show/hide. In the dropdown is listed every character generated. Those currently visible have a tick to the left of their name. Selecting a name shows/hides that character accordingly. I'm thinking here of the iTunes metadata dropdown.

- The filter text field. i.e. move that field from the menubar into this function bar, and place the (yet to come, I know) global search field up in the menubar in its place.

ADDING EVENTS
- Clicking anywhere on the text of the date to change it seems to be the new thing these days, but personally I don't like it. A little 'calendar button' next to the date, which pops up the calendar view, would be more obvious (like the ones you often see on booking websites). Or allow clicking on either.

- Require the title field to contain at least one character before the OK button is active, to prevent accidental entry of events with no title.

- Add the duration, label and notes fields to this entry dialogue. Defaults (for duration and label) could be set in preferences, if desired, to allow rapid entry - and of course notes would not be mandatory to enable to OK button. But it seems cumbersome to have to create an event, then find and edit it in the Inspector to get this info in. Most people, I imagine, would know this data and want to enter it at the point of event creation.

DELETING EVENTS
How many people have we seen in Scriv who hit delete by accident, thinking they're editing a text field or something, and delete their document as a result? :) I believe Keith has changed this to cmd-delete in the next version of Scriv, and - given that Aeon doesn't have a trash - I suggest doing the same here.

I also suggest a warning "Are you sure?" dialogue for when people delete a character, either from the character contextual menu (see below) or by deleting their birth event.

ADDING CHARACTERS
- "Participant"? Really? What's wrong with just "Character birth"? :)

- Slightly more advanced, and I don't know if this is even possible, but a very useful addition would be a third option besides "Standard Event" and "Participant Birth": "New character", where you input the data as normal but also input their current age at the time selected - and Aeon then calculates their birth date and inserts a birth event automatically. (Or, perhaps, just integrate a "Character Age" field into the "Birth" dialogue, with a pre-filled default of 0 - which would signify birth.)

DELETING CHARACTERS
In addition to deleting their birth event, make this an option in each character's right-click menu - with a subsequent "Are you sure?" warning dialogue, of course.

---
TIMELINE SETTINGS
---

TOKENS FIELD
The tokens field looks very cumbersome and unfriendly. I like the use of system-style tokens, but I don't think there's really a need to include tokens for separators - it makes the field busy and unfriendly, and does anyone really need more than one kind of separator? (Genuine question, if I'm overlooking something obvious please enlighten me!) I also think "Available" isn't an obvious label for selecting a new token.

I suggest removing all separator tokens from the field, and replacing the "Available" button with two dropdown menus instead:

- "Add element", in which you select a new token for Day, Month, Year, Time, etc. These are added to the end of the current token list in the field, and can then of course be dragged around.

- "Separator", in which you choose your separator symbol: comma, slash, colon, etc.

I realise this would need some extra anticipatory thought, as you obviously wouldn't want "Monday, 21, February", but I don't think that would be all that difficult...?

START/END FIELDS
Are the "Time" fields at the bottom of these editable?

AUTO-EXPANSION
This is a brilliant idea, but what about "BC" style dates (e.g. 500 BC)? Does Aeon support them? Are there any plans to do so? Along with fantasy dates, this would be my highest priority request if they're not already in there. One of my existing series, which I'd love to use Aeon for, would directly require this as the "start date" isn't actually known - it's just "before Big Event" and "after Big Event".

---
MINUTIAE
---

SELECTING EVENTS
Tab to move between events, and the arrow keys to move them, sounds unintuitive and frustrating. Did you base this on Omni Outliner? Because I hate it there, too ;) Plain up and down arrows keys should never, in my opinion, move things around. They should merely move the selection focus. Tab could instead be used to change the field, perhaps just from the central pane to the overview timeline and back. (Why would you want to do that? Because...)

OVERVIEW KEY CONTROL
A neat addition would be the ability to move the "focus area" on the overview timeline up and down with the arrow keys. And even, perhaps, use cmd-up/cmd-down to increase/decrease the size of the focus area. I know this would replicate the zoom bar function, but redundancy is no bad thing :)

BEFORE BIRTH/AFTER DEATH
Just 'grey out' the character's lines for these time periods. If the line is coloured, fade it to a paler version, otherwise just a light grey.

