Narrative, Outline and Mindmap views

I don’t think my observations are relevant for those who sync Timeline with Scrivener or Ulysses - they will have a different balance of advantages and disadvantages.

Historically I have used Aeon Timeline simply to record detailed timelines in situations where having that available and correct is important. The narrative/outline and mindmap views weren’t options. Accordingly, I only entered events, characters, locations etc where necessary. I find entering data easier in AT3, which brought the temptation to enter events partly because they might turn out to require a timeline entry and partly as a more complete record. This also makes them accessible to the narrative view.
However, I quickly realised that this was extra time spent, with no payoff. The event list became more cluttered and harder to work with. So I have reverted to entering as and when needed only.

The next question is that, given I have no sync, what advantage do I have from using the new views? Easy selection of events for narrative cards is one, though that doesn’t save any time.

What are the disadvantages of using Timeline narratives? The big one is that it presents a much poorer structural overview of the narrative than other options (eg Plottr, Jutoh etc). I can glance at the others and see what’s needed very quickly - they have more visual impact. If I have added a ton of information to Timeline, I can have more information dense narrative cards but most of the time that will be overkill for me.

So, in my situation, I’m not sure that the narrative, outline or mindmap views will be very helpful for most of my writing. The big exception will be for writing based on research, where the information will have been entered in the program. For those who like to have every detail recorded, these views probably offer greater advantage.

The big advantages of Mindomo and Plottr are speed, simplicity and most importantly more visual impact.

My conclusion – after only a weekend using TL3 – is that the visual side of the development has been neglected. The UI itself is a great improvement over TL2, but the way the data can be manipulated and viewed has been reduced and made more complex (i.e. a lot more clicking in dropdowns, and checkboxes (that sometimes change to dropdowns!), instead of doing it in the interface).

My usage is fourfold: backstory; narrative; research (huge timelines, such as history of somewhere, with a large number of types); and typical project management. In all cases, I found that getting data into TL3 is easier, and the ability to flex the data model to my needs is far greater, but the ability to visualise the data and obtain the views I wanted is far harder, and in some case simply not possible, even simply things readily available in TL2

At the end of the day, a database is only as useful as what you can get out of it, and while I’m sure TL3 is fine for many, for unstructured narrative, I find it weaker than TL2.

I don’t find the new views much use, but then I haven’t used them fully. The Narrative view is a big improvement for syncing for those who want to do that.

The Subway view is interesting, but limited because – as a general design decision it seems – the view can’t be controlled within the view itself.

Mindmap is clearly still in development, and far better tools are already available, so I didn’t spend much time on it.

For my four discrete needs, I think TL3 might work for research, though the limited UI flexibility is a real issue.

I’m currently seeing the big issue as whether I’m looking forward or backwards.
Timeline has advantages for going forward from Timeline and Spreadsheet.
But most writing is done backwards. There will be an understanding of acceptable structures and target wordcounts. The advantage of having a visual view of this is spped in identifying issues. And the Timeline Narrative view doesn’t do it; it seems to be text driven rather than visual.

Of course, the more to and fro there is between narrative and timeline events, the more advantage swings towards Timeline. But still not very visual. Most competitors have some sort of arc/chapter grid; and far more options to colour cards.

I really like and use the mindmap. I don’t need extensive tools like dedicated mindmap apps offer. Well, maybe a little bit more options could be nice. But mainly I want to arrange elements on a canvas which I can later process into my narrative or other documents. This option makes AT3 much more useful to me than the previous version.

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The main advantage in AT3 for me is that I create an event once and then I can post it in different views. I don’t do unnecessary work.
Of course, the mindmap in AT3 is imperfect, as are the tables.
But I like to think while building mindmaps. Before AT3, I tried to create a calendar of events in one program, make a mindmap in another, and create a narrative in the third. And very quickly I got tired of it all. It was necessary to constantly synchronize changes between them.

I have been considering the elements and workflows that will work best for me. Ability to work on Android is essential for a substantial part of the time, which rules AT3 out of a monopoly of the planning stages. And in truth I’d prefer only to use it where it’s the best choice.

My text will be in .md files anyway. That will include details of characters, locations etc as well as the MSS. They can easily be accessed in AT3, Plottr etc through file links.
I have realised that I can use an identical approach with mindmaps and outlines. All the main programs use OPML and it should be straightforward for me to have the most up-to-date versions in OPML files, and accessible through file links. I might find a tweak or two is required when I test it out, but it should work.

Events - timeline, spreadsheet and subway - aren’t really needed in any other program in any detail; ALL the value comes from working with them in AT3. There may be full descriptions in text files, but that’s already dealt with. To maintain data security, I will periodically export to CSV and sync with Scrivener but hope to have no need to actually use the results.

Narrative, Plottr and equivalents - most writing programs have an equivalent, and there’s no shortage of storyboard apps for scriptwriters - are a harder decision. They each have their own advantages. For looking at the overall structure of a manuscript, and the weaving of the narrative, Plottr would be my current choice. The narrative view has advantages where a detailed visualisation of event elements is required. I think quite a bit of redesign would be needed to make me consider using the narrative view as my primary method. And Plottr works on Android. If analysing elements through the narrative view is ever necessary (which I doubt), it wouldn’t be hard to export/import it to AT3.

The greatest source of friction will maybe come from importing character/location names etc into AT3. I don’t know if I would ever want to do that, but it would be possible. Just a little bit of extra work.

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