Edit Mac Scrivener 3 With iOS Ulysses, Part 5: Aeon Timeline—Scrivener—Ulysses Workflow #amwriting

Scrivener and Ulysses CAN get along

Articles in this series:

Part 5: Aeon Timeline—Scrivener—Ulysses Workflow


In Part 1 of this series, I talked about changing your Scrivener habits in order to edit with Ulysses, eventually. In Part 2, I talked about changing your existing project so that it compiles with the Scrivener “Convert MultiMarkdown to Rich Text” (MMD→Rich Text) compile option ON, and so that it syncs as smoothly as possible with Ulysses. In Part 3, I discussed setting up sync between Ulysses and Scrivener on either Dropbox or iCloud Drive, and best practices going forward. In Part 4, I discussed some simple methods to refer to your Scrivener metadata (or outline) while working in iOS Ulysses.

If you’re new to my articles on how to edit Scrivener projects with Ulysses, please review “Is this workflow for you?” in Part 1. I strongly recommend you make the changes to your existing Scrivener project that I suggested in Part 2 and set up sync as in Part 3 before proceeding.

Workflow with Aeon Timeline

An Aeon Timeline (AT) timeline that’s synced with your Scrivener project already has much of your Scrivener metadata in it. Further, you can both view and edit that metadata on your iOS device by opening your timeline in iOS Aeon Timeline (or on iPads, by putting AT in a split-screen with Ulysses or in a slide-over panel.) You’ll need to have AT installed on both your Mac and on iOS for this to work.

I don’t recommend this workflow if you don’t want to use AT for, well, a timeline. In order to sync your Mac Scrivener project with AT, you’ll need to actually build a timeline with at least relative dates for your texts (called events in AT). It’s a lot of effort if you don’t want to work with a timeline. In that case, you’ll be ahead by compiling your metadata to an outline document, as I described in Part 4. Besides, while AT is not expensive software (as such things go) it’s not free either, and you’ll need to buy both Mac and iOS licences for it.

So let’s assume that you already use AT and have a timeline for your Scrivener project set up and syncing. You are syncing title, synopsis, label, status, keywords, and timeline-specific custom metadata (start date, end date, location, and arc.) The only Scrivener metadata that’s in your project and not in your timeline are your Inspector document notes and maybe non-timeline custom metadata.1 How do you integrate your AT timeline with your Mac Scrivener—iOS Ulysses workflow?

The key to understanding this workflow is that AT syncing happens on the Mac. You can’t sync your Scrivener project with your AT timeline on iOS, even if you have both iOS Scrivener and iOS AT installed. The only way to get your changes from iOS AT into your Scrivener project (or vice-versa) is to open your timeline in Mac AT and sync with your Mac Scrivener project.

  1. Be sure your AT timeline is available on iOS. If you’ve always used your timeline only on Mac, you’ll want to move it to a cloud service folder—your Dropbox folder, your iCloud drive, Google Drive—that you can access with the Files app on iOS.
  2. Sync your project with your AT timeline. This happens on Mac, and your Scrivener project must be closed before you can sync it with your AT timeline. This is not a problem since you want your External Folder Sync to happen before you move to iOS anyway. Close your Scrivener project, which will execute External File Sync, then sync your project with your AT timeline as normal.
  3. On iOS, open your timeline in iOS AT. Open Ulysses and start working on your draft. When you need to refer to your metadata (outline), switch to AT, or put AT in a split screen with Ulysses. If you want to edit your outline, go ahead and edit the metadata in iOS AT. You don’t need to do anything special to make your changes available on Mac. You can work on your timeline too, if you want.
  4. When you return to your Mac, sync the changes to your AT timeline with Scrivener project before you open your project in Scrivener. AT will write the changed metadata back to your project.
  5. Finally, open your project in Mac. Your metadata changes are already in place. External File Sync will run, incorporating your changes from Ulysses.

That’s it! There’s no chance of sync conflicts between Ulysses and AT—Ulysses can only edit main text, it can’t change metadata. AT can’t edit main text, it can only affect metadata.