FANTASY DATES
Will we also be able to specify the number of weeks per month? (I have no problem with restricting hours and minutes, I actually think that's a good call.)

EVENT WARNINGS
I vote for the second "Check for Warnings" option, for what it's worth. I, also, hate the "check as you type" stuff in word processors.

###

And that's it (!) for now. Once again, thank you for already devoting so much time to this. You're a star :)
Antony Johnston
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Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:56 am Post

antony wrote:Right, then.


Right then, indeed. What a list!

Thank you though - although a lot of these items reflect the immaturity of the program and places where I haven't given a lot of thought yet, or just went with the easiest available option to get the application out there, it is good to have a list of items to improve usability.

I have responded to some of the comments. The others are not being ignored, I have just added them to my list.

SUBTITLE
"A Story Told in Time" seems a little vague; it doesn't get across well enough that the app is primarily for creative writers, and makes me think of something that's going to be presented to me, not that will help me create. As the app name doesn't suggest that either, I think it's a missed opportunity. Off the top of my head, I would suggest something more blunt, like "Time for Writing", "Time to Write", or even "Time for a Story".

Heh, or "Your Story, From Cradle to Grave."

OK, maybe not that one.

(I know you asked for suggestions for this before launching; I was away from the forums at that time. Apologies to whoever it was suggested the final subtitle!)


The "final" subtitle was the first one that came into my head when I was writing the initial post... it is in no way final, I just chucked it in there as a placeholder while I thought of a better one.

UPDATES
Are you using Sparkle (or similar framework) for automatic update checking? It would make things like ensuring people are using the latest beta version very simple. I have no idea what the logistics of this are (or if Sparkle requires a licence, which of course may deter you) but it's a very popular, mature and stable framework.


Not yet, but thanks for the link. Auto-updating is something I intend to add in down the track, but it wasn't one of the things I wanted to concentrate on early in the app lifecycle. Although I noticed that I picked up a couple of beta testers from a NaNoWriMo forum in the last couple of days (thanks to the Scrivenerati who gave the link), so I guess this becomes a bigger priority, as those sorts of users are unlikely to return to the Scrivener forums.

OVERVIEW TIMELINE
This could probably be thinner, thereby giving the central pane more room.


I am in the process of making this thinner for the next release. I think I am also going to give it rounded ends.

FUNCTION BAR
A title/control/function bar at the top of the window (but underneath the menu bar) could be very useful, again a la Scriv's document title bar. I understand there's a desire to maximise the space devoted to the central pane for those of us who work on laptops, but in my experience the best and most common way to do this is to turn off the menu bar itself. In Scriv, for example, I always have that bar hidden, as the only time I ever use it is when I need the search field - which isn't very often. Such a function bar (horrible name, but you know what I mean) could contain, from left to right:

- A title label for the overview timeline. "Overview" or "Master timeline", perhaps.

- A label for the central pane, perhaps "Focus" or "Detail view".

- Then, when appropriate, the story arc title (I know this functionality isn't in there yet, but when it is, it will be useful to know at a glance which arc you're looking at).

- A "Show/Hide characters" dropdown. I think this would be more intuitive than just right-clicking in the names' "invisible field" to show/hide. In the dropdown is listed every character generated. Those currently visible have a tick to the left of their name. Selecting a name shows/hides that character accordingly. I'm thinking here of the iTunes metadata dropdown.

- The filter text field. i.e. move that field from the menubar into this function bar, and place the (yet to come, I know) global search field up in the menubar in its place.


You know, you said "like in Scrivener", and I had to open up Scrivener to see what it looks like. Clearly not the part of the interface I pay any attention to.

Show/hide characters was always going to be made more user-friendly by placing it in a menu, but I like the idea of having it easily visible, as I expect this may be something users will use a lot. This would also be a good place to have buttons for 'tags' (which will act like filters, but be a little more flexible).

To save space, I am also likely to switch to the new slimline style of toolbar (like at the top of Safari and Mail now). But that will have to wait until I can get suitable icons created.

DELETING EVENTS
How many people have we seen in Scriv who hit delete by accident, thinking they're editing a text field or something, and delete their document as a result? :) I believe Keith has changed this to cmd-delete in the next version of Scriv, and - given that Aeon doesn't have a trash - I suggest doing the same here.

