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  • Adam Behringer

    Seattle, Washington USA

    Adam is the founder of BEEDOCS, an artisan software company that makes great timeline software for Mac OS X.

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Line Wrapping in a Timeline

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The current version of Bee Docs' Timeline displays events like this:

T2 - Non-wrapping event

The event label gets one line and the date gets one line. This design is very simple and elegant. If the event only has one date like the one show here does, then the label and the date are next to each other. If there is a date range, then a horizontal line representing the length of the event goes between the label and date (more spacing is added to accommodate the line).

The automatic layout feature of Bee Docs' Timeline only needs to know the length and height of the total event to avoid collisions.

The single line approach works very well for many people but it isn't flexible for handling very long event names. Really long event names are hard to read on a single line and can cause collisions that the auto-layout system isn't able to handle.

So, the next version of Timeline (T2) will handle line wrapping for events. It might look something like this:

T2 - Event Wrap Design

It seems like a simple thing, but it will actually be quite complex to make the auto-layout choose good widths for events in addition to finding the best height to avoid collisions. I could let users choose event widths, but the whole point of Bee Docs' Timeline is that users only need to worry about entering data and the software will do a good job of drawing the timeline.

Another popular feature request is the addition of a notes field. An event with a label and notes (both line wrapping) may look something like this:

T2 - Event with Notes Design

Notes add another layer of complexity to the layout because they could be of any length (an extreme example would be an entire book). The software is going to have to make good decisions about line wrap, width, vertical placement, and the length of the notes to show when all the events are being placed on the page.

If I do my job well enough, users won't have to think of any of this, it will just happen "magically" and people's timelines will look like a million bucks with minimal effort on their part.

DISCLAIMER: These are early designs, drawn using Apple's Keynote software. The end product might be very different, but they give you an idea of my thoughts toward T2 so far.

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3 Comments:

Blogger c-roDecember 14, 2006 6:49 PM

This is great. Right now with T1, I simulate "text-wrap" by typing the words on a word document the way I want them to appear, and then cut and paste them into the add event box. It works OK, but I can't wait for T2.

Blogger JCMavrovitisDecember 18, 2006 9:47 AM

Line wrapping for a limited amount of text is great. Notes, however, can be extensive. If used by a writer, notes might contain an extended passage, perhaps details of a possible scene, or even the outline of a chapter. A link to a notepad external to the actual Timeline would be helpful. Such notes could be copied to a WORD document at the writer's convenience.

Blogger pjkDecember 23, 2006 11:32 AM

I use T1 a lot to make product roadmaps, detailing the features each version has. I think a great option for the Notes field would be bullet points. Would also like the ability to drag the bullet points around to rearrange their order.

Currently I fake it all out in T1. I make an event called "Version 1.0" at 12AM, and every feature falls on the same day at 12PM. If I need to "force" the order of the features, I change the time of day. It would be much easier and more elegant to just use bullet points in a Notes field and be able to drag them around.

Thanks for the great program - looking forward to T2!

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