  1. If you still want to refer to those document notes as a compiled outline, as in Part 4, just modify your compile section layout to only include your title and your document notes. If you have custom metadata that’s not timeline data, you could include metadata if you like. What you won’t want is your synopsis—that’s in your AT timeline. 

Beyond iOS Scrivener 1.2.1 #amwriting

Back in December, I wrote that I hardly use iOS Scrivener any more, and that remains true.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, lately, what with my coworking venue going out of business, and all the coffeehouses being closed (at least for purposes of sitting and writing for long periods.) The time I spent commuting had to go somewhere, and when I wasn’t too depressed to do anything except play video games, I found myself niggling at The iOS Scrivener Problem. (Yes, I know, I could have been productively writing. Still…)

Abandoning Scrivener totally is out of the question for me. I use the Scrivenings view constantly on my Mac, as well as stacked corkboards, the Outliner view, keywords, custom metadata… ad infinitum. (About the only features of Scrivener I don’t use are document notes, scriptwriting, and research. Oh, and the various LaTeX workflows.) I also use Aeon Timeline, and while theoretically I could use AT with Ulysses, I’ve got Scrivener all set up with it.

Ulysses… hmm. What about using Ulysses as an iOS editor for Scrivener projects? I can’t access many of my Mac Scrivener features in iOS Scrivener anyway. I already know and pay for Ulysses (I write this blog on it.) Ulysses has as slick an iOS-style interface as any app going. Any metadata I need to refer to (synopses, keywords, etc.) is available on iOS via Aeon Timeline. My research is already available on iOS via Evernote. I can even edit metadata in AT if I need to and sync it up to my Scrivener project on my Mac.

I’m no stranger to using non-Scrivener editors on iOS. In the Bad Old Days before iOS Scrivener, I used both the Index Card app and the Editorial app to edit my Scrivener projects, using Scrivener’s External Folder Sync feature. It was harder to describe than it was to do.

It’s taken me some experimentation. Scrivener 3 is more complex than Scrivener 2 so there are more pitfalls on the Scrivener side. Also, Ulysses is more complex than either of my old two iOS apps, though that turns out to be all to the good.

Nonetheless, I’ll be posting my new Mac Scrivener 3 <=> iOS Ulysses editing workflow in a series of several blog posts:

  1. Translating Between Scrivener 3 and Ulysses: Ulysses speaks Markdown. Scrivener speaks Rich Text. Rich text has a lot more formatting flexibility than Markdown. This means modifying some things in your Scrivener project, and avoiding certain Scrivener features. I’ll cover what you’ll need to do to your Scrivener manuscript to prepare it to work smoothly with Ulysses’s Markdown. WARNING: You may not be willing to live with these limitations. In that case, this isn’t the workflow you’re looking for.
  2. Setting Up Sync: I’ll reveal the nitty gritty of using either iCloud or Dropbox (dealer’s choice) to sync between Mac Scrivener 3 and iOS Ulysses. I’ll provide detailed sync settings for each app.
  3. Avoiding The Editing “Gotchas”: I’ll tell you how to sidestep the “OMG no!!!” moments, or at least face them with confidence.
  4. Compiling Your Project: I’ll describe the modifications you’ll need to make to your Scrivener compile formats to output your Ulysses-savvy manuscript.
  5. But What If I Don’t Want To Use Aeon Timeline?: I’ll go over some strategies for getting at least some of your metadata into Ulysses. Note that these methods are minimally, if at all, automated. If you update the metadata in Ulysses, you, and you alone, will be responsible for updating said metadata in your Scrivener project by hand. Be told.

