I have timez, I need linez.
March 9, 2010 6:13 AM   Subscribe

What's the best (free) software for creating an extensive timeline events?

I need to organize events over several hundred years in a timeline. It's a project I'll be working on for a while.

Ideally I think it would be exportable, but to what I don't really know yet. Mostly right now I'd like to be able to easily put events in a timeline. I'd much prefer that it was not web based but something I could put on my computer.

I'm more interested in something that's easy to use than something that makes something that looks nice. This is for personal reference at this point.

That's about it. There seems to be a lot of stuff on the web, so I'm looking for personal experience and recomendations.

posted by sully75 to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't used it, but there's this.
posted by valkyryn at 6:18 AM on March 9, 2010

I have been messing around with the SMILE Timeline, but had to hack together my own MySql -> XML conversion. Not sure if anyone has made a nice front end to it...
posted by shothotbot at 6:52 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: timeline of events...
posted by sully75 at 7:28 AM on March 9, 2010

Wow, shothotbot, SMILE Timeline looks like a solution to a potentially time-consuming problem I've been looking at for research. Thanks! Also, in case it isn't obvious, the Javascript SMILE stuff can run locally (on your computer) from a HTML page, with no back-end server component, so it may still meet Sully75's requirements.
posted by Alterscape at 8:29 AM on March 9, 2010

Smile is cool, but what do you do if you need 100s of entries? I made a quick table and wrote a query to turn it into a JSON file but its sort of unwieldy.
posted by shothotbot at 8:46 AM on March 9, 2010

My go to tool for this would be excel. For work we tend to make a lot of timelines and use either excel or access depending on size/output-type.

Part of the reason we do it in excel is that Vlookups allow you to easily pull together multiple types of information into one timeline table, and then add that to a visual time line graph (i.e. we pull a list of press releases for each day int he timeline, but we also want to add things like stock market returns and predictions and other pieces of information).

The table that stores the information can be a column of dates (or date-times) and the second column can be the name of the event etc. This should be pretty easy to manipulate/export to any other format.

In terms of turning it into a visual timeline you have a lot of options. You have to futz around with the graph options/labels a lot depending on what you want it to look like. But once you have a graph set up the way you want it should be auto updating as you change around the underlying data. You can search google for examples of excel timelines until you find a template you like.

Here is one

I am a bit sad I can't send the proprietary timeline template I helped create. :(
posted by vegetableagony at 8:57 AM on March 9, 2010

shothotbot: anything where you need to display 100s of entries simultaneously is going to get unwieldy and computationally-intensive quickly, particularly if you're running it on client hardware of unknown pedigree -- you've pretty much got to segment somehow and simplify the display. I would consider writing a server-side controller that took a start and end-date as parameters and then generated the appropriate JSON and inserted it AJAX-ily into the page, updated when the user scrolls/zooms the timeline. You could maybe cluster related nodes to limit the number of nodes on the line at wide zoom levels. That doesn't help if your use-case must display 100s of entries simultaneously, though, which would call for a different strategy, probably rewriting the client side to be more efficient (though don't ask me how).

(Sorry if this conversation is off-topic for the question. If needed, I can take it to MeMail, but it seems like it might be interesting to a broader audience, including the asker).
posted by Alterscape at 8:58 AM on March 9, 2010

Response by poster: Talk about what you like...I guess I was looking for free-standing applications but never really have given this much thought.

I never really thought about using Excel before, but it looks interesting.

Just thinking briefly about it though, one issue is that for this timeline (it's about music/violin/fiddling) there might be very few entries for the 1600s but many for the 1900s. I was hoping to be able to give more space to certain times and less to others. But Excel is a great idea for something rock solid.

Anyway, keep talking, if you please.
posted by sully75 at 10:04 AM on March 9, 2010

Dipity and Timeglider are also good options.
posted by judith at 4:50 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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