timeline

Timeline 3d, Version 3 Initial Impression and Interview

BEEDOCS has been hard at work and recently released version 3 of their stellar timeline application, Timeline 3d. This release makes building and using timelines even easier. For instance you can now publish an interactive timeline straight to the web (or YouTube), add movies and audio, and even put a soundtrack to your timeline.

Navigation of 3d timelines also go easier with new tools and views to let you jump around in your outline. There is a lot more so go check it out. I’ll do a more thorough review soon.

In the meantime, I took a few minutes to talk to Timeline Developer Adam Behringer.

Adam, you took a lot steps to improve the sharing of timelines with this new version. What prompted that?

When I create the first version of our timeline software in 2005, my focus was on meeting the needs of the person creating a timeline. For example, the initial inspiration was lawyers who needed to create professional looking timelines quickly and with minimal fuss.

However, over the past six years my focus has shifted towards the needs of the end audience. For example, if a lawyer is showing a timeline to a jury, what does the jury want to get out of it? What do they need to see in order to make a good decision?

In version 2, which was released in 2007, the focus was on presenting timelines in real-time to an audience that was viewing the presentation from a distance. That is why the 3D feature was developed. I am proud of this emphasis because many new timeline products have appeared in the last 5 years, but we are still the only one that works well for live presentations.

In version 3, the keyword that drove the design and development was “storytelling.” Specifically storytelling to an audience that is not watching a live presentation. I improved the video export features so that they could use music, narration, and event video. The other major new feature is web publishing of interactive timelines.

The point of the new features is that the end audience can derive more meaning from the story being told. There are a lot of products that can collect data and display it in eye-catching ways. There are very few products that actually increase the understanding of the audience in any meaningful way. That is what I am striving for and that is what prompted the new sharing features. 

I really like the new controls for 3D presentations. How did you develop them?

The “bee-line” is a bar code like interface that I have been designing and experimenting with for the past three to four years. The original inspiration was about data density. I wanted to see if I could show the relationships between several hundred historical events in a few square inches. I dreamed of timelines that function like a photo in a news story instead of being just a full-screen application. In other words, web timelines that would sit along side and supplement other story-telling content. Making timeline content understandable and easy to navigate in a very small space is necessary for this to work.

Though these experiments started before the iPhone had launched and before anyone knew about the iPad, it turns out that the interface works really well when using a finger to drag over the bee-line. So, we had a user interface control that worked well for the web and for mobile devices. The last step was to bring it to our full screen 3D interface. It happens to work really well there too because it allows skipping around to events in real-time, which is something our customers had been asking for.

We also introduced a control panel for 3D presentations that gives a visual interface to the functions that previously required a keyboard. To develop those, I listed out the functionality required and made a video of myself pushing all the buttons on the dashboard of my car. Then I sent it Kenichi Yoshida in Japan, and he designed a beautiful button panel.

What was your most requested feature request and how did you address it in Version 3?

I try to balance my efforts between the needs of three groups of people. First, I try to make sure that the experience for my current customers is always improving. Second, there is a group of millions of people who are not yet customers but could be. I am trying to figure out how to improve the software such that they will want to become customers. Finally, I spend about a third of my time working on things that make me happy.

For current customers, the most requested features were web publishing and event videos.

For “not yet” customers, we added support for timelines that go beyond calendar dates. Now people can create charts based on any type of quantity or measurement. I believe this will allow the software to find more uses such as project management, screenwriting, or scientific applications.

What is your favorite new feature?

For me, I wanted to increase the emotional appeal of timeline presentations. Though most of our customers are using timelines for things related to their work, some of my favorite timelines have been created by customers for weddings, funerals, birth announcements, etc… I wanted to find ways to make these timelines more cinematic.

Some of our customers with film editing skills have added musical soundtracks to their timelines using software like Final Cut Pro which have turned out wonderfully. I wanted everyone’s timelines to come alive through sound, even if they don’t have audio engineering skills. Can you imagine a documentary without sound and music? Well, then why should timelines be silent?

I’ve added a new feature that lets you drag and drop a song onto the timeline and when you export the timeline as a movie, it automatically fades in and out the music as appropriate to blend with the other audio elements in your timeline.

What is next for BEEDOCS?

We have taken a few years to develop these new features in relative secrecy. Now it is time for us to put them out there and listen to customers to see how they respond and how they use these features. Developing a software product is literally a conversation and it is our chance to listen and learn now.

We’ll make new plans based on what we learn.

Thanks Adam!

Full Disclosure: BEEDOCS sponsors MacSparky.com.