9 Tips for using Scrivener with Aeon Timeline 2 #amwriting

Scrivener can have a high learning curve. Aeon Timeline 2 (AT2) can be tough as well. Here are some tips for using them together, that I’ve gleaned in the time since Scrivener 3 (Mac and Windows beta), Scrivener iOS, and AT2 (Mac, Windows, and iOS) were released:

Scrivener and Aeon Timeline 2

  1. Syncing between Scrivener projects and AT2 timelines only happens between desktop versions. iOS Scrivener and iOS AT2 don’t interact. If you are an iOS-only user, you’ll need to build your AT2 timelines manually. If you have both desktop versions, your changes in iOS AT2 and in iOS Scrivener will coordinate when you run a sync in desktop AT2. The rest of these tips presume that you have desktop versions of both apps.
  2. If I can’t see it in Scrivener, I don’t bother. I use AT2 when I need a time-based view, and to do massive “time when things occur” changes. Things that I can add to AT2 but which I can’t sync to Scrivener [Examples: Character entities (neither names nor notes), Place notes, Arc notes] I don’t bother with. Instead, I create “events” from my Scrivener notes on these things, and place them on the timeline at the point they first appear. I use Scrivener keywords (AT2 tags) for character names.
  3. If I don’t have a use for an AT2 field, I don’t bother. This may seem obvious, but if I see a field in a template, I assume I must fill it in—that it serves some purpose I don’t know about. I spent hours, for example, wondering what to do with the Tension field, coded as a percentage. But it made no sense to me, so finally I deleted it. It was the same with Participants/Observers; first they force me to use Character entities in AT2, which don’t sync except as names of Participants or Observers. Second, I get almost all of that info by simply tagging/keywording events with my character tags. So I don’t bother with those, either.
  4. Use AT2 on iOS to make Scrivener keywords available. iOS Scrivener doesn’t allow access to keywords from the desktop apps. If you’re setting up an AT2 timeline anyway, accessing and changing your Scrivener keywords comes along for free—see item 5 below. (Mind, I wouldn’t recommend iOS and desktop AT2 for this alone—but it does let you work around an occasionally annoying iOS Scrivener limitation.)
  5. Structure your Scrivener project to help AT2. AT2 gives warnings when a Scrivener item isn’t connected to an AT2 event during sync. These can run into hundreds for a large project! AT2 can also be set to ignore both folders and non-text documents during sync. To use this to your advantage, set up your Scrivener project to use a document and not a folder as container for anything you’ll want on the timeline. (For example, you can change a chapter folder to a text. It will still contain its scenes, but it will be easier to put the chapter itself on an AT2 timeline and track it there. For clarity, I’ll refer to such a changed folder as a “document group.”) You can adjust your global Scrivener preferences to treat all document groups as folders (see section B.4.5 in the Scrivener manual). You can also adjust your project settings to treat document groups the same as folders during compile (see section C.2.3 in the Scrivener manual.) Conversely, use a folder for any container you’re sure you don’t want on the timeline. In this way, you can make AT2’s sync warnings when a Scrivener item is not connected to an event fewer and more useful.
  6. For Scrivener 3 (Mac, and Windows beta), set up your date fields in Scrivener before your first AT2 sync. Use the Custom Metadata feature to add both a Start Date and an End Date field to your Scrivener project. Make these fields plain non-wrapping text fields. My experience suggests that using the Scrivener date field type option (which will be used if you let AT2 automatically create these) is fraught. Any change—to Scrivener, to AT2, even an OS update—may result in dates being misinterpreted. Text fields are safe.
  7. Make use of Scrivener’s Title, Status, Synopsis, Keywords, and Labels metadata. These can all be synced with AT2. In general when syncing, a Scrivener thing (text, folder, document group) will connect to at most one AT2 event; you can set various Scrivener built-in metadata to sync with that event’s properties. Scrivener Labels sync to Colors in AT2, Status to Complete, Keywords to Tags. Scrivener’s Title will be AT2’s event name. Scrivener’s synopsis syncs as the AT2 event’s Summary.1 This gives you a pretty darn complete outline in AT2.
  8. When you create your timeline file, correct the Complete property format. AT2 creates this as a simple checkbox in the Fiction template. Before your first sync with your Scrivener project, change this to a single-line text field. (In AT2: Timeline > Timeline Settings > Properties) Then AT2 will automatically offer you the opportunity to sync AT2 Complete with Scrivener Status.
  9. Use AT2’s Arc and Location fields. When you set up AT2 syncing with your Scrivener project, you can have AT2 add these to your Scrivener project’s custom metadata. Use ad lib.2 Note: AT2’s default Arc and Location fields are single line, which would mean that an event (scene? Chapter?) could belong to only one arc, or take place in one location. If you like to make your scenes do double-duty or your chapters take place in more than one location, change these to multi-line fields before your first sync with Scrivener. (In AT2: Timeline > Timeline Settings > Entity Types, check “Allow multiple per event.”)

