Software for timelines?

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  • #199145
    albatross
    Participant
    • Topics - 4
    • Replies - 10

    Anyone have a tool they like to use for managing and viewing timelines? Even better if it’s good for visualizing multiple story arcs. I need something for Mac, but I’m sure other people could use suggestions for Windows and Linux. :)

    #210460
    ErinMH
    Moderator
    • Topics - 405
    • Replies - 10,885

    Try Aeon Timeline for the Mac. I played around with the beta but haven’t used it recently. It’s supposed to be good, though — I know Anne Lyle uses it for her novels, so she may chime in here with more details.

    #210461
    jschara
    Participant
    • Topics - 115
    • Replies - 655

    I use Aeon Timeline for Mac. It’s been released now for a reasonable price. I’ve done a couple of novels in it, and like it. It syncs with Scrivener if you use that.

    Here’s a link to the site: http://www.scribblecode.com/ You can download a trial before buying. I had some questions during beta, and the developer (an individual) was very responsive. I haven’t had any troubles with it since it’s gone live, but I haven’t used it much since then either — not setting up any new books.

    #210462
    Wandering Author
    Participant
    • Topics - 34
    • Replies - 369

    I’m going to make a very general suggestion here, since I don’t use a Mac. But the point is, I used to be a professional genealogist, and the timeline tools used to track family histories were often far better (in my opinion) than the ones I’ve seen designed for writers. Writing is more of a niche market; genealogy sells a lot of software. So there’s some good – if obscure to the non-genealogist – software out there. I have no idea if this is true for the Mac, but it’s true for Windows, and I’d urge any writer looking for a really powerful option in creating timelines to at least look at genealogy software.

    (One caveat: Some software includes a “timeline” that is automatically generated based on the information you filled in. This will obviously not work. You do have to be careful and make sure you know what you’re getting.)

    For example, my version of The Master Genealogist is hopelessly out of date, but at least back then, when dinosaurs still ruled the earth, they had the best Timeline feature available anyone offered. Sure, it’s expensive, and you’re getting a lot of stuff you don’t need, too – and some say it has a “steep learning curve” compared to the “simple” options – but if you want power and flexibility, TMG would have been it. Probably still is it, to the point where if this is a real issue for you, you might want to at least think about installing something that will let you run Windows programs under iOS and getting this. But look into the details first, because you don’t want to drop that kind of cash without knowing what you’re getting into.

    Edited to add: For some writers, there is a plus. If you have a family or community in some of your stories that you might like some way to keep track of, what better way to do that than genealogy software? ;)

    #210463
    J.A. Marlow
    Moderator
    • Topics - 311
    • Replies - 1,099

    I had thought of using a genealogist software for the time I really needed a timeline tracking software, but one things stopped me and it’s what Aeon could handle. That is creating your own length of year and months for different world in both science fiction and fantasy. I have the old beta of Aeon and it worked great for that. The fact it interfaces with Scrivener, which is what I use to write my fiction, makes it even better. I hope to buy the finished version for when I need to plan out a tight timeline again. It’s nice that it’s out there.

    J.A. Marlow
    The String Weavers, Salmon Run, Redpoint One series.

    Writer alter-ego of Dreamers Cove

    #210464
    Nomolosk
    Participant
    • Topics - 6
    • Replies - 210

    I have used MindNode, which is (or was, when I downloaded it) a free or fairly inexpensive app (.99 or so). It was what I stumbled across when I was trying to find something free and relatively simple to use for a story with multiple story lines. It’s kinda clunky, though. I’m not sure it would work for an actual time-line.

    #210465
    Linda Adams
    Participant
    • Topics - 38
    • Replies - 217

    Another option — especially since some might have the program already — is to use Excel. The columns can be used for different timelines.

    By the way, Microsoft Project usually comes up in these discussions as a possibility. All I can say is don’t. It’s an expensive program that requires a huge learning curve — time better spent on writing.

    #210466
    Sbarret
    Participant
    • Topics - 18
    • Replies - 51

    Mindmap software might help and there are multiple available for free.

    #210467
    elaineWS
    Participant
    • Topics - 6
    • Replies - 112

    Aeon Timeline looks wonderful. However, I have a PC. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for the release of a PC version. Meanwhile, I downloaded Timeline a little while ago, but I haven’t used it yet. It’s an open source timeline program for PCs and “other platforms.” You can find it here.

