A good story is driven by interesting things happening to interesting people in interesting places. As authors, we have to manage WHO, WHAT, WHEN and WHERE.
Aeon Timeline does an excellent job with WHAT and WHEN through a rich set of definable properties and sync capabilities of event objects with Scrivener. I don’t think there’s much missing with event sync. It seems both versatile and flexible. However, unlike some of the other posters, I’m not trying to move a huge timeline from AT2 into S2. My projects have grown organically in S2 and have been synced into AT2 as the project grew. I won’t say everything is perfect in event-sync-land as my experience is limited. Using custom meta-data seems to be a reasonable way of handling data sync, perhaps with some refinements.
WHO and WHERE are handled in AT2 through “entity” objects which are far more primitive than event objects. Entities are used for all non-events: people, places, story arcs, chapters… Entities can be just about anything an author decides to define in their timeline. It’s my opinion that it’s the entity area which needs the most work and my gut feeling is that most of this has to happen on the AT2 end of the relationship. I think if we fully define how entity sync should work in AT2, only then can Matt suggest to Keith whether there’s some tweaking which would assist from the Scrivener side.
If AT2 only had a timeline view, the current sync situation would be quite sufficient. But, AT2 has a relationship view which I find even more powerful than outline view in S2. Relationship view excels at showing the relationship between events (WHAT/WHEN) with the people, locations, arcs, chapters, etc… It’s very powerful for sorting out continuity errors in your plot timeline.
There are some definite flaws in the way the two programs are syncing as of writing this. My biggest pet peeve is how AT2 tries to autodetect and auto-create new entities. If you make a minor typo in a place name, for example, it populates your AT2 entity list with a new location. So it’s pretty easy to end up with “Main St.”, “Main St”, “main st.”, “main st” and “Main Street” in your entity list, all versions of the same intended location. I asked about this in the blog, but what we really need is a way for custom meta-data fields to be able to either pick from a list or auto-complete names. I understand from Keith that these are currently just dumb text inputs and it may not be possible to implement. If that is the case, then I’d encourage Matt to remove this auto-creation feature or make it a feature that can be toggled off by the user.
I think what is really needed as a minimum or floor to synchronization is the ability to arbitrarily assign a Scrivener document to an arbitrary entity. The bare minimum information to be synced could be nothing more than the title/name and the synopsis/description. That would allow us as authors to put a brief description of the character, place, arc… in the synopsis in Scrivener, then see that information in the relationship view in AT2. It would be wonderful to have more sophisticated sync, but I don’t you’ll find any two authors that will agree on how that should work. We each have our own binder structure and ways to organize character and location information. At least with this minimal model, any author would be able to point any entity to any document and say “This document has the info on this particular person/place/arc/etc…” If we try to get too sophisticated with a sync model, one of two things is going to happen. 1) It’s too complex and doesn’t get implemented. 2.) It’s too restrictive and forces authors to change the way their binder is organized.
I do think that, with a bit of joint effort among the Scrivener/Aeon Timeline devs and the user communities, we could come up with some sort of “best practices” or “recommended workflow” for getting the most out of the two programs. They certainly are a good fit. What Scrivener lacks in visual representation is covered by Aeon Timeline. What AT2 lacks in drill-down depth of information about a single event or entity is readily covered off in Scrivener, which is designed from the ground up for recording detail.
I believe where most users get into trouble with AT2/Scriv sync is when they try to bury too much information in AT2. We as users need to recognize the strengths of each program and not try to do everything on one end of the relationship. We need to accept that not everything we have in Scrivener needs to be displayed in AT2. I guess what I’m saying, is there is a difference between “need to have” and “nice to have”. Let’s start with the basics, then see how it goes from there.