I hope these tips help you use Aeon Timeline with Scrivener effectively!

  1. Partly because I use Aeon Timeline, and partly because Scrivener Document Notes (Scrivener manual section 13.2.2) are only visible in the Scrivener Inspector (which I often leave closed on my Mac, and only appears in a popup on iOS), I choose to stuff all of my document note-type things into the synopsis, which I artificially limit to 453 characters. If I can’t describe a scene in about three Tweets, I haven’t figured it out yet. 
  2. As of this post (Mar 30, 2019), there is a bug in AT2 that prevents it from creating more than one metadata field in Scrivener at a time. To work around this, you can either create the fields in advance in Scrivener, or create them in several passes in AT2 by repeatedly tapping the gear icon in the sync panel.

    To create fields in Scrivener in advance, I recommend using a text without wrap field for dates, and a text with wrap field for such things as Arc or Location, which might have multiples for a single event. 

Back to Writing Gear Basics #amwriting

I have a regrettable tendency to over-complicate things. Mostly it happens due to impulsivity, made worse by ADHD. I’ve recently taken stock of my customary writing gear—in particular, the load I carry in my backpack. In order to make it practical to walk as much as possible to coffee shops and to the train stations to my part-time office in Chinatown, I’m doing a thorough overhaul and downsizing of what gear I choose to pack.

The upswing in gear started when I discovered Duet Display back in 2016. Not that Duet Display isn’t a fine, fine piece of software; it’s just that I decided I needed to have two displays all the time, so I needed to schlep my iPad and a cable along all the time, and I always needed to be able to plug the MacBook in, because—well, the MacBook assumes it’s supposed to charge the iPad, even when the iPad has more battery life left than said MacBook. So I had to take the MacBook power supply, and I might as well add another cable to charge my phone, and why not take my external hard drive? It only weighs a few ounces…

As of last week, for almost any writing expedition, I’d take:

  • MacBook Air 11
  • External hard drive for backups
  • Charger for the MacBook
  • Extension cord
  • iPhone with stand
  • iPad (mostly for use as a second screen) plus folding screen cover/stand
  • 2 Lightning cables for the iDevices
  • USB 3 hub so I can plug everything into the MacBook at once if needed
  • Bluetooth stylus
  • Charger for the stylus (just in case)
  • Non-electronic backup stylus (just in case)
  • 2 Bluetooth keyboards, one each for the iPad and iPhone (just in case I decided I wanted to work on the phone or the tablet—or both—instead of on the MacBook)
  • Mini USB cable to charge the keyboards (just in case)
  • Bluetooth mouse with extra batteries (see above)
  • Noise cancelling headphones with extra batteries (ditto)

When I got where I was going it would take me ten to fifteen minutes to set up and later the same to pack.

I started thinking about this when I realised that I almost never actually used the iPad any more as a second screen. I found a little-known feature of Scrivener, available even in version 2.x. This setting works in MacOS full-screen mode (as opposed to Composition Mode), and enables the Binder and the Inspector to slide in from the sides when I move my mouse to the left or right sides of the screen, respectively. This effectively increases the screen area available for Scrivener by nearly 40%. I wasn’t using my iPad because this feature is disabled if a second monitor is present. Also, I’ve become skilled at using a split full screen on the Mac, for those times when I’d like to have, say, Aeon Timeline on the screen at the same time as Scrivener. (Mostly though, I can’t do that because AT can’t sync a Scrivener project that’s open.)

Slide-in panels increase Scrivener’s apparent screen size.

I still need the mouse as it’s hard for me to touch-type on the MacBook without accidentally hitting the touch pad which moves the insertion cursor, with hilarious but irritating results. (I’ve set up the mouse to disable the touch pad.) When I’m at my part-time office, I can borrow a big monitor from the monitor pool, and then a BT keyboard comes in handy. But I’ve dropped the following from my list, and my pack feels a lot lighter.

