Full text export of narrative related items

I made a feature request during the early alpha and beta phases to be able to see the Summary information inline on the Narrative Outline view. It seemed strange to me that this was not possible for software which has the ability to plan a narrative outline. In answer to that feature request some users pointed out that syncing between AT3 and Scrivener would generate an outline which was printable. But for users who do not use Scrivener, like me, this is not an answer.

Moving on nearly two and a half years and I feel the need to be able to access narrative elements outside of AT3. There is the option to export to PDFs and images and to CSV/ TSV and Timeline Formats, but for me, as a writer, who works with words, these formats are next to useless.

I have seen the post by @Peter_T regarding the excellent work he has done allowing users to import narrative elements into Libre Office Import the narrative into LibreOffice. But I don’t want to have to install LibreOffice and the JavaScript runtime environment onto my Mac, as I find LibreOffice clunky and really this is something that AT3 should be able to do.

Opening up the export function to allow text-based exports to docx files or RTF(D) files and preferably also Markdown, would also allow users who write in Word or Google Docs to be able to get to the narrative information they are building inside AT3. It would also get around the issue of sending character information into Scrivener and Ulysses. Rather than handle this through the Sync mechanism, character info could be exported and then opened inside other writing apps.

AT3 is excellent at handling data and seeing connections between the different types of data. Where it currently falls short is in the textual handling of ideas, general sketches, notes and narrative development. I am currently doing all of this kind of work inside Ulysses. And perhaps this is the best place to do this kind of detailed narrative exploration as a precursor to generating a list of scenes. However, I think there is an expectation amongst most users that the software they are using to plan their stories should also allow them to export their plan to a text format.


In the post, Workflows with Markdown, @matt stated:

I had totally forgotten about this discussion when I added my feature request. But this is the kind of export that would benefit me. Exporting to a docx format would also work, I suspect, for most writers. Ulysses can import Word docs and so can Scrivener. And a Word format is more universal for writers who can’t take advantage of Markdown. But, as I use Ulysses, Markdown would be my preferred format.

I am left wondering whether the detailed, and often quite technical debate which took part in the linked post ever resulted in a feature request per sé. Or whether @matt is still contemplating a Markdown integration, both in terms of an export function and within Aeon for styling of notes:

Which would be a fantastic feature to add. Styling in Aeon is much needed and Markdown provides a really neat, easy and efficient way to achieve this.

But regarding Matt’s question re working out a format for exporting, I think something close to the way iOS handles the Narrative Outline would work. At least for my needs:

This shows the narrative position, the title, summary and the metadata the user wanted to include in the narrative within Aeon. I can imagine users selecting which relationships to include or exclude in an export.

@jess if there isn’t already a feature request for narrative exports could one please be added? And if there is, could the above context be added to it please?

Many thanks


Just FYI, the free Pandoc tool converts Markdown to a whole lot of other formats, including docx and odt.

By the way, it would be no big deal for a savvy script programmer to generate a Markdown document from Aeon Timeline 3’s CSV export. However, because Aeon Timeline 3 is so flexible, some conventions have to be made to get everything in the right place. Communicating this may take more effort than the programming itself.

Hi Peter. Thanks for your reply. I’ve used Pandoc with Obsidian in the past and it’s a great tool. But of course we don’t currently have a Markdown export in AT3.

Which brings me on to your other point. You have done great work getting an odt export working and I am sure that scripting the csv export would work, but I really think AT3 needs a mainstream solution built into it for exporting to text formats. Something that any user can just click a menu item for and be presented with a ready made text file that can be utilised in any text editor. Which I think is the point you were making about instructing users on how to use such a script.

I find myself more and more looking at where Plottr is successful and the textual output of narrative outlines is one of its strongest points. Distinctly different, and in many ways less convenient than AT3’s sync. But if AT3 is to cater for writers who want portability of their textual data to software other than Ulysses or Scrivener, or who simply want a text file that they can save down and review and tweak without having to do a full sync, then some form of narrative export to text file formats is a must.

Yes, I agree with you completely, of course. I understood your thread as a feature request as well.

The thing is that if you think of your computer as a programmable tool, you always have a certain advantage and a wider choice of applications whose input and output you can link together yourself. Not to mention the fantastic possibilities that macro programming offers you in office and publishing software. The downside, as I’m sure you can imagine, is the distraction from writing. If I wasn’t determined to get back to work on my novel, I would have already written a “standalone” markdown exporter for Aeon 3. But maybe someone else will come along?

Yes. As writers we are always so easily distracted. My brother is a software engineer of some thirty five years. I may be able to persuade him to have a dig around inside an AT3 csv file and see what he can come up with. Like most programmers he enjoys the challenge. But I would see that as a stop gap only while I waited for the possibility of a native, integrated solution. Mostly because I think it would make a great feature which would help widen AT3’s already considerable appeal.

Thanks for jumping into the thread by the way. I was beginning to think I was talking to myself. First sign of madness? Perhaps. Now back to some writing myself.

Take care.

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Now, on the fly, I wrote a Python script based on my LibreOffice extension’s code that lets you export the same content, but as Markdown files. It accepts the .aeon file format as input; should this be changed in a future version of Aeon Timeline, an exported CSV file will work instead.

The Python script has only a command line interface, but can be started with the “Silent” option via a batch file (or the Mac equivalent) right along with a Pandoc call.

As far as I know, OSX has Python 3 installed by default, so there shouldn’t really be any difficulties.

By the way, the core of this script comes from an Aeon3 to yWriter converter, so the structure of the narrative and characters/locations assumes a data structure like yWriter. But this is explained on the help page; if necessary you can adjust some things via a configuration file.

Have fun!

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Thanks Peter. I will take a look and download the script. Your help with this is much appreciated. I hope you didn’t spend too long away from your writing to code this.

Hi Peter,

There appears to be a syntax error in the script file when I have tried to run it. Please see error message below:

File “aeon3md.py”, line 83
message = f’FAIL: {message.split(ERROR, maxsplit=1)[1].strip()}’

SyntaxError: invalid syntax

Thanks in advance


Hi Andrew,

thanks for the feedback. The mentioned line of code uses a syntax introduced with Python version 3.6 (See “Requirements”). Is it possible that you have an older version installed on your computer? You can check this by calling Python with the parameter -V.

In the meantime I have updated the script to version 0.3 to write the usual double line breaks in markdown, and a sample configuration file is included just in case.

By the way, you can file bug reports here: Issues · peter88213/aeon3md · GitHub


Hi Peter. Yes, I am most likely on an older version. I will download and update to 3.6. Thanks for the info re filing of bug reports. The work you have done is really useful and much appreciated. However, as we have already discussed, I am still hopeful that a feature request will be implemented in AT3 and bring about the kind of integrated functionality you have added with your script.



Well, as I wrote elsewhere, I’m still with Aeon 2. I wrote the code for reading .aeon files in the Aeon 3 beta test phase to explore the new format. I can only test my own tools for this format with the sample projects from back then, so that limits the possibilities of course.
But maybe the experiences with aeon3md will help to specify an integrated export function for Aeon 3?

Good luck,

Indeed. Thanks once more for your help with this.

You’re welcome, Andrew.

By the way, I have put aeon3md under a most liberal open source license. So if anyone has ever dreamed of maintaining their own open source project one day, feel free to fork it and develop it as you please.

I made a mistake when automatically generating the download link. This is fixed now. Sorry.

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