Development Blog

Synchronizing Aeon Timeline and Scrivener

One of the features that was released in earlier versions of Aeon Timeline was the ability to synchronise Aeon Timeline event information with Scrivener documents. In previous versions, this feature has been a little user unfriendly, and somewhat limited in its synchronised data.

The version 0.9 release of Aeon Timeline improves the integration between Aeon Timeline and Scrivener, and coincides with a recent update of Scrivener (version 2.2) that improves its display of Custom Meta Data in a way that is very beneficial for Aeon Timeline integration.

So, what has changed?

Firstly, a few simple modifications have been made to the Synchronize interface to make it a little easier to work with:

  • The main synchronise table now displays new Scrivener events in Binder order, and all Scrivener events are displayed with their full Binder path
  • For existing links, when you hover your mouse over the table row, a tooltip will appear that details the changes that have been made in both Aeon Timeline and Scrivener that can be synchronised.
  • For most changes, you can adjust the action for multiple entries by first selecting all of the rows you wish to modify, and then selecting a new action from one of the drop down lists (this will work for everything except creating new links, which must be done individually). This allows you to select a bunch of events or documents and Ignore them all at once.

What can be synchronised?

But perhaps more importantly, the amount of data that can be synchronised between the two applications has increased dramatically, and the synchronisation has become more sophisticated accordingly.

Now, the synchronisation will create the following custom meta-data fields in Aeon Timeline:

META DATA FIELDS description
Aeon Event The title of the event in Aeon Timeline.
Aeon Date The start date of the event in Aeon Timeline.
Aeon End Date The end date of the event in Aeon Timeline.
Aeon Label The label assigned to the event in Aeon Timeline.
Aeon Arc The arc that the event is within in Aeon Timeline.
Aeon Relationships The list of entities with a relationship to this event.
Aeon Notes The notes you have written about the event within Aeon Timeline.
* Aeon ID An internal ID used to control the synchronization.
* Aeon Sync Marks whether the document should be ignored when synchronizing.

How does it look in Scrivener?

All of the Aeon Timeline information for a linked document can be viewed in the Inspector, as per the following screenshot:

And most importantly, all of this information (except for the two control fields marked in red) can be edited directly within Scrivener when writing, and synchronised back to the Aeon Timeline file at a later time.

That means that as you are writing, you can add a relationship for the event directly as you introduce a new character, or you can edit the Aeon notes to include more information about the event on-the-fly as you edit the document it is linked with.

How does synchronising work?

Each time you synchronise an already linked event/document combination, Aeon Timeline will examine its own file, as well as these custom meta-data fields, to find all of the changes that have been made in either program.

It will automatically recommend to either “Update Event”, “Update Document”, or “Update Both”, depending on the changes it has found. Using “Update Both”, different fields may be updated in each direction. By default, the application will side with Aeon Timeline data in situations where the same field has been edited in two locations (except relationship changes, which can be merged), but you can change this behaviour to just “Update Event” or “Update Document” if you want to favour one direction or another.

Why yet another Scrivener Notes field?

Scrivener documents already contain a Synopsis and Document Notes, but the use of these fields is different for each user’s workflow, and I didn’t like the idea of Aeon Timeline changing either of these notes areas directly, for several reasons:

  1. The notes you would want about a document you are writing probably differ from the additional information you would write about an event
  2. It is generally a very bad idea for Aeon Timeline to change the text of any Scrivener document, including the notes and synopsis sections
  3. Unlike Document Notes in Scrivener, Event Notes in Aeon Timeline are not Rich Text.

Including the extra field gives a clear separation of purpose, and allows the Aeon Timeline notes to be displayed in the same area as all of the other Aeon Timeline information, rather than having it split across different parts of the Scrivener user interface.

What about keywords/tags?

Synchronizing of keywords and tags will probably appear at a later time, although I suspect this will be after Aeon Timeline 1.0 is released.

Right now, I am undecided on whether tags should be done as another custom meta-data interface, or whether I should break my own rules and link keywords and tags together directly. There are a few downsides to this, including the colours associated with Scrivener keywords (that are not transferred to Aeon tags), and the fact that Scrivener keywords can be nested.

I will play with this idea some more and decide on a direction in due course, but I did not want to delay all of the other progress while I thought about this problem.

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