Items dropped:

  • External hard drive for backups
  • stand for iPhone
  • iPad plus folding screen cover/stand
  • 1 Lightning cable
  • USB 3 hub
  • Charger for the stylus
  • 1 Bluetooth keyboard (keeping the one that has a built-in iPhone stand, thus avoiding duplication)

When I’m going to my office rather than to a coffee shop, I can also leave behind the extension cord. If I’m going to a coffee shop I can leave behind the second BT keyboard. If I’m only going for an hour or two, I’ve taken to just packing the iPhone, a keyboard, a couple of cables, a USB adapter—and the headphones. I might see if I can come up with a really lightweight and compact extension cord—alternatively I might carry a small external battery. But that’s it.

Where does this leave my poor lonely iPad? I’m not sure. I really like its bigger screen, but I can’t use it as a phone. 95% of what I can do with the iPad can be done on the iPhone 6s Plus’ large screen (for a phone) as well, and the rest can be worked around. And there are many things that I can do with the MacBook that absolutely cannot be done on iPad (or iPhone.) Sometimes I go days without opening the iPad’s cover. I suppose I should sell the silly hunk of aluminium and simplify my life, but as you can tell, I’m emotionally attached to it.

A problem for another day.

Aeon Timeline & Scrivener #amwriting #Scrivener #AeonTimeline

Aeon Timeline provides event duration management that Scrivener lacks

One of my readers asked:

Hello. I’ve never heard of aeon timeline! What is it? How do you use it alongside scrivener? How does it benefit your writing?

Excellent questions, all.

What is Aeon Timeline?

Aeon Timeline is an application available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. The blurb from the developers’ website reads:

> The timeline tool for creative writing, project & case management
> Designed for writers from its very inception, Aeon Timeline helps you plan, write and edit your story
> …

It goes on to describe benefits to project managers and lawyers. To an extent, a writer (particularly a self-published writer) is also a project manager, and certainly lawyers can be writers, too! But I’ll focus on my use with Scrivener to write fiction.

How do you use it alongside Scrivener?

Aeon Timeline events can sync to a Scrivener project. In particular, “tags” in Aeon Timeline are “Keywords” in Scrivener documents, and Aeon Timeline colours are Scrivener document labels. Event names sync with Scrivener document titles, and event summaries sync with Scrivener synopses. For other event properties in Aeon Timeline, you have the option to create custom metadata in your Scrivener project, and sync those properties as well. These include start date, end date, event arc, and participants. (These are the event properties from the default Aeon Timeline fiction template that I use. There are more that I ignore.)

You can do it one of either two ways:

If you’re a pre-planner:

Start in Aeon Timeline. Develop your characters, set up story arcs, and work out your outline as timed events. Then, when you’re ready to start writing,

  1. Create your new project in Scrivener, save and close it.
  2. Go back to Aeon Timeline, and select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
  3. In the Sync pane that appears, under Warnings, right-click the events you want to have in Scrivener and add to Scrivener.
If you do minimal advance planning:

Start in Scrivener and build your structure in the way you’re most comfortable. If (or when) the timing of events begins to get confused in your mind, or you believe you’d benefit from seeing things laid out linearly with durations,

  1. Creat a new timeline in Aeon Timeline.
  2. Select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.

How does it benefit your writing?

It depends on your working style. I know some people use it instead of outlining in order to see a graphic representation of their novel in chronological order as they plan, before they ever write a word of body text. Myself, well, as I’ve discussed, I’m not so much a detailed planner. But in general, it allows you to create characters, story arcs, and events (which can be imported from, and thereafter synced to, Scrivener.) I myself will use it once I get into the nitty gritty of writing, to keep track of such things as “OK, if this all started in early November, how long would this have taken? How about this next thing, here? No, wait… that’s a Sunday. That venue wouldn’t be open on a Sunday… so when did this have to start? What day will this next thing start?”

