Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The current version of Bee Docs' Timeline displays events like this:
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:
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:
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.