Bee Docs' Timeline + Scrivener integration...?

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Sat Apr 19, 2008 8:06 pm Post

I'm sorry that I'm not familiar with your s.w. but will check it out because I'm in final draft of a novel which takes place over 50 years with numerous characters and important events that occur at specific times in history.

All that to say I use a wp document with birth, death, marriage dates, etc. and a separate list of historical dates of each chapter. Would love to have a simpler more useful way to track this and keep it accurate.

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Thu May 01, 2008 6:24 pm Post

adamb wrote:Hey Folks,

This is Adam Behringer, the developer of Bee Docs' Timeline. Thank you for your suggestions so far. I look forward to hearing from more people!

How do you track chronological information in your stories now?
Do you use Scrivener or a spreadsheet or ...?
Is anyone using iCal or Address Book to track events and characters?
In general, do you use Scrivener to track this type of research and planning?

To return to Adam's question about iCal and event tracking in our fiction.

I create a calendar in iCal for each fictional work and then enter events into this calendar (entering markers that place particular scenes and events in the fictional characters lives at a particular time). When I'm working on the story I make this iCal calendar visible and turn off the others (using the check boxes). Then I switch back when I'm done writing for the day. A bit cumbersome at times but overall very workable. (By the way Adam, thanks for including iCal import into the current version of BDT. With the way I use iCal this has been very useful.)

An earlier poster mentioned not mixing fictional events with real events in iCal. I do not find this to be a problem. Individual calendars in iCal provides sufficient separation for my purposes.

In the wish list category for ways that Bee Doc's Timeline and Scrivener might share data: I would second the earlier suggestion of adding a Start and End metadata field to individual "Scrivenings" (visible in the Inspector). It would conceivably be possible then to import a Bee Docs Timeline into Scrivener as a new project (with each event in the Timeline doc creating one scrivening/card in Scrivener titled with the name of the event and with its notes in the synopsis). It would also be possible to export from Scrivener and create a Timeline document populated with the title and synopsis of each scrivening/card placed on the timeline. Over the course of a project I could imagine exporting repeatedly from Scrivener to Timeline as I adjusted dates in the metadata of the Scrivener file so that I had an up-to-date visual representation of the timeline.

I'd also like to reinforce the connection between these two tools (Scrivener and BDT). Many of us (it appears) own both. Finding a way to move data between them in ways appropriate for fiction writers is a worthy cause. Thanks for looking into it.

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Tue May 06, 2008 10:07 pm Post

The trouble with Timeline is it only works with Leopard. What about those of us still using Tiger?

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Thu May 29, 2008 12:42 am Post

jcscrib wrote:The trouble with Timeline is it only works with Leopard. What about those of us still using Tiger?

There is a Tiger version check Bee's Website. (1.6)

Ok here is what I think would work in a seamless way between SCR and Bee.

In SCR in the Binder a SPECIAL FOLDER like the research folder. This would be the Timeline Folder

This folder would contain DOCUMENTS but a special type. They would be like the index card but they would be made for Bee Doc in their Formatting. (More detail in a bit)
Anyway the TITLE of each document is an event in the time line. There is a second line where you put in a DATE. In this timeline fodler the name would appear like this TITLE, DATE
You open the document and this is where you put your comments and notes. Have an optional button that would INSERT a LINK and a Picture (for Bee only).

So now in the Binder in the timeline folder you have a list of documents that list by DATE (second line) then Title. Open each document and inside their is more information about that event.

The reason for this is if a user is NOT using Bee they can still use this folder as a primitive timeline function which would make some users happy enough.

But the elegance comes in that those SPECIAL DOCUMENTS created inside the timeline folder can be exported to Bee Docs via a EXPORT TO BEE DOC TIMELINE and would fill out the TITLE of the event. The DATE/DATE RANGE of the event. NOTES for the event and also with two buttons (Insert link and insert image) an image and link can be inserted.

THe idea would be that a user could use the primitive timeline function and it would still work (by sorting documents by date) but they would have much more control over their data if they used Bee Doc and their info would transfer seamless from SCR to BEE without having to go in and "tweak" things. Also changes made in SCR can be seen in BEE by rexporting (which would REPLACE the timeline with an updated version created from the SCR timeline folder).

SO a user could either create a new timeline and export and replace from SCR OR they could export a single event and in BEE have an APPEND TIMELINE FROM EXPORT feature which would ADD say a single event from SCR to an existing timeline that has already been created.

