Integrated Timelines (with poll)

If Scrivener had timelines, would you use them?

  • No
  • Maybe
  • Yes, a little
  • Yes, very much

0 voters

I’ve written primarily plays, and am about to start a long work of fiction. For playwriting I use Final Draft, and am excited to start using Scrivener. Given the number of characters and time periods I have in mind for this work, I find myself wishing (and after all, this is the Wish List) that Scrivener included timeline functionality.

I’ve read the previous posts recommending various timeline tools; I have Reunion and iFamily and will probably use one of them for now. It seems to me, though, that instead of spending effort in trying to get page breaks and word counts in screenplays “working” (that’s what Final Draft is for), that that time and effort would be much better spent on developing timelines. Enabling the mapping of external events, character milestones, plot points, etc., on a common timeline (or timelines, which can themselves be mapped to each other) seems a daunting task, but one well worth the effort. Larger, longer works demand this type of organization, and Scrivener is so good at organization that timelines seems a natural next step.

It depends on how such a thing is implemented. I’ve looked at all the timeline apps mentioned in that Software by Other Folk link and I have yet to find one that fits what I’m looking for. StoryLines comes closest, but it’s so unintuitive and bulky as to defeat the purpose of such an app for me. I own Beedocs Timeline. It’s nice, but not what I’m looking for.

Currently I’m using OmniOutliner, but it’s not ideal. I’ve seen people mention Excel, but I’m loathe to open any Office app, let alone rely on one. I have tried it, however, and went back to OO.

dion

Thanks for your suggestion, ebh. Regarding word counts etc for script formatting, obviously different users have different needs. For instance, a timeline may be very useful for fiction writers, but I’m not sure how useful it would be for, say, academics using Scrivener.

As you recognise, creating a timeline would indeed be a daunting task, and it is certainly not on the agenda at the moment. Of course, I will take another look at suggestions like this when it comes time to think about features for 2.0, but that is a long way off (with no timescale) right now.

Thanks again and all the best,
Keith

Thanks for responding so quickly. Scrivener’s a great product, Keith. Thanks much.

As far as timeline utility for academics, it depends on the discipline. Historians, of course, would find it useful, but so would scientific writers – keeping track of experimental data, for example.

You’ll notice I said it “seems” like it’d be a daunting task, not that it would :wink: I’d associate a new type of metadata – dates – with each document. Each associated “date” would refer to something (a birth, an event) and each document could have multiple dates, much as they can have multiple keywords. Dates from multiple documents should be viewable on some sort of timeline viewer.

Anyway, something to keep in mind. Thanks again for a great product.

The basic problem is maybe that before implementing anything, one should have a clear idea of how it should look, work and behave. My impression is that if people talk of “timelines”, each one has something totally different in mind.

So, I think before anything else, someone had to come up with a more precise concept of how a timeline in an application like Scrivener could look.

The concept of having meta-data to each item that could be displayed in an overall view is a starting point. If we assume a novel writer, most items will be scenes, and each scene is a chunk of a story, starting at a certain time (year, day, hour etc.) and lasting a certain time (which could vary enormously - especially in SF there are narrative scenes that last millions of years!).

But once we have an overview of how the scenes are positioned in time, will not be the next step that we will desire to be able to grab them with the mouse pointer and move them to another point on the timeline? Stretch them? Compress them? Insert a new item?

We will want to be able to print the whole thing. You bet.

And it won’t be long until somebody comes and says: “I have arranged my whole novel in the year 2002, august to september, but now it’s necessary to move everything to the year 1911, and please in march to april.”

Just a few thoughts for Keiths notebook… :smiley:

Just to clarify that this is all entirely speculative. Whilst I value feedback, I don’t implement features based on votes. :slight_smile: There are no plans to incorporate a timeline into Scrivener.

Thanks and all the best,
Keith

Good. As cool as it would be for some people, adding stuff like that would increase Scrivener’s bloat and detract from its simplicity.

True; that was my first thought when I came across the thread: Bloat! But, upon thinking about it a bit, I can see some ways that it could be done in such a manner as to not be intrusive, and actually be no more intensive than the amount of clutter “Corkboard” adds to the application. In fact, making a timeline view another overlay like outliner and corkboard would probably be the best way to go. Just grab a folder, switch to timeline view and see how all of the constituent pieces fit together chronologically.

Hope this isn’t too off-topic, but there’s always Storylines from Writer’s Cafe. It’s free for Mac at the moment. It’s part of a suite of writers’ tools that really aren’t necessary with Scrivener, but Storylines is a separate program that I think can be very useful, especially with multiple story/time lines.

There’s more toward the end of the Software by Other Folk --> Need a Timeline Type App thread.

Storylines thread

(I’m mentioning this since Keith said ‘probably not’ (or words to that effect :wink: ) re: timelines in Scrivener.)

