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Timeline Programs for PCs

In August, Ethan Watrall published an article at ProfHacker about Bee Docs timeline, a Mac program.  Brian Croxall also wrote about his Timeline Tutorial using Google Docs.  Since these marvelous posts, I have searched for a PC-basesd program that can do similar things . . . but without the effort.  (I’m not lazy, just busy.)

My criteria:  The program must be PC-based, interactive, free, online (nothing I’d have to download and maintain), and it must use integrated search engines to produce the timeline. I found a few that deserve a little attention.

Viewzi is an interesting program with many uses.  It can produce a timeline, but it can also– from that timeline data– produce other useful screens of information.  As a purely academic exercise, I searched for “Springsteen” in the Viewzi search box.  The initial product is not a timeline; it’s what Viewzi calls a “power grid.”    The power grid supplies recent articles about my research subject.  Since not all of what Viewzi found is appropriate for my study, I can remove found items if they are not appropriate to what I’m looking to do with the information, thereby refining my search.

The fun use of Viewzi is that– along with the required timeline I wanted– it allows for a dozen or more forms of collected data:  web screen shots, simple text, power grid, site information, photo tag cloud, viewzi news, video, photos, sources, weather, books from Amazon, everyday shopping, albums, recipes, celebrity photos and gossip, songs, TechCrunch.  Celebrity gossip?  OK, I’m not routinely looking for that, but I never know where useful information might be hiding.   I was looking for a timeline, though, and Viewzi doesn’t disappoint.

Viewzi’s timeline is fairly straight forward.  Clicking on any text in the timeline takes you to the appropriate web source.  It is an interesting way of looking at the data on the power grid.  Viewzi is free, but it does require registration.

Another program, Timetoast, is very basic for quick timeline searches.  This program might be useful in a classroom situation when information  on a timeline is needed quickly and simply.  Timelines on Timetoast can be bookmarked, shared, or embedded.  You can browse user-created timelines, but to create your own, you must register.  It is also free.  A quick search of the “H1N1 virus” yielded this timeline:

The last program I found was Dipity, a robust timeline program that allows for much user interaction.  Dipity aggregates its data from on a “combination of search services and APIs to pull in content from across the web that has been posted to popular websites like YouTube, Flickr, Digg and DayLife” and is making available all timelines via RSS.  You are able to pull in data from hundreds of online sources and your updates can be bookmarked, shared, or embedded.  Additionally, Dipity provides analytics and reports on your timeline.

As a comparison, I searched for a timeline that mapped the H1N1 virus on Dipity.  This timeline includes more information than the Timetoast timeline because the creator of the Dipity timeline widened the search to include more data sources.  The timeline also shows the source of the information (YouTube, Twitter, Delicious, etc.).  As with the other timeline programs, you can adjust the date range of your search.  Dipity allows users to drill down timelines based on hourly activity.

What is really nice about Dipity is that it allows merging two topics, or two timelines giving plenty of comparison opportunities to researchers. To use this feature, Dipity does require users to create an account free account.  Combining topics as dissimilar as Bruce Springsteen and the H1N1 Virus can yield interesting results:

Whatever timeline you choose to use is up to you and your needs (and your computer platform).  It’s important to recognize, however, that Mac users don’t have all the cool tools.  There are cool tools for us PC folks, too.

What kinds of other timeline programs do you use?  What uses do you have for them in your classes?  Please leave suggestions in comments below.

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