Monday, April 28, 2008
One of the most challenging aspects of working with timeline charts is presenting them to an audience. Timeline charts often have fractal like complexity, with both the entire context of a large chart as well as the individual event details being of equal importance in digesting the meaning behind a chart. Printing can be a challenge as fitting a complex timeline on one page makes the details very small, but spanning many pages is not a good solution either.
Presenting timelines on a projected screen can be challenging for the same reasons. Either you need to show the timeline so small that there is no detail visible, or you need to zoom in and lose the context.
Last summer, while I was attending Apple's WWDC developers conference, I was pondering this problem and drawing sketches in my notebook. During the conference, folks from Apple where showing some of the amazing new graphics capabilities in Leopard and encouraging developers to make their software "cinematic."
I was inspired by the thought that I might allow customers to create cinematic timelines while, at the same time, solve the issue of presenting timelines to groups using a projected screen.
My idea was to treat the timeline as a physical object that could be viewed in 3D perspective. If you looked down the timeline on edge, you could see many events off in the future and the events near the "front" would be nice and large. If each event was also a little door that could swing out parallel to the screen as it was selected, it would solve the distortion problem for the selected event as well as making it clear which event was highlighted.
Here is the sketch I drew back in June 2007:
However, back in June I was hard at work preparing the release of Bee Docs' Timeline 2.0. and didn't have time to add any major new features. So the idea had to remain in my notebook along with all of the other "big ideas" that live there.
Story to be continued...