Of course, just because I say a timeline isn’t likely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t speculate further. :slight_smile: If it were ever to be implemented (which is unlikely! :slight_smile: ), AmberV’s suggestion of it being like the corkboard view would be the way to go. But think about the technical problems. Imagine that the view was like the one in Storylines, that is with an x and y axis along which you could drag “cards” or some such. You suddenly have multiple “rows” - whereas the outliner and corkboard assume a single list. So how would they integrate? Imagine:

Bob:--------Goes home--------Falls asleep
John:-------Kills Debbie--------Buys gas

Uh, yeah, don’t know what sort of plot that would be, but hey. :slight_smile: Now, how exactly would that correspond to the corkboard? Would “Bob” and “John” be labels? And what order would they be in? Possibilities:

Goes home (Bob), Falls asleep (Bob), Kills Debbie (John), Buys gas (John)

Goes home (Bob), Kills Debbie (John), Falls asleep (Bob), Buys gas (John)

Goes home (Bob), Kills Debbie (John), Buys gas (John), Falls asleep (Bob)

Kills Debbie (John), Goes home (Bob), Buys gas (John), Falls asleep (Bob)

Kills Debbie (John), Goes home (Bob), Falls asleep (Bob), Buys gas (John)

Kills Debbie (John), Buys gas (John), Goes home (Bob), Falls asleep (Bob)

Etc.

And then imagine adding in drag and drop. In what order would things appear in the corkboard after moving them around in the timeline? And what about where they would end up in the timeline after shifting them around in the corkboard? And what if you changed a label?

Etc. As you can see, integrating this would be a mammoth task.

Best,
Keith

I didn’t mean to be out of line by posting a poll garnering support for a feature. I was truly interested to see if others might find such a feature useful.

At this point I’m investigating various means of creating timelines, with the plan of writing a perl script which uses Scrivener data to create an import file which can be used by a timeline tool.

That is, properly formatted Scrivener data (either the data file as is, or an export of the data) will be reformatted to be an input file for some other program. For example, strings of the format “Date: Born: May 15, 1972” or “Date: Event: Silas enlists in the Navy: Dec 10, 1941” in a note or keyword can be exported (or read in the db directly) and massaged into a format a timeline program can use. This way the data can be managed in Scrivener, a big plus.

Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that posting a poll about a feature was out of line - not at all. The discussion is interesting and I am genuinely interested to hear about how users would imagine this fitting in given the constraints and problems I outlined in my last post. No, I just wanted to make sure that folk understood that the poll is “unofficial”, and that - unlike the excellent Hog Bay Software, who do have votes for features - results may interest me but would not necessarily sway any decision to add such a feature any time soon.

From a programming point of view, messing around with implementing a timeline is the sort of challenge I love; from a writing point of view, I have put big features on hold until at least next year so that I can actually use Scrivener. :slight_smile:

Best,
Keith

Personally, I don’t think that moving events on the timeline should move stuff in the binder. (Non-linear stories, anyone? Flashbacks?) Besides, not everything in the timeline will be in the story, so there may not be something in the binder that corresponds.

Linked to binder items via metadata, that would be handy. Especially bi-directional links, and multiple possible links. And as a wild thought, though I have no idea how it would be implemented, some sort of indication when the timeline order and the binder order don’t match - it’ll allow it to not match, as with non-linear stories, but it’ll let you know in case you moved something in one but not the other.

Plus everything on my “ideal timeliner” list I posted earlier :slight_smile:

I don’t think, either. Moving an event on a timeline would only change the contents of its time-related data fields (BEGINNING and DURATION). (In my ideal timeline application or view, whatever I’ll stumble across earlier :slight_smile: )

Not everything in the timeline will be in the story: Yes. But everything in the timeline could very well have an item in the binder - that just won’t be included in the export!

(Such items should maybe appear in another way than the others - grayed out or something.)

You’d have the order of how the story is told in the binder, and the order in time in the timeline view.

I understand this very, very well… :smiley:

And I support it. In my experience, it’s best when the one who creates a piece of software also works with it - this is the best way to clarify which features are really needed and which ones not. When working with my own old writing program, I sometimes felt this impulse “now I’d like to press a button in order to get X”. I took a note then, and when the impulse came often enough, I implemented the feature.

So, the “club of timeline view lovers” will patiently wait, hoping for the moment when Keith realizes “well, uhm, now a timeline view would really be handy”… :laughing:

Well, I’m one of those who think that Scrivener should not try to be everything for everybody. Those who really want / need a timeliner, could consider using Simile’s Timeline, Bee Docs’ Timeline, Temporis or Time Flyer; and there might be more similar programs.

If these were only the type of timeline application I am looking for, I would use them. But they aren’t.

I have to correct myself. I am tindering around with TinderBox in the moment, and that gave me the idea that I could use it as a kind of timeline application - just underlying the map with a grid of adornements, each one standing for a time unit (a day, for example) and putting each item at an appropriate place. This is not very exact (it’s more “in the morning” vs. “in the afternoon” than “9:30”), but sufficient (in early stages of development one has no real need for hours and minutes anyway). Plus: the application allows to illustrate the causal relationships (and others as well) via links. And I can jot down notes for each item. Very convenient. Maybe this is a solution.