So on the SCR side Keith would need a TIMELINE FOLDER that would contain special documents that follow formatting guidelines for Bee. An Export To Bee button. An Insert Link Button (For Bee Only) A Insert Picture button (for Bee Only). The ability to sort these special documents by Date (Primitive timeline) and finally a Import from Bee Button or command that would import an event or events as INDIVIDUAL SPECIAL DOCUMENTS that would automatically go into the timeline folder and be sorted by Date

Ok on the Bee Side Adam this is what you would need.
An APPEND TIMELINE FROM SCR command or button
And an EXPORT TO SCR command or button.

The "special documents" inside the Timeline folder would be treated as individual events.
Now what if someone wants multiple timelines or rows?
Simple each "row" is a folder in SCR TIMELINE that contains events for that row inside the timeline folder.
The name of the Folder in SCR TIMELINE is the ROW LABEL in Bee. The events in that older belong to that particular "row" in BEE.

And last in Bee have button that works like the Email feature but instead of sending the timeline graphic via email have it save a jpg/png that would go back into SCR into the TImeline Folder as a "Summary Graphic"

I don't know if what I am describing is making any sense but it would allow you two (Adam and Keith) to work out a format and import/export feature that would work seamlessly like Apple does with its own software. And I bet it would increase sales for both softwares because of that seamless integration together.

I know from a writers point of view that you want to draft out your ideas in SCR but I also want to get a feel for the time frame using Bee. By working together BOTH ways (SCR and Bee both importing and exporting to each other and in the process updating each other) the creative flow would not be lost and something wont be overlooked. I may change my mind when in Bee and adjust my timeline extensively. If I had the ability to import that from Bee into a Timeline folder I could see all my changes and notes right in SCR. Also while working and drafting in SCR I can sketch out an extensive timeline in SCR and then export it into Bee and look at it from a graphical point of view....

Hope that helps
The wheel is turning but the hamster is still dead.

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Sat Jun 07, 2008 2:24 am Post

Thoughtful stuff, Wocky. I haven't used this kind of software for writing, but I have used it in project management.

I must say, though, that when I read The Time Traveller's Wife I WAS thinking of how the author would have had to have a good Gantt chart in front of her or risk becoming totally mentally schemozzled.

The views I see on the Timeline site are brilliant -- but from where I sit, brilliant for a presentation, not for day to day work. What I would want as an aid to writing or planning a project -- is a simple, straightforward Gannt chart I could comprehend at a glance view -- the kind of thing attached.

I didn't see an example of this on the Timeline site except for the Timeline icon; but then again, I might not have looked hard enough; I have a very low tolerance for black or dark coloured sites (why, or why did we all switch to Mac in the first place? The paper white screen was a revolution in computer screen communication).

The Gannt sample attached is from Personal Organizer 4.5 which was the last of the line -- after carbonising this, Chronos unwisely went Cocoa, basing subsequent offerings on iCal and Address Book and, from my PoV, simply turning rubbish into rubbish (like those craft programs on TV). I don't know whether they even have a Gantt view in their awful SOHO Organizer; if so, I suspect it would take about three weeks to process, unlike the lightning speed at which Personal Organizer runs. (Oddly, you can't install PO on OS X.4.11, and you can't make it run by launching the program -- it can't find its database -- but if you simply copy over the program and its bits and pieces from an earlier OS X, and launch by double clicking on the database, it runs faultlessly!)

You can set it up so you are looking at a scale from 15 minute to one year intervals. In practice, I just set up a new database document for a project which includes only stuff related to that project.

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Sat Jun 14, 2008 5:53 pm Post

I think the simplest means of integration would be to have index cards or items in Scriv linked to a specific event in the Timeline. From Adam's pov he could make each timeline entry able to link to a specific file and/or index card in Scriv as may be defined in a pref.

This is something I've long wanted when writing historical stuff - it brings some sort of form to the research and enables you to get a better picture of what was going on. I know historical papers are not always linear - they can be thematic, but the need is always there to impose some sort of structure on events. Provided the links are not broken when shuffling the index cards in Scriv it should be useful to more or less everybody. Wouldn't imagine it would take a great deal of programming, but I'm not a programmer.