    #210468
    Gerri
    Participant
    • Topics - 4
    • Replies - 20

    Liquid Story Binder, PC only, has a good timeline part. I find it really useful when I have to map three different characters doing three different things in three different places.

    #210563
    jschara
    Participant
    • Topics - 115
    • Replies - 655

    yWriter also has a timeline-type capability.

    #210498
    mdunnbass
    Participant
    • Topics - 5
    • Replies - 32

    I’ve also used Excel for keeping track of the timeline for my first novel. One one sheet, I had years down 1 column, and then the for each of the next several columns, I had the ages of each major character per year. In another sheet, I had a timeline of the events that occurred during the novel in the separate story arcs, so I could keep track of when events happened with respect to each other, as well as when each major character found out about them. Using sequential columns and highlight colors helps a lot with this.

    My $0.02

    No worries,
    Matt

    #210469
    BJ Steeves
    Participant
    • Topics - 3
    • Replies - 26

    Zette had a post about how she uses excel to keep timelines….If you ask nicely, she may repost that for you.

    ===============================================

    BJ Steeves
    Computer Wizard at Large

    Member of Forward Motion since the original site had only 300 members. (That is a while ago!!!)

    #210470
    albatross
    Participant
    • Topics - 4
    • Replies - 10

    Wow, lots of good ideas — thanks, guys! I’ll check those out.

    One of the things I’d like to be able to do with a timeline that I haven’t found a system that does well is starting with a vague timeline (whether that’s because you haven’t yet figured out what year or season the story takes place in, or because part of the reason you need a timeline is to figure out how far events need to be spaced) and shuffling things around, or shifting a dozen events by 3 months (or 3 years). How do you guys deal with that in the software you use?

    #210564
    albatross
    Participant
    • Topics - 4
    • Replies - 10

    EDITED TO ADD: Don’t bother doing this unless you love software with 6-point fonts that can’t be resized or zoomed. Owwwww…

    FYI, Here’s how to install this on Mac OS X:

    1. Find out what version of Python you have:

      1. Open Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal

      2. Type the following:
        Code:
        python –version
      3. Hit “return”
      4. This will output something like “Python 2.7.2”. Only the first two numbers matter (2.7).
      5. If the version is 2.6 or higher, skip to step 2.1.
      6. If the version is 2.5 or lower, visit http://www.python.org/getit/ and download and install the 2.7.x version for your version of OS X.

      [/li]

    2. Find out where Python is installed:

      1. Close your Terminal window and open a new one

      2. Type the following:
        Code:
        which python
      3. Hit “return”
      4. This will output something like “/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/bin/python”
      5. Copy this result into a place where you can get to it later
      6. [/ol]
        [/li]

      7. Install WxPython:

        1. Visit http://www.wxpython.org/download.php#stable

        2. Download either wxPython2.8-osx-unicode-py2.6 or wxPython2.8-osx-unicode-py2.7 depending on which version of Python you found or installed in Step 1
        3. Open the download and run the installer package
        4. [/ol]
          [/li]

        5. Install Timeline

          1. Download the “source” package (the .zip file) from http://thetimelineproj.sourceforge.net/getting

          2. Open the zip file
          3. Rename the unzipped folder “TimelineSource”
          4. Move the TimelineSource folder to your Applications folder
          5. [/ol]
            [/li]

          6. Create an Automator shortcut:

            1. Open Automator (Applications -> Automator)

            2. Automator will probably prompt you for a “template” — choose the “Application” template
            3. In the “Library” in the leftmost column of Automator, choose “Utilities”
            4. In the column to the right of the “Library”, double-click “Run Shell Script”
            5. A box will appear in the rightmost column of Automator; it probably says something like “cat”
            6. Delete anything in that box
            7. In the box, type
              Code:
              arch -i386
            8. Then type a space
            9. Copy and paste in the path you saved from Step 2.5
            10. In the Finder, open Applications -> Timeline. You’ll see a file named “timeline” or “timeline.py”.
            11. Drag and drop this file into the box in Automator.
            12. When you release it, text will be entered in the box that looks something like “/Applications/TimelineSource/timeline.py” or “/Users/yourUsername/Applications/TimelineSource/timeline.py”
            13. Hit Cmd-S to save your shorcut. It will prompt you for a filename and location. Save it in Applications as Timeline.app
            14. [/ol]
              [/li]

            15. Now you can run Timeline by double-clicking Timeline in Applications
            16. [/ol]

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