Help with timeline workaround

Hi there,

Thank you for offering this support forum. It’s a great resource for everyone wanting to learn more about Scrivener. And it’s filled with a lot of friendly and helpful people. :slight_smile:

I’ve come across this article with a suggestion for a timeline workaround: … scrivener/

In it it’s suggested to add dates to documents as cutom meta data so that it shows up in the Outliner view. The writer mentions that in the Outliner view the documents can be sorted by clicking on the columns. So that for instance when clicking on Title all documents are sorted alphabetically on title. By clicking Title again the order changes from ascending to descending or the other way around.

This seems like a very good workaround to me. However when I click on of the column names in the Outliner view, the documents in that view aren’t sorted.

Does anyone know if there’s something I’m doing wrong? Or did the writer of that article forgot to mention something to make this work?

Any feedback or suggestion for this workaround or any other timeline workaround using only Scrivener is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!


Hashim Naushahi

No, doesn’t work. Probably another feature which the Windows version will only receive in the next major upgrade. You wrote it should be a Scrivener solution but I really would recommend giving Aeon Timeline (Version 2) a try.

Hi Linus,

Thank you for responding!

You’re probably right. The screenshots of that article look like screenshots of the MAC version. It would be a valuable addition for the next major update. I think I’ll post something about it in the suggestions section.

Thank you for recommending Aeon. I’ve read about it and I know they have an integration with Scrivener. That’s great! For me it’s a bit overkill. And with all the options Scrivener has to offer I’m sure there must be a creative way to create a timeline workaround with a bit of out of the box thinking. Unfortunately I’m not that much of an experienced user of Scrivener. So I hope that there’s someone on these forums that might have an idea to create a timeline workaround.

Thank you, Linus!

I use Aeon Timeline and find it indispensable. The writing I do involves creating moderately complex timelines. It is incredibly easy to do those badly, but I find that Aeon Timeline makes it easy to sort things out properly.

I will agree that Aeon Timeline is somewhat difficult to master. I am a retired software engineer with a relatively high tolerance for complexity, so that doesn’t bother me very much. While it does cost a moderate amount of money ($50 but you can find deals), I would ask how much your time hunting around for a workaround is worth. I understand that it might be intrinsically fascinating to figure out how to solve a problem using the capabilities the Scrivener, but from a pragmatic point of view that time might be better spent learning a general-purpose tool that will help you in this and future projects.

Just a few thoughts from the cheap seats.

JonStonecash is right what he says about investing unnecessary time on a Scrivener workaround. But if you absolutely want a Scrivener only solution maybe try these:

Solution 1:
Because currently without the sorting option there is no way to have your actual scenes reflect both, the narrative sequence as in the binder and also the chronological sequence needed in a timeline you should split these two views up and link them back together. Also useful because you might want to have lots of backstory events in your timeline, which however don’t get a scene in your manuscript.

So create a folder e.g. under Research or on the same level as Research, e.g. / Timeline and create one document per event (all your scenes, historical events which need to be considered and also any kind of backstory events that build the chronological structure of the plot.).

Use custom meta data fields for start and end dates as described in the post you mentioned. Then link these timeline documents to the scene documents by using document references in both ways, so that each scene document points to its corresponding timeline event and vice versa. Probably each scene/timeline document pair should use the same title. You may also have scenes link additionally to backstory timeline documents, if you want to state that a scene takes place at one time but then within this scene a backstory event is being referred to.

Your time line documents must then be sorted (manually) in chronological order. Maybe use the Label metadata field to introduce colors in binder or outliner view of the timeline folder for different types of timeline documents: “Scene” (assign to those timeline documents which hold document references to an actual scene), “Backstory” (assign to those timeline documents which are only for, well, backstory) and maybe “Real Time” (assign to those timeline documents which represent historical events which may never be shifted).

In the end each manuscript scene should be linked to at least one timeline document. You view your narrative flow in the outliner from the manuscript folder and your timeline view from the timeline folder. Because of the document links you can easily navigate back and forth.

This will work but is of course highly manual and thus brittle. Just think of the hassle when you e.g. have to shift all your events a month or so …

Solution 2:
Another solution might be to to put the start and end dates on each scene directly, have only additional backstory documents in a timeline folder and merge and view everything together via a collection. Still the sorting will be all manual.

So really, do yourself a favour, download the Aeon Timeline app and play with it for its trial period. Then decide if you want to revert back to any workaround.

Happy writing,

Thank you so much for your valuable input JonStoneCash and Linus!

I like your thinking JonStoneCash and I might give Aeon a try.

Your solutions are really helpful, Linus. I might be able to make it work. And if it’s too much of a hassle, I’ll always have Aeon to try.

An interesting note…

Katherine confirmed in the Wish List that the plan is to bring all functions of the MAC version to the Windows version. I think that would make a lot of Windows users very happy!