I also suggest a warning "Are you sure?" dialogue for when people delete a character, either from the character contextual menu (see below) or by deleting their birth event.


I will swap to Cmd-Delete. But the warning message is already there when a character gets deleted.

As a response to another thread, I will make it possible to have characters without ages (and therefore without birth events), so a separate delete character toolbar and menu item will be added with a drop-down list of all the characters names.

ADDING CHARACTERS
- "Participant"? Really? What's wrong with just "Character birth"? :)


Heh, clumsy, innit. Trying to find a word that covers the fact that people are going to use their 'characters' for things like buildings and institutions. I still don't have an answer.

- Slightly more advanced, and I don't know if this is even possible, but a very useful addition would be a third option besides "Standard Event" and "Participant Birth": "New character", where you input the data as normal but also input their current age at the time selected - and Aeon then calculates their birth date and inserts a birth event automatically. (Or, perhaps, just integrate a "Character Age" field into the "Birth" dialogue, with a pre-filled default of 0 - which would signify birth.)


This is due to be re-jigged a bit with ageless characters anyway, so thanks for the suggestions.

TOKENS FIELD
The tokens field looks very cumbersome and unfriendly. I like the use of system-style tokens, but I don't think there's really a need to include tokens for separators - it makes the field busy and unfriendly, and does anyone really need more than one kind of separator? (Genuine question, if I'm overlooking something obvious please enlighten me!) I also think "Available" isn't an obvious label for selecting a new token.

I suggest removing all separator tokens from the field, and replacing the "Available" button with two dropdown menus instead:

- "Add element", in which you select a new token for Day, Month, Year, Time, etc. These are added to the end of the current token list in the field, and can then of course be dragged around.

- "Separator", in which you choose your separator symbol: comma, slash, colon, etc.

I realise this would need some extra anticipatory thought, as you obviously wouldn't want "Monday, 21, February", but I don't think that would be all that difficult...?


Yep, never liked the drag'n'drop method, but it was quick and easy at the time when I did it. I like the idea of the add token drop down menu much better.

As for the separators... off the top of my head I can think of the following likely date formats.
"Mon 3 June 1997 13:00"
"Mon June 3, 1997"
"Mon 3/6/1997 13:00"
"Mon 3/6/1997"
"3/6/1997"
"June 1997"
"1997"
"1990s"
"1900s"
"Mon 13:00"

Plus variations swapping day/month in dates if you come from another country, and using "-" in place of "/".

I guess I could figure out to have a space after words, and not after numbers - but that still doesn't account for things like the comma added into "June 3, 1997".

START/END FIELDS
Are the "Time" fields at the bottom of these editable?


Yes, why?

AUTO-EXPANSION
This is a brilliant idea, but what about "BC" style dates (e.g. 500 BC)? Does Aeon support them? Are there any plans to do so? Along with fantasy dates, this would be my highest priority request if they're not already in there. One of my existing series, which I'd love to use Aeon for, would directly require this as the "start date" isn't actually known - it's just "before Big Event" and "after Big Event".


At present, BC dates are not supported. But they are on the to-do list along with fantasy dates. I think the problem lies with the calendar selector I created - but I should be able to add a BC/AD toggle after year pretty easily.

SELECTING EVENTS
Tab to move between events, and the arrow keys to move them, sounds unintuitive and frustrating. Did you base this on Omni Outliner? Because I hate it there, too ;) Plain up and down arrows keys should never, in my opinion, move things around. They should merely move the selection focus. Tab could instead be used to change the field, perhaps just from the central pane to the overview timeline and back. (Why would you want to do that? Because...)


I didn't base it on anything as such, I was just trying to find a way to make it more keyboard friendly. I am a mouse person , not a keyboard person, so getting the keyboard controls right is complete guesswork for me. I just know that some people don't like to ever move their fingers to their mouse, and I was trying to think of a way to cater for them.