It's probably something that could be led by Adam, with Keith providing the programming at the Scriv end.
History is a nightmare from which I am trying to escape

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Tue Jun 24, 2008 11:01 pm Post

I'm not sure if there will be a timeline option in Scrivener, but I found a very simple solution for this myself. I have put all my characters and events time line info into Numbers (iwork), printed a pdf file of it and pulled it into Scrivener. It's easy to update and fast to make.


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Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:43 am Post

I’m currently using BeeDocs Timeline to help me organize story points and visualize my composition. I annotate timeline elements with the chapter and page numbers of the text they reference. Even though the numbers are subject to change, it gives me a rough idea of how complete the composition is since I don’t always write my chapters in order nor do I flesh out every element that appears on the timeline.

I wouldn’t need much in the way of integration between BeeDocs and Scrivener but it would be helpful if timeline elements could be used as hyperlinks to navigate a story. Perhaps being able to create links in BeeDocs that anchor to points in Scrivener? (Or vice versa – whichever way is easier to implement!) It would also be great if linked elements displayed in a different color from unlinked ones.

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Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:57 pm Post


You have has written that any integration of Scrivener with Bee Docs’ Timeline, for people who use both programs, will only be:
• information exported from Scrivener and imported to BDT and,
• information exported from BDT and imported to Scrivener
In your words, you want to see our desires respecting “information that you see go back and forth between these apps.”

Since BDT only imports and exports events in a tab delimited text file, and at that it only allows files that must contain three columns labeled “Label”, “Start Time”, and “End Time,” why not start out by having Scrivener be able to import and export tab delimited text files in the BDT format. Scrivener users could use the “Label” field to name each Scene or Chapter or Beat, and use the Start Time and End Time fields for those respective times.

Some believe that BDT won’t allow mixed times, meaning that an event that takes place during an hour (Start and End Time includes HH:MM in addition to the MMM/DD/YYYY) can’t be used with other events where the Start and End Time excludes HH:MM. This can be done by entering in the time as “none” or the actual time for the Scene, Chapter, Beat as each Event requires. In other words, the time and date for each event “Event Date Format” does not have to be the same as the “Row Date Format.” It’s true that BDT will object to this unless you make the Event Date Format the same as the Event Date Range in the “Add Event” box. See the uploaded example:

ishot-1.jpg (12.53 KiB) Viewed 2434 times

If this works for Keith and Adam, then the next question is: Where does the exported and imported data fit in Scrivener? We know where it goes in BDT, see “Bulk Edit” screen or any Event box.

Tacitus has suggested that “the simplest means of integration would be to have index cards or items in Scriv linked to a specific event in the Timeline.” The above takes care of his latter point about “linked to a specific event in the Timeline.” I also like his idea about using index cards. If the title of each index card is also the data that feeds the “Label” for DBT, that’s one down.

If Keith is OK with adding the “Start Time” and “End Time” data fields to link with BDT as a separate set of fields on the index cards, then we have a system to exchange data (information) in place. A proposed Index Card to deal with this would look like this:

Index Card.jpg
Index Card.jpg (44.68 KiB) Viewed 2435 times

The remaining item would be for BDT and Scrivener to have a dedicated File->Export/Import Metadata To/From Scrivener/BDT item so that the metadata file on the user’s computer is updated when the user chooses. Obviously this file feeds the BDT data fields and the Scrivener Index Cars fields.

The advantages to this approach are its simplicity and flexibility. Authors can increase or decrease the number of cards (Events in BDT), as their plots require. It should require the least coding to accomplish over other, more complicated, approaches. And, it can be used to determine if other additional aspects are needed over time based on author feedback. For example, one of the fields in the BDT “Bulk Edit” screen is a “URL” field. If the Index card had a URL field, and the user filled it in, the user could copy the index card to the Research folder and have this info available there.

The disadvantage is that it is not going to meet everybody’s needs, but the present state of affairs regarding data sharing between BDT and Scrivener meets the needs of no one who seeks data integration or sharing.

Alternatively, Keith, instead of having this information on the Index Cards, you could agree with Adam which fields both of you wanted to share and alter the “Document References” columns to include the agreed upon data.

Thanks for considering this approach.

John Perry

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Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:00 am Post

I bought Timeline, but found it required a lot of work to put a timeline together. This was great for a presentation-type timeline, but what I need is a _working_ timeline, something that is fast and ready and that focuses on ease of input, rather than presentation details. That was a long time ago, and perhaps some of these needs have been addressed - I'll take a look.

With respect to writing a novel, the uses of a timeline might yield some ideas about how one could go back and forth between Scrivener and Timeline.