And so forth. Since at one level the stories I write are mysteries, timing of events becomes important. So here’s a timeline of a novella I’ve published:

A portion of my massive timeline for my Fraser and Spencer series

It takes place over two weeks in June of 1880, in London. This image only includes the main storyline, with backstory and villain actions “offscreen” displayed in different arcs. I personally use labels in Scrivener for status (and don’t use the status metadata at all. But if you use it, it’s pretty easy to add an event property and sync it with Status in Scrivener.)

I had to think about such things as:

  • How long would it take someone to cross a portion of London on foot in 1880?
  • How about in a cab? (Often slower, due to traffic. Los Angeles is nothing new under the sun.)
  • What time would servants be returning from their Sunday half-holiday?

Aeon Timeline is designed to make it easer to keep things like that straight. Afterwards, as I described above, the dates and times I decide on can be saved with the Scrivener documents to which they refer. So when I’m writing, I don’t make mistakes like having folks set out across the city in the morning, when it’s already afternoon…

It’s not for everyone—-I understand that. But if you think visually and want the duration of things clearly displayed, it’s a godsend.

One other thing I do is import the timeline into Scrivener’s research folder as an alias. That way I can view the timeline’s QuickLook in Scrivener, and click on the Edit button to launch it in Aeon Timeline.

Aeon Timeline on iOS—Thoughts on Scrivener Workflows #amwriting

A moment has arrived that many of us who use both Scrivener and Aeon Timeline have long awaited: Aeon Timeline is available on iOS!

Scrivener and Aeon Timeline Meet on iOS

The iOS version of Aeon Timeline seems robust and full-featured; I can do almost anything with Aeon Timeline on iOS that I can on the Mac, with a few exceptions:

  • Screen real estate is cramped on iOS screens, so it might take several screens of information to display what’s available on one screen on the Mac. Don’t get me wrong; the display’s neither crowded nor sparse, and there’s nothing missing, but you might have to tap a couple of times more to see all three of your story arcs, for example.
  • Import and export options on iOS are limited—I suspect in large part due to iOS sandboxing.
  • I can’t sync with Scrivener.1 For that, I have to get back to my Mac.

Nonetheless, since I do use Scrivener on both platforms, and have built a timeline for my Scrivener project in Mac Aeon Timeline, having Aeon Timeline on iOS is wonderful.

  • On the iPad, at least, I can split my screen between Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Thus, I can see all the information (dates, keywords, arcs, locations, tension) for my Scrivener docs that iOS doesn’t know about—while I’m looking at my Scrivener project. Even on iPhone, that data is now available even if I can’t have Scrivener on the screen at the same time.
  • On iPad or iPhone, I can now actually edit that data, and it will get incorporated when I get back to my Mac, sync Scrivener with iOS Scrivener, and then sync Scrivener with Aeon Timeline.
  • If you’re an iOS-only user, only titles, labels, and synopses would be synced anyway since you don’t have keywords or custom metadata. I’d suggest creating a timeline in Aeon from scratch, copying and pasting titles. You could still set up your dates, locations, arcs and tension in Aeon.

Thank you, Matt at Aeon Timeline, for this great little iOS app!

  1. Not syncing with Scrivener on iOS makes sense. Scrivener keeps the desktop project version largely unchanged on iOS, sequestering mobile changes in a special mobile area inside the project. If iOS Aeon Timeline starts messing with it, there’s a real possibility that it might create Scrivener sync conflicts. No one wants that. 

Ulysses, Revisited #amwriting

I am finding some value in Ulysses after all…

Yes, I’m kind of beginning to like Ulysses.

The last time I picked up Ulysses, I rejected it because of its non-standard Markdown (Markdown ‘XL’), and the fact that it saves its iCloud Library in One Big File(TM), thus giving the lie to its vaunted “plain text” basis. But it’s getting a bit daunting to manage my blog on Dropbox with a true plain text editor (Editorial for iOS and TextWrangler plus Marked 2 for Mac.)