OVERVIEW KEY CONTROL
A neat addition would be the ability to move the "focus area" on the overview timeline up and down with the arrow keys. And even, perhaps, use cmd-up/cmd-down to increase/decrease the size of the focus area. I know this would replicate the zoom bar function, but redundancy is no bad thing :)


There are already Cmd + and Cmd - to zoom in and out. But maybe a keyboard control for the overview bar would be possible. Although, if up/down is not used to move events, it could be available for scrolling inside the main window too.

quote]FANTASY DATES
Will we also be able to specify the number of weeks per month? (I have no problem with restricting hours and minutes, I actually think that's a good call.)[/quote]

You will be able to setup each month with a name and a number of days. And you will be able to setup the number of days in a week. So effectively, yes, although you are not specifically setting weeks to a month. The reason for that was that in our calendar, that number isn't 4, it is 4.something that changes by the month.


Once again, thanks for the feedback. I am sure you will find further annoyances, as I have, when you actually sit down and use the program. When you do, let me know, so that I can make it as user-friendly as possible.

Matt

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Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:01 pm Post

matt wrote:Thank you though - although a lot of these items reflect the immaturity of the program and places where I haven't given a lot of thought yet, or just went with the easiest available option to get the application out there, it is good to have a list of items to improve usability.


Yeah, that was my thinking. You'll recall I was one of the people who said to concentrate on functionality first, and I'm glad you did, but sooner or later the UI is going to need focusing on :)

FUNCTION BAR
You know, you said "like in Scrivener", and I had to open up Scrivener to see what it looks like. Clearly not the part of the interface I pay any attention to.

Show/hide characters was always going to be made more user-friendly by placing it in a menu, but I like the idea of having it easily visible, as I expect this may be something users will use a lot. This would also be a good place to have buttons for 'tags' (which will act like filters, but be a little more flexible).


I agree. I think one of the great things about the Scriv bar is that it doesn't distract, but it's there if you need it (I rely on it a lot because I work almost entirely in Edit Scrivenings sessions, and I always lock the pane after initial selection).

DELETING EVENTS
I will swap to Cmd-Delete. But the warning message is already there when a character gets deleted.


Excellent. Like I said, apologies for diving in before having actually used it...

ADDING CHARACTERS
Heh, clumsy, innit. Trying to find a word that covers the fact that people are going to use their 'characters' for things like buildings and institutions. I still don't have an answer.


Ah, I see. And yes, that's tricky. A different "character type" with no age by default could be one solution, but then you still run into the problem of "is a building/company/etc a character?" (and the reverse - if you called this third type "insitutions", what about ageless characters? Gaaaah.) Personally I'd be inclined to just leave them all as "characters" and let people fudge it themselves, but then I'm cruel like that.

TOKENS FIELD
As for the separators... off the top of my head I can think of the following likely date formats.
"Mon 3 June 1997 13:00"
"Mon June 3, 1997"
"Mon 3/6/1997 13:00"
"Mon 3/6/1997"
"3/6/1997"
"June 1997"
"1997"
"1990s"
"1900s"
"Mon 13:00"

Plus variations swapping day/month in dates if you come from another country, and using "-" in place of "/".

I guess I could figure out to have a space after words, and not after numbers - but that still doesn't account for things like the comma added into "June 3, 1997".


Good point. I don't think you need to worry about colons in time elements, those could be default, maybe even non-alterable, and I don't think anyone would care. Here's a (not) radical idea - instead of the tokens, how about simply offering a "date style" menu like OSX does in the system prefs? Then you wouldn't have to worry about separators at all, just offer the elements you listed above (with an option to reverse the day/date for Europe, as you say).

START/END FIELDS
Are the "Time" fields at the bottom of these editable?


Yes, why?


Just wondering, it wasn't obvious from the screenshot and wasn't mentioned in the doc :)

AUTO-EXPANSION
At present, BC dates are not supported. But they are on the to-do list along with fantasy dates. I think the problem lies with the calendar selector I created - but I should be able to add a BC/AD toggle after year pretty easily.


Fantastic. And, of course, the BC/AD label should be editable... :)

SELECTING EVENTS
I didn't base it on anything as such, I was just trying to find a way to make it more keyboard friendly. I am a mouse person , not a keyboard person, so getting the keyboard controls right is complete guesswork for me. I just know that some people don't like to ever move their fingers to their mouse, and I was trying to think of a way to cater for them.