* It should be fairly easy to assign a datetime to a Scrivener folder and/or text. When exporting to the timeline, the title would be exported. Optionally, things like a timeline ID or other fields could be added to these Scrivener objects to take advantage of Timeline's capabilities. (If you are truly going to export, then even stuff that isn't displayed in Timeline has to be preserved correctly by timeline, such as massive blocks of text in chapters or scenes.)

* New objects could be created in Scrivener which correspond to Timeline functionality. For example, one might insert a datetime just before a chapter, and everything from that datetime object to the next datetime object would be considered to be 'at' that datetime on a Timeline. Optionally, you could have an interval object, which is a simple way to indicate passage of time - an hour later, a day later, a month later, etc. Further optionally, to provide flexibility, it could be made not necessary to keep things in sequence order - the Timeline would sort out flashbacks, for example, showing them as happening a year or a day in the past. This would require more complexity if there are special timeline objects; it works better of Scrivener objects have Timeline properties.

After thinking through those ideas above, what I like best would be to have Timeline properties for Scrivener objects, so that Scrivener content, when exported to a Timeline, sorts itself out, even if the Scrivener content is not written consecutively. That requires that things like very long text chunks become something in Timeline, such as an icon that could be popped up and edited.

OK, now for the stuff I really want: events e.g., marriages (Edie Smith and Edgar White were married on June 12, 1943) and relationships (Eunice, born March 11, 1963, is Edward's daughter). I've tried using geneology software for this, but generally there are 11,000,000 features only 4 of which apply to novel-style record keeping of events, and key novel-style items (e.g., Ellen is Elliot's girlfriend from March, 2008 to May, 2009) are unsupported. With a timeline, it doesn't matter what the event is, really, although that would be a nice plus - knowing that Ellen was dating Earnest before she met Elliot is what is critical to a novelist.

So now what we have is a set of events which live in one timeline, and the novel's content with datetime objects or properties, which get sorted into a parallel timeline, both in Timeline. THAT would be freaking useful. And if you can find ways to encapsulate each others foreign elements cleanly so they can be put back (or each product can display a view of a common file using different program-specific logic) - sign me up.

OK guys, make it so! <g>

Ron Wodaski

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Sun Sep 06, 2009 4:41 am Post

rwodaski wrote:I bought Timeline, but found it required a lot of work to put a timeline together. This was great for a presentation-type timeline, but what I need is a _working_ timeline, something that is fast and ready and that focuses on ease of input, rather than presentation details.

Have you had a look at Aeon Timeline? (It's linked under a subforum in "Software by other folk") That's intended to be a working timeline, not a presentation timeline.

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Sun Sep 06, 2009 9:08 am Post

Oops, sorry, I should have de-stickied this topic long ago. I doubt, after all, that there will ever be any Bee Docs + Scrivener integration. I spoke to Adam at Macworld back in January, and he has rethought the idea of particular integration and is happy with just having a PDF export from Bee Docs that can be taken into other programs such as Scrivener - understandable, given the amount of work that could be involved in anything else (and Scrivener's niche status). Of course, it could just be that he saw this thread and you guys scared him off. :)

But yes, instead Scrivener 2.0 will be able to import form and export to Aeon Timeline, a timeline program still in beta and being put together by a Scrivener user.

All the best,

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Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:27 pm Post

Oh, that's too bad.

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Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:33 am Post

Kendric wrote:Oh, that's too bad.

On the contrary, I don't think that's bad at all. ;-)

As others have observed, BeeDoc's TL is really a presentation TL software. I checked out the latest version in Leopard and it's certainly slick, what with fold-out 3D events including images and all – but, as a working tool for figuring out chronologies, I find it virtually useless.

For instance, there are neither dedicated event types nor any calculation functions, so you can't, for example, record a character's birth and then automatically get his or her age calculated at particular events in the future.

However, it seems we'll have all this functionality and more from Aeon TimeLine, which is very promising even though it's still early in the beta cycle.

There's a beta forum at <>

I have high hopes for this one! 8)



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Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:46 am Post

I've been checking out Aeon since posting this. There's some good potential there.

But in the first few hours I found that:
- Zoom doesn't zoom.
- Events with a specified duration aren't discernable from those that sit as a point.
- Events entered into the timeline don't necessarily display.
- Took ten minutes to figure out why it wouldn't let me enter a later time. (I didn't first change the AM to PM, so it refused to take any input.)