Wednesday, October 03, 2007
As I have worked on T2 over the last year, the feature that I have spent the most time on is improving the automatic layout. The founding vision of Bee Docs' Timeline was a piece of software that made great looking charts from the events you gave it, with minimal tweaking and user layout required. The first version was pretty good (maybe still the best out there), but I wanted to do much better for T2.
One of the timelines that I have been using for testing is a World War I Timeline from Wikipedia. It has been the "torture test" for my layout code and performance tuning. There are over 250 events, many of which contain very long titles, and some events contain long spans.
I haven't found any existing timeline charting software that can lay out this chart without conflicts, particularly without any user adjustments. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments so that I can compare the results.
Here is how I made the chart: I created a tab delimited text version of the Wikipedia data in Excel and then open it in Bee Docs' Timeline. I didn't make any layout adjustments other than choosing a font and in the case of Timeline 1.6, I chose the maximum number of pages (page span is automatic in T2).
Here is what it looks like in Bee Docs' Timeline 1.6 (the current release):
To it's credit, Timeline 1.6 does open the timeline, and looks pretty good in areas where the events are not too dense. However, in the busy areas of the chart there are collisions as you can see from the screenshot above.
Here is the T2 version of the same chart.
T2 has automatically wrapped long titles, has a much more compact and intelligent layout, and is automatically selecting the number of pages that will fit the entire timeline. There are no collisions, even with the long date spans. If you change the font, page size, or events, the layout will automatically adjust.
It turns out that better layout not only makes your existing timelines better and more detailed timelines possible, but also enables some fun new features which I will show you on the blog soon.