Heh! Fair enough. I'm much more of a keyboard person, especially when writing, so this is a big point for me.

OVERVIEW KEY CONTROL
There are already Cmd + and Cmd - to zoom in and out. But maybe a keyboard control for the overview bar would be possible. Although, if up/down is not used to move events, it could be available for scrolling inside the main window too.


Cmd-+/- is great, and if you have it, then fair enough, you don't really need yet another keyboard shortcut to zoom as well. Plain up/down would scroll the central pane by default if it was used as a selector - select an event at the top of the screen, press up for the one above (but off-screen) and the pane should scroll automatically to show the newly-selected event. Cmd-up/down could be used to actually move elements around by 'snap' amounts, I guess.


FANTASY DATES
You will be able to setup each month with a name and a number of days. And you will be able to setup the number of days in a week. So effectively, yes, although you are not specifically setting weeks to a month. The reason for that was that in our calendar, that number isn't 4, it is 4.something that changes by the month.


That's a very good point. Sounds like a good solution, though.

Thanks for being so receptive. I promise to say no more until I've actually tried using it :)
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Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:08 pm Post

OK, I've had a play. Some more suggestions:

EVENTS
Double-clicking on an event should allow me to edit the title of that event inline.

DURATION HIGHLIGHT
It's very, very pale. On my MacBook I can barely see it. I know this is something you intend to refine anyway, just thought I'd mention it.

INTERSECTIONS
Just a small thing, but it might look better if the circles/stars/etc were opaque, i.e. the event line isn't drawn inside them, even when they're "empty".

COLOUR CODING CHARACTERS
I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this, but to me, the ability to assign colour labels to a character rather than an event would be very, perhaps even more, useful.
Antony Johnston
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Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:29 pm Post

Matt,

I know you plan to take a look at multiple timeline implementation, but I having difficulty envisioning that with the vertical layout in the UI rather than a GANTT treatment approach where concurrent timelines are stacked horizontally. (Which, no doubt, is why I'm not a software developer and you're the talent developing this program). Any hints as to how you see implementing that visually?

JRP

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Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:29 am Post

If I knew that, I'd have done it already!

Well, there are really two parts to this answer.

The version 0.2 release will have tags associated with events.

Part of the idea behind this will be to make it very easy to setup tags to quickly switch between different sets of events. So if you want two distinct 'timelines', you can just hit a button to toggle between them. They won't both be displayed at once, but they will allow you to section off your work so that you are not always looking at the whole thing.

The true implementation of multiple timelines will come in a later release. I am hoping to have some way to display these in parallel - that means that it will need to take up a lot more horizontal space, leaving less room for the characters. One option may be to hide the characters altogether when in this view, although I am hesitant to do this.

The general idea, very crudely drawn, is in the documentation, but I am nowhere near the implementation specifics and difficult calculations yet (I have just battled through some difficult calculations for the expanding/contracting time scale, so I am doing some easy GUI cleanup for a while).

Another option would be some kind of genuine split, like the horizontal/vertical splits in Scrivener. I haven't given any thought to that option though, beyond the previous sentence.

I am not sure what you mean by "a GANTT treatment approach where concurrent timelines are stacked horizontally": aren't I suggesting the same thing, just rotated 90 degrees?

Matt

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Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:02 am Post

Hey Matt, I have a great idea (envision me in a V8 commercial doing the head smack). Why don't I look at the documentation you referenced here and in the original dmg before I pose another uniformed question about multiple timelines? lol

Sorry about that!

And, yes, I can see now from the rough in the documentation how the diverging and converging timelines might present a screen real estate problem. Tough sledding, indeed.

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Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:17 am Post

JRP wrote:Also, as I mentioned in another brief post, I have a bit of difficulty envisioning how the vertical timeline will accommodate multiple concurrent subplots and or story elements, e.g., a war story, where the time span of a battle as a fixed element, the movement of a company of soldiers as one timeline, something occurring on the home front as another timeline, the communications of a spy as another element in the context of how it intersects with other subplots, etc.


This comment in the other thread sparked another thought.

How about, for multiple timelines, we do create a GANNT chart.

The current interface is good for showing one thing: the association with characters and events, and by association, the ties between various characters. What it cannot handle well, due to the need to have the horizontal character lines, is showing the duration of events, and showing the events in story-arcs.

