Applications with "Grouping" functionality

Hi all,
As some of you probably know, I am busy creating the Aeon Timeline application.

One of the features/requests I would like to add is the ability to have different events within the timeline grouped together, so that if you move one event, you move all of the events in the group. This allows you to have connected events which stay the same distance apart, but with a much simpler and more intuitive interface than trying to setup events with “relative dates” (i.e. this event is other event + 10 days). Instead, you would just select the events you want to group together, click “Group”, and then they will move around together.

All of which leads to my question:

[b]Can anyone suggest any applications that have implemented object grouping really well in a clean and useful way? I would anticipate programs such as Vector Drawing applications, Diagram Designers etc. are likely to have some kind of functionality like this.

I am looking for examples I can model my own grouping behaviour on. [/b]

The difficulty I have is that in a graphics application, for instance, you tend to group adjacent or overlapping objects, so when you drag them around, it is very clear that they are grouped together. In my case, grouped events may be a long way apart, and so the fact that other events are moving will not be as visually obvious.

Applications with Nested Grouping etc. would also be a bonus.


In Curio you can group items and, if they are too far apart, you can zoom out and view your whole document.

Mind map apps come to mind (e.g NovaMind)

So, for that matter, does Pages and Word.

Or even Keith’s TheBoard (UPDATE: it doesn’t allow grouping - I thought it did, but I was just remembering multiple selections).

Thanks for the suggestions. I looked at Curio a long time ago, and subsequently forgot about it. Will take a look at NovaMind also.

Other suggestions are still welcome…

What is this ‘TheBoard’ and where would one find it? How could I have missed any piece of Lit&Lat software?


I like the way how OmniGraffle handles grouping. It allows nested grouping (in my understanding a nested group contains several groups in an overall group). With OmniGraffle it is possible to edit text within grouped items, even if the groups are nested.

One thing however vexes me with every grouping solution: that I have to ungroup befor I can join a forgotten item to the group. It would be very nice if a single item could be joined to a group. But I see the difficulties that arise if there are several groups. Not to think of nested groups.

But there might be another approach - this is just a spontaneous idea: With several marked events Aeon indicates in the info panel “No or multiple events selected”. Why not use this space to list the selected events with some grouping feature like Photoshop uses to “chain” layers together. That would allow to easily select items. But on the other hand, maybe its just a click or two more.

If there is no such thing as nested sub-groups, then it is relatively easy for the ‘Group with X’ to mean ‘add to the Group X is in…’ - because X will only ever be in one group anyway.

But as soon as you introduce sub-groups, it could get very tricky. Do you want to add it to the group, or do you want to create a new group with that event and the other group as a ‘sub-group’ etc. etc.

That is why I am hoping someone has a suggestion for a really good well thought out implementation that I can use as a model.

I had a quick play around with Curio just now, so thanks for that suggestion. Everything below is just brainstorming out loud in the hope it will spark someone else.

One thing I noticed is that once objects are “grouped”, they are effectively treated as a single object. You can never select and manipulate an individual object once it is in a group (eg. you cannot change the colour of a single grouped object, just a background colour for the entire group).

This is not what we would want for Aeon, as it will still be important to be able to edit the title, participation, etc. of individual events. It is only changing the date that would affect others in the group.

That leaves Aeon at a visual disadvantage from what Curio does, as Curio automatically selects the entire group with a single mouse-click (you can never select an individual element of a group, without ungrouping them first).

So the question is: how can Aeon visually represent the items that are grouped (at least for the selected event, if not any others), while still allowing for individual event selection?

[Edit: Having now also played with OmniGraffle, I see that it is a little bit smarter in allowing you to click within the sub-group if you want to edit individual elements, or even move them around within the subgroup. But I guess conceptually, they are still relying on the groups being relatively close spatially, and perhaps not particularly overlapping with other groups.

In the case of Aeon, we would be talking about objects that may be much further apart, with a large number of events in between.]


To have to ungroup a group in order to add a new member would be extremely annoying, even more than in drawing applications (because you would have to go the whole timeline up and down again to re-collect your group).

A suggestion:

What I think would work well is if the events that are part of a group show a special symbol - for example, a small circle in the upper-right corner. By right-clicking on this symbol, one would call up a special context menu concerning group functions (“select all events of group”, “drop this event from group”).

The function “make event part of group” would be part of the normal context menu, as soon as a group is selected. (Workflow: select the group you want to add an event to, then right-click the event you want to add. This event would become selected as well, so you can scan for the next event to add.)

You would start a group by selecting more than one event. Then you’d have the function “group events” in the context menu.

When dragging a group of events, an information should be displayed how many events are dragged.

Logically, an event can’t be member of more than one group. Nested groups are logically possible, but more difficult to display (circles around circles?).

I doubt there are applications with the kind of grouping functionality that would be required for AEON. The idea to get another context menu when clicking on a special point of the event, however, comes from Tinderbox.

Behold, TheBoard

Maybe you’ll have a look at OmniPlan. One can easily drag tasks in and out of groups and of course drag the whole group. It works even with nested groups. Nice solution.