by

Simplifying Timeline Creation with TimeLineCurator

Editing a TimeLineCurator timeline

Timelines are a useful visualization tool, and we’ve written about them a lot over the last several years. In addition to Billie’s overview of timeline apps for PCs, we’ve also covered specific applications such as Bee Docs, Dipity, TimelineSetter, and TimelineJS. Of these, TimelineJS is the one I’ve used most frequently, and like the best. The timelines it outputs look great, and are easy to navigate. The tool does, however, require creating a Google Spreadsheet and entering the timeline information manually. That can be a pain if there’s a lot of information to input.

Recently (though apparently it’s been around for at least two years) I came across a timeline tool that can eliminate some of the pain of entering timeline data, and that plays nicely with TimelineJS: TimeLineCurator, from the InfoVis group at the University of British Columbia. The site contains links to the web application and instructions on how to use it.

The video below provides an overview of the web application:

There’s also a slide set available that provides a good overview.

Intrigued, I decided to give it a test run, using some of the authors whose work I ask my Political Thought students to read.

I discovered a few things pretty quickly:

  • It’s not necessary to cut and paste text for TimeLineCurator to examine it. Enter a URL in the space at the top of the input window, hit the “Scrape!” button, and it will pull the text in for you. That’s pretty handy.

  • Forget about adding Sophocles or Plato to your timeline. The tool can’t handle BCE dates (at least not yet).

  • TimeLineCurator doesn’t play well with Safari. It took me a while to figure that out; I discovered the problem when I tried to change the title of an event, and couldn’t. It works as expected in Chrome.

  • Editing the timeline is really easy, as is export. You can export to TimelineJS format, or use TLC’s own format, which provides a shareable URL for your timeline.

Here’s what my sample timeline looks like using TLC’s shareable URL:

A TimeLineCurator timeline in its native format

And here’s what it looks like in TimelineJS format:

A TimelineJS timeline created with TimeLineCreator

For some reason, the few images I included in the timeline don’t show up. Why, I’m not sure. (Oddly, the TimelineJS-compatible file that TimeLineCurator generated wouldn’t open for me in either Safari or Chrome; I could only get it to open in Firefox.)

The idea behind TimeLineCurator is fantastic — it really simplifies the process of creating a timeline, and for the most part, it works well. As long as your timeline doesn’t require BCE dates, it’s worth a look. Because of a few glitches I encountered, though, I’d suggest starting with just a few entries, then testing to be sure everything outputs as expected.

If you’ve tried TimeLineCurator and have any tips or ideas to share, let us know in the comments. If you’ve got a good lead on any other timeline generator, feel free to chime in with that, too.

[All images CC-licensed by the author.]

Return to Top