So how about, when you switch to 'Story-Arc' view, it dispenses with the characters altogether. That means no horizontal lines for events, which means they don't need to be shifted up and down to prevent collisions.

Events can then be displayed in their true positions, with their true durations.

You would then be able to drag events up and down to change their time, and left and right to shift them amongst various timelines or story-arcs - there would need to be some mechanism to split a timeline into story-arcs at various points, and it would need to automatically deal with collisions by shifting the events horizontally etc. Basically, what an existing timeline might do.

The good thing, though, is that you could still use the filter for events. So if you type in a character's name, this view would only show those events the character was involved with -- and this would give you the perfect way to see any conflicts in an individual character's timeline.

Matt

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Tue Nov 11, 2008 9:17 am Post

A multiple-timeline "Gannt chart" view: sounds good, Matt.

One thing Gannt charts don't do, or usually don't do, is to represent single discontinuous events successfully. It would be great if Aeon could cope with these (though I'm not sure how).

OT: I'm speculating but this application when more mature could be attractive to police forces, PIs, prosecutors and defenders (for obvious reasons). If they had anything similar already, I imagine writers would have found it.

So code faster still! :wink:
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:29 pm Post

Ok, Matt, I seriously like your idea of having a story arc view as you describe here. Seems as if it would give the best of both worlds and broaden the appeal to all types of writers.

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Wed Nov 12, 2008 1:01 am Post

The orientation is an interesting problem though.

I made the initial timeline vertical for two reasons:
1) Vertical scrolling is easier and more natural than horizontal scrolling; and
2) To avoid collisions, you don't have to shift events as far up/down on a vertical timeline than you would left/right on a horizontal timeline (since text is wider than it is high, and we couldn't encroach on the character space by moving perpendicular).

But when you remove the characters and avoid collisions by shifting perpendicular to the timeline, (2) above reverses, and you would shift them less distance on a horizontal timeline than a vertical one.

That is why GANNT charts are typically laid out horizontally rather than vertically.

From my perspective, I am hesitant to switch to a horizontal view for the 'Story-arc view' because:
a) it might be disconcerting for the user to jump from vertical to horizontal and back again as they switch between 'Character view' and 'Story-arc view'.
b) horizontal scrolling is less natural, not supported by a large number of human input devices known in the singular as a mouse (mice? mouses?), and in my experience with dodgy mice, more jumpy than vertical scrolling (unless using 2-finger scrolling on a trackpad, which is smooth).
c) it would involve a lot of work and changes to the current interface, as the timeline sidebar, the overview bar etc. would need to be made orientation independent.

I want to keep the view similar to the existing view, rather than reverting to the table-like view of Microsoft Project, and I want to have the same intuitive click-and-drag functionality to shift events in time, change durations, shift them to different story-arcs, and split a timeline into separate story-arcs from a certain point (not sure on the interface mechanism for this yet).

But it is a difficult one to puzzle over. Definitely a version 0.3 problem, but it would be good to have a plan for that part of the interface by the time I get there.

Matt

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Mange
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Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:34 pm Post

Matt, you do realise that there's a third alternative to the orientation issue: not vertical and not horizontal, but diagonal ;-)
Lots of space both to the left and the right of the line. And to my knowledge - never been done before.

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vic-k
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Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:51 pm Post

Magnus,
I wouldn`t confuse Ned if I were you. Not a lot of imagination there, y` know. Couldn`t handle little crocodiles,kangaroos, Kookaburras, and Sheilas when I sugested `em :( Diagonal will flip him altogether. :shock:
vic
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matt
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Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:13 am Post

Mange wrote:Matt, you do realise that there's a third alternative to the orientation issue: not vertical and not horizontal, but diagonal ;-)
Lots of space both to the left and the right of the line. And to my knowledge - never been done before.


Open up paint, draw me a diagram, and I'll consider it :)

Hmm... horizontal and vertical scrolling... the worst of both worlds.

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vic-k
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Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:04 am Post

Ned!
Picture of some Sheilas. Will that do? :?
vic
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As a professional, you, are your one and only asset. Without integrity you are worthless, but with it, you are priceless.