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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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T2 - Images and Links

Thursday, December 07, 2006

In addition to line wrapping and notes, two Bee Docs' Timeline features that are often requested are the ability to add images to events and ability to link events to a document or URL.

Images

There are a few design challenges related to images. Most importantly, I want to have a visual design that seems obvious and natural. I don't want the images to appear like they have been tacked on as an afterthought.

Another challenge is that as events support more features (titles, dates, images, notes, links), users may choose any combination of these things in the same timeline. I want events that show only an image to look great next to events that use all the features, or next to events that don't have an image.

I have tried a bunch of different design ideas over the past week. I've tried placing the image above, under, and next to the notes, putting the image next to the title, etc... Here is the design I like best so far:

Draft Timeline Design

(Like many of the other design ideas I'm showing on this blog, this was mocked up using Apple Keynote which is my rapid prototype tool of choice these days.)

Links

Links are another often requested feature. Lawyers, in particular, have wanted to be able to link events in a timeline to external documents or videos.

One of the design challenges with links is that events are currently selected with a click, and I always get annoyed using software that makes me accidentally click links... Don't you hate it when you enter an e-mail address in Word and then try to edit the address and instead it launches your e-mail client. Arg!

The other challenge is that links are often ugly URLs that I wouldn't want to add clutter and distract from the main point of a timeline chart which is to show the relationships between chronological events.

Here is my favorite solution so far. When an event isn't selected, you don't see anything related to the link. When it is selected, the link (if it exists) shows up as an arrow button. Clicking this arrow would open up the external document or web page.

Draft Timeline Design II

One thing that I'm thinking would be fun is automatically generating timelines based on news feeds (I'm doing a really rough version of this in my blog header). The article title could be the event title, the first few lines of text could come from the article, as would the image. If you clicked the link it would open the original article in the web browser.

Please let me know whether or not you would use features like these and, if so, what you would use them to present. I also welcome comments or suggestions on the design ideas.

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8 Comments:

Blogger JJDecember 07, 2006 4:12 PM

Adam, the idea of a timeline being generated from an RSS feed is interesting. Some of the news feeds I subscribe to via RSS are calendars of upcoming events. It would be great if I could see a visual representation of all the events for a given period (say, the next 90 days) and print it out in T2.

Blogger lisaDecember 07, 2006 9:09 PM

Adam, I think these last two ideas are looking great. The arrow is especially intuitive. I agree with jj that the RRS feed has a broad application. Looking forward to seeing how all these materialize.

Blogger talazemDecember 08, 2006 4:18 AM

Since you've asked for ideas, may I suggest the option of having a two-sided timeline, i.e. where the "foundation" is in the middle of the page (or some other user-settable place), and event may be placed on top of the line or on the bottom? This would help in two situtations: (1) crowded events, and (2) concurrent timelines of two related but distinct series of events.

Best of luck!

Blogger Adam BehringerDecember 09, 2006 8:35 AM

talazem,

This is a good suggestion. People have also asked for vertical timelines too.

I am also looking into parallel timelines as a way to solve these problems. Parallel are more scalable because you could have many of them, while the over / under approach only allows for two sets.

Blogger DanielDecember 23, 2006 8:06 PM

The clickable arrow makes me think that it points to the next item to the right on the timeline. Perhaps change the graphic so it more natually symbolizes a URL?

Blogger DanielDecember 23, 2006 8:13 PM

I like the idea of linking to outside data sources - especially lots of text. I could see this being very useful to researchers and academics (who I support).

In addition to documents, I'd like to see T2 link to items inside the DevonThink database. This may or may not be easy or even doable, but the developer of that application suite has very extensive use of AppleScript so get data in and out, so it may be possible. (He works with other solo developers too, so it might be worthwhile for both of you.)

Blogger DanielDecember 23, 2006 8:17 PM

While I'm thinking about links, I frequently outline things in Omni Outliner Pro. Being able to outline in OOP and then output to T2, or link from T2 back into OOP would be cool. (I'm just dreaming about "what if it could..." here.)

Blogger DrewTerryJanuary 04, 2007 6:54 PM

"and I always get annoyed using software that makes me accidentally click links... Don't you hate it when you enter an e-mail address in Word and then try to edit the address and instead it launches your e-mail client. Arg!"

I hate it too, but it doesn't stop me from using Word!

I probably use links more discriminately that other people do, but that is also because I don't think everything needs a link (à la wickepedia).

What I am attempting to use your timeline for is probably like no other application in paralleling at least 3 different eras, each one 20x less or more than the other (for instance, 400 years>20years>1 year) AND coordinate events in those eras that are similar and reinforce the presentation.

I like the pullup window example here, that is great and as long as you can 'drill down' that should work perfectly. What about embedding tags within that frame - so you could have more than one tag for more than one topic or era depending on the user or purpose of the timeline?

I am emailing you come of the timelines I have done so far so you might have a reference visual to what I am talking about. And by all means, if it is too far off the mainstream for your customer base please do not hesitate to say so. I do not want to giving input for one (my) benefit, unless of course there is a possiblity of customizing based on individual needs.

Thanks again for your dedication and superbly easy bugfree software to work with - you are right, I have not found anything else like it! But I have no reason to look further now thanks to your upgrades. Keep up the good work.

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