A Lawyer's Take on Macworld

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In addition to my job at Macsparky (the business card really does say "Chief Slacker"), I have another job that actually pays money as a business attorney. So every year in addition to looking for things new and geeky at Macworld Expo, I also take a look for tools useful in the practice of law. Here is this year's take:

Daylite Touch



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Marketcircle's Daylite has become the “go to” applicaiton for running your law practice. This year they had a strong presence at Macworld including numerous demonstrations, presentations from the David Allen company, and previews of their soon to be released iPhone client. It supports full synching with your Daylite database. This is excellent news for Daylite users.

Livescribe Smartpen



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Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen is coming to the Mac. This is, essentially, a computer in a pen. It records all pen strokes and then recreates the pages on your screen. It also records audio while you are taking notes and indexes it to your notes. You must use their paper (printed with the required microdots to give the computer context) but I could use this every day in my practice. This could also be a nice gift for any university students in your life.

FileMaker Pro 10



The new version 10 of FileMaker took several lessons from their consumer product, Bento. It still uses the same file format so the upgrade should be relatively painless. With features and improvements such as persistent sorting, dynamic summary reports, and editable table views, it is clear this upgrade is all about the user experience.

MacSpeech



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MacSpeech has now been with us a year and the software is showing its maturity through increased stability and additional features. Speaking with the developers I was most impressed with their sense of urgency. These guys are working hard to leverage the Dragon engine on your Mac. If you are practicing law without this tool, you are missing out. Give your fingers a break and check this one out. You can read my full review here.

OmniFocus



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The Mac software community has exploded with task management applications. I have been running my practice out of OmniFocus now for a year and a half and consider it the best tool for the job. It allows management of tasks by both project and context, allows for easy capture of new tasks from anywhere on your Mac, and includes a robust, syncing iPhone application. Furthermore, it is fully supported by a reputable Mac developer, the Omni Group. The cost for both a desktop and iPhone license is under $100 and while there are cheaper solutions, I've not seen anything better. You can read my full review here.

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Omni Booth at Macworld 2009

Microvision Projector



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One of the most notable new technologies was Microvision’s laser based projector. This tiny projector (about the size of an iPhone) easily fits in your pocket and projects at 10 lumens. Because it is laser based, it focuses at any viewing distance. It looks really sharp and you can get 2 hours of projection off the battery. The unit is expected to be available this summer in the $500 price range.

Timeline 3d



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While Timeline 3d has been out now a few months, BeeDocs' presence at Macworld should be noted. The developer continues to refine and polish this excellent timeline application that is extremely useful in presentation work. You can read my review here.

SMART Digital White Board



These digital white boards combine the benefits of your analogue whiteboard with the technology of your Mac. This could be useful both in the conference room and the courtroom.

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Who wrote that?

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While a lot of people still refuse to look at iWork as a serious business tool, I continue to make other attorneys look bad using Keynote. It just about 10 years ahead of PowerPoint. The new improvements, particularly "Magic Move", will save me hours of fiddling. The increased mail merge hooks between Numbers and Pages will increase your ability to set up forms. I still must admit I do all of my serious writing in Scrivener (review here). Regardless, for me Keynote is worth the price of admission.

While Apple appears to keep focusing its energies toward the Mac as a consumer device, the third party developer community continues to develop excellent resources allowing you to get the edge in your practice with your Mac.

Apple Design Award Winners Announced

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Apple announced its 2008 design awards. I was pleased to see several of them went to applications I have positively reviewed this year. In particular Screenflow and Timeline 3d. I also noted the OmniFocus iPhone application won an award. I am counting the days until I can download that one.

Best Student Runner Up: Flow
Best Student Winner: Squirrel

Graphics and Media Runner Up: Fotomagico
Graphics and Media Winner: ScreenFlow

Leopard User Experience Runner Up: CheckOut
Leopard User Experience Winner: Macnification

Leopard Game Runner Up: Command and Conquer 3
Leopard Game Winner: Guitar Hero 3

Best Leopard Application Runner Up: TimeLine 3D
Best Leopard Application Winner: ScreenFlow

Best iPhone Web App Runner Up: Associated Press
Best iPhone Web App Winner: Remember the Milk

Best iPhone Game: Enigmo
Best iPhone Entertainment App: AOL Radio
Best iPhone Social Networking: Twitterrific
Best iPhone Productivity App: OmniFocus
Best iPhone Health App: MIM

Timeline 3d Review

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It wasn’t so long ago that I reviewed Bee Docs’ Timeline application. In case you didn’t catch that review, it followed my general survey of OS X timeline applications and I found it the winner for the ease of use and the outstanding final product. I still use it often in my day job to great result.