So I picked it up again, renting it for $5 for a month. And I am cautiously pleased. It looks like I’ll be able to keep tags and categories as Ulysses keywords, which will make searching for the last time I pontificated on a certain subject easier. Its WordPress publishing capability is very good. And I can even do tables (not that I’ve ever put tables in my blog, but hey, you never know) by using its “raw code” capability:

This is the source of a Markdown table:

| This&nbsp; | is&nbsp;&nbsp; | a&nbsp; |
| :-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; | :-&nbsp;&nbsp; | :- |
| table | with | 3&nbsp; |
| rows&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; |||

This is the result of putting that Markdown source into raw code blocks and uploading to WordPress:

This is a
table with 3

Not bad. The only thing the other Markdown editors do to make tables easier is put up that grid of pipes (the vertical bars) and alignment indicators (the colons and hyphens.) I can build a table in another of my numerous Markdown editors if I need one and paste it in.

I’m not going to switch to novel writing in Ulysses. There’s far too much that Scrivener includes that Ulysses doesn’t (compilation, index cards, folders that are also text files, the ability to split my writing into the tiniest possible increments, and so forth.) Where would I put my beats? My chapter cards? Oh, yes, now that Aeon Timeline 2 (AT) syncs with Ulysses, all that stuff can be kept in AT and will live in notes in my Ulysses project, but there’s no corkboard (!) in that workflow. Not OK. I’d be reduced to planning everything in advance, because I really can’t get that info into a place I can play with it during production.

And as for Ulysses being less distracting, bullpucky. There is not now nor will there ever be a piece of software that makes it the least bit difficult for me to become distracted.

So the question is: Does Ulysses have enough utility to me as a blogging tool, to keep renting it for $5 US per month (or $40 US per year)? That’s a question I haven’t answered yet. The answer depends, in part, on my investigation of the Setapp Mac software subscription service. I’ve started the 30-day free trial–and will report back soon.

Using Scrivener 3 with Aeon Timeline 2 @ScrivenerApp @AeonTimeline

Scrivener 3 and Aeon Timeline 2

The very best news about using Scrivener 3 with Aeon Timeline 2 is that it’s working! Not only will Aeon sync with new Scrivener 3 projects, but if you update your project from Scrivener 2 to Scrivener 3, the timeline you synced with your Scrivener 2 project will sync with your updated Scrivener 3 project.

The only difference I’ve been able to detect is that now, if you sync a timeline with a project, and let Aeon create a “new custom field”—if that field is a date, Aeon will create a field in the Scrivener project that uses Scrivener 3’s new “Date” data type.

The good news:

  • It’s much easier to change dates and/or times on the Scrivener side–the usual Mac date/time controls are available.
  • There’s a wide range of date/time formats available through Project Settings. I was especially delighted that Scrivener 3’s “Custom” date/time format provides full support for Unicode standard date format strings. Wow! I can actually display dates in my preferred format. (“1880-11-15 14:00 Mo”)

The not-so-good news:

  • When I let Aeon create the metadata date fields for Scrivener, they displayed using Scrivener’s default date format, Short Date. Maybe this is fine for you. But Short Date will strip both century data (“1880” transferred as “1980”) and time information (all times were set to midnight.)

For me, this was problematic, as I am writing a historical mystery—both century and time are important to me. To work around this: (N.B. The instructions that follow are intended for a user who has experience in both Scrivener 2/3 and in Aeon Timeline 2!)

  • First, use Project Settings… to set up your date fields in Scrivener 3.
    In Scrivener’s Project Settings, set up your custom metadata date fields.
    • If you are using standard dates, choose a format that contains the century, the time, or both (if this is important to you.)
    • Alternatively, if you’re using something non-standard (as for science fiction or fantasy that doesn’t use standard dates and times) use a text field in Scrivener 3 just as in Scrivener 2.
    • Tick the checkbox that says “Ignore time zone changes” (unless you really want your events to display a different date and time depending on whether you’re writing in Sydney or San Francisco today.)
  • Next, in Aeon Timeline, use Sync > Settings… to set the event start date and end date to sync with the new fields you created in Scrivener 3. Go ahead and run a sync to get your data into the new fields in Scrivener.

Connect to the new fields in Aeon Timeline Sync > Settings

  • Finally, delete the old fields (if any) in Scrivener 3 Project Settings.

