Review: Aeon Timeline

A Timeline can be useful for a number of things, from plotting your personal history to creating an overview of world events. If the application is flexible enough, you can even create sci-fi stories using a timeline, or plot workflow items. Timeline software should support export for presentation and use in other applications. Aeon Timeline does all this and more.

Scribble Code is the small software developer who came up with the idea to develop a timeline application that would synchronize with Scrivener, the authoring software for the Mac. This idea ultimately led to Aeon Timeline, a fierce competitor for other, similar applications.

IT Enquirer rating

10/10
URL: scribblecode.com

Pros
  • interface
  • ease-of-use
  • integration with Scrivener
  • export capabilities
  • presentation features
Cons
  • none that I can think of
Price (approx.): €32.00

Aeon Timeline has the ability to work with calendars you create yourself (and those can be totally other-worldly) in addition to AD and BC calendars. It works with Events and Entities (the “objects” that live the Events), and Arcs. The Arcs are a bit special in that their meaning isn’t readily apparent. Arcs are more or less like categories. You can have a global arc, a career arc, a family arc, a health arc, etc, etc.

Arcs allow for simultaneous events that happen at the same time to be neatly represented nevertheless.

Except for the calendars, almost anything you do in Aeon Timeline is as easy as clicking or double-clicking and filling in the blanks. In some cases, context menus provide for the necessary functionality. For example, to connect an Event to an Entity you’ll right-click the connection point and fill in whether the Entity starts (is born), ends (dies), or is a Participant or Observer (or is not related; in which case you leave the thing blank).

If you know in advance which Entities and Arcs you’ll be using, you can set them up in batch, using the management dialogue. Events can then be added in chronological order. When a series of events stretches over a period of time that you cannot properly display on your screen anymore, you have two options: you can either sideways scroll through the calendar using the most clever calendar browsing gizmo I’ve ever seen, or you can ‘compress’ the calendar view using that same gizmo.

All Events and Entities can have different colours. Entities have their own colour settings in the Management dialogue, while Events colours are part of the Timeline Settings dialogue. Each Event and Entity can be accessed via the Inspector; Events can have Tags and Notes attached to them, while Entities can only have Notes attached to them.

Events can be locked to prevent inadvertent changes. Setting up new calendars is done through a separate dialogue window, which allows you to set a calendar as realistic or fantastic as you can imagine.

The whole Aeon Timeline system, its interface and most obvious functionality is an example of perfect planning for functionality and then implementing those features with a keen eye for user experience and design. In fact, I find Aeon Timeline’s graphical presentation of a timeline making much more sense than its competitors’, all the while looking just as good. And Aeon Timeline gives me the flexibility to customize the colours of my timeline just the way I like them. The only thing that you can’t change are the Arcs.

But there’s more: Aeon Timeline has powerful export functionality and a clever synchronization feature that will appeal to writers. The export functionality is simply brilliant: BeeDoc, OPML (Scrivener compatible), HTML table, image, Scrivener 2.0, Simile Timeline, RTF. It’s all there. Import is possible from CSV text files.

But the most powerful import/export feature is the Scrivener 2 synchronization. This allows you to have an Event for every document inside your Scrivener project. If you’re writing a movie script, a novel, or some other project that contains documents, Aeon Timeline will import them and when they change in either application, both of them will stay in sync.

I tried this feature with a project I set up in Scrivener 2.0 for the occasion, and after saving the Scrivener project, it worked like a charm, with the two apps apparently capable of updating each other’s content through metadata fields. The only requirement to make it work properly is that you explicitly save your Scrivener projects when closing the app.

After spending a good two weeks with Aeon Timeline, I have fallen in love with the application. It’s far more useful than others that I’ve reviewed in the past, and it has a user experience that is unparalleled.

One final word of advice. I saw the developer is going to offer this app through the Apple Mac App Store. Beware of the Mac App Store: if you need updates fast, buy direct. Due to the way the MAS works — with reviews by Apple employees — the approval of updates can take a long time.