Timeline is the brain child of Adam Behrenger. I have to admit I love using software developed by small companies like Adam’s. As a user, I know my comments and suggestions are going directly to the guys writing the code. As a result, the software seems tighter and you can feel the sense of pride in the final product that you often don’t get with software designed by committee.

As an example of this, Bee Docs has recently released Timeline 3d. The big difference with this new version is 3d presentation. A universal problem with using timelines is that you either have to dumb it down to a minimum number of events, or it gets too crowded and difficult to read. This is especially true when rendering in two dimensions. Adam came up with a way to take your timeline to 3 dimensions by virtually tilting it on your screen.

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Once you drop your timeline into presentation mode you can press the spacebar that essentially tilts the timeline at an angle in a perspective view. You can then see much further down the page. It all looks very impressive, like something right out of CNN. You can then manually move forward or backward down the timeline and it advances the page and three dimensionally pops out the current event of focus.

These very advanced effects are stunning. Just a few years ago, this would have required some serious programming mojo. Using Timeline 3d, you just press the space bar.

Timeline 3D also will export your timeline to Keynote. It doesn’t draw out the animations but does allow you to snap between each step in your three dimensional timeline. I haven’t had an opportunity use this in the trenches yet but I’m thinking I’ll probably just leave the timeline active in Timeline 3D and command tab to it from Keynote when necessary. I like the more fluid transition and the ability to easily go backward and forward.

Timeline 3D can be found at beedocuments.com and is sold as a separate product from the standard Timeline application. You can download a trial and, if you have use for this sort of thing, I strongly recommend you give it a try. The standard edition costs $40 while the 3D version costs $65. There also is an excellent video at the BeeDocs website explaining how he came up with the idea for Timeline 3D on the Beedocs blog.

Review - BeeDocs Timeline

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This week I’m reviewing a timeline program. Now I know right now a lot of people are rolling their eyes but I love timelines. I actually get excited about them. I think I like timelines because they are visual and a lot of times you see relationships and ideas on a timeline that don’t jump out at you any other way. Until recently I always made timelines using brute force and even on occasion (Dare I say it?) graph paper and a pencil! This changed when a reader and friend turned me onto an excellent application for OS X called, Timeline published by Bee Docs.

Timeline is a simple little application that does nothing but make quick, jaw-dropping timelines. My review is of version 2.0 that just recently was released. When you first load up Timeline, it presents a simple interface that allows you to pick a theme (I like gradient style “Pleather” theme) and a data source which can be any one of several applications or your own custom data set. Setting up a new Timeline is that simple.

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Choosing the custom option allows you set up your own timeline that can cover the past 10,000 years or the past 10 minutes. Each entry is made by simply hitting the little “plus” sign and filling in your data. The data can include much more than the obligatory name and date fields. It also supports date ranges, description, photos, and links. This gives you the ability to easily create rich timelines with little work. One of my favorite parts of this is how the program makes room for every entry. Before Timeline, I always found it tedious when I decided to add an event to a timeline and ended up having to scooch everything over to to make it fit.

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As an example I prepared a timeline for a client on a dispute I’m involved with where I included images of key contracts and letters throughout a transaction. It took me all of about ten minutes to prepare and looked very professional. Even more importantly, it was critical in conveying important information. Following the meeting I emailed a PDF of the timeline (accomplished with one click in Timeline) and the client and I still refer to it in our phone conversations.

If you don’t want to make a custom data set, Timeline will pull its data out of your iLife applications as well as a few others. Timeline even found Skitch on my machine as a source of timeline data. Using the iLife integration I made a timeline of my most recently played iTunes songs, birthdays from my address book, and photos from iPhoto. I was able to incorporate photographs and links with almost no effort.

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The software developer, Adam Behringer, is a fellow Mac enthusiast with whom I’ve been trading email. Adam explained he turned software developer when Apple released OS X. He has now released version 2.0 which adds all the picture and link goodness I descried above. Adam explained the vision for Timeline has always been to create an application where the Timeline can be generated as fast as the entries are discussed and he has succeeded brilliantly.

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This application would be useful for more people than geeky lawyers though. I can see this being used in education, business, marketing, and anything else that requires either future planning or summarizing past events. You can download a trial of Timeline at www.beedocuments.com. There is also a very nice (and short) video demonstration. A full license will cost you $40. However, the developer has generously given a discount code for MacSparky readers. If you type the code MACSPARKY at checkout, you will get 15% off. This discount is good through the end of January 2008.

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You can listen to the above review on The Mac ReviewCast Episode 139.


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