Happy Scrivening! (AND Timelining!)

Aeon Timeline, Revisited — and Two Displays are Always With Me #amwriting

Aeon Timeline is back on my desktop
Aeon Timeline is back on my desktop
The last time I mentioned Aeon Timeline I was in glorious Dulles International Airport, coming home from a funeral and trying to get some writing done. At that time, I was abandoning it as a tool, since it didn’t support my workflow very well.

Fast forward nearly three years: I have the beta version of Aeon Timeline 2 (AT2), and it rocks.

I’m not going to do a full-up review: it’s still not released, and it would not be fair. But it was definitely worth the $25 for the pre-order and early access. Enough to say, that the much closer linking to Scrivener makes it practical for me to use AT2 despite the fact that I’m starting to use it after writing two-thirds of a novel. As a result, I have my narrator character’s life actually described; I know how old he is, what schools he’s gone to — his prior career, his new career, the events that shaped him…

It has its problems, of course — but it’s so much more usable than the old AT — for me — that I tolerate the occasional quirk.

Oh yes — that’s my new Macbook in that picture, with AT2 on the main screen, and Scrivener on my iPad 3rd gen as a second display via Duet Display. Duet is a wired (only!) solution for using an iPad as a second display for a Mac or Windows machine. (Or even an iPhone — but I tried my iPhone as a second display, and trust me, an iPhone 5c is a lousy second display. It might work OK on an iPhone 6 Plus — if you try it, let me know.)

This solution works fine in a situation where I can plug my Macbook into power — the wired USB connection keeps my iPad charged, and Duet is fast enough to not even really be aware that it’s a software simulator rather than a hardware monitor that’s my second screen. But if I can’t plug in, the iPad will quickly vampirize the Macbook’s battery. For cases like that (no outlets, or I forgot my Macbook charger), I use the Splashtop Extended Wireless Display app. I already had the Splashtop streamer on my Mac in order to use the Mac Mini remotely; it got installed when I upgraded to the MacBook, so why not leverage? It’s a WiFi solution to using an iPad as a second display; as such it lags a bit on the iPad 3 — but it gives me a second screen without drawing down my MacBook battery for it. I can even use it without a real WiFi network handy — I use my iPhone as a portable hotspot, connect both the Macbook and the iPad to it via WiFi, and I’m computing. With two displays. It doesn’t even use my data plan as it’s all local data transference.

I love technology.

Glorious Dulles International Airport

20130717-123559.jpgPermit me to take a paragraph to grouse:

My brother-in-law’s funeral was yesterday. Today I am sitting in Dulles International Airport, Washington DC. Our return flight to Los Angeles having been delayed due to weather, we have re-routed, and will not arrive at LAX until 9:30 PM. I am emotionally fatigued, physically stressed, and my word count is anemic. This is NOT what I had planned for July!!!

Thank you for listening. I feel a little better now. On the plus side:

  • I am not so far behind that I can’t yet finish on time.
  • I am in MUCH better shape as far as organization of my writing is concerned than I was in November.
  • I will have some time here in the terminal, as well as flight time, to get some words in a row.

Regarding software systems issues: Scrivener (Mac) to/from Index Card (iPad) synchronization is far from automatic, but is the only method to get my entire work in progress over to IOS in one lump for intensive production. Using the Markdown syntax for italics and bold, rather than using them directly in Scrivener, makes the plain text editing in Index Card acceptable (if that’s the only fancy formatting you do.) It was easy to make that global change in Scrivener. If I want my daily word count to correctly update in Scrivener, it helps to create several blank text documents in my Scrivener project, sync them to Index Card, and be sure I use those rather than creating new cards in Index Card.

I am still struggling with Aeon Timeline. Great tool, but not designed for my workflow (Write first, organize second.) As for Index Card IOS, the best I can do to work with AT is to record time/date and character list in my Scrivener synopsis (which shows up in Index Card), and remember to update them while working in Index Card. Getting the data into Timeline once I’ve synced my work back to Scrivener is still a mostly manual process — copy and paste dates into Scrivener’s AT metadata fields, sync to AT, then hand-enter character connections.

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