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Thread: Writers' Timeline Software?

  1. #1
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Writers' Timeline Software?

    Hi,
    I'm getting all confused and running out of space on my paper, so I've tried searching for timeline software that writers can use, but only found one possible, and it's too expensive for me.

    Can anyone recommend any timeline software that:

    a) isn't expensive, i.e. £20.00 or less (free would be nice).

    b) MUST have a trial if not free.

    c) is easy to use, or at least have comprehensive instructions and or helpful Forums, (like here! Lol)

    d) will enable me to see at a glance if any alibis are impossible, false, not false enough, aren't where they should be...

    or worse:

    e) will show events that clash, (and that I need to fix)

    Does anyone know of any such software?

    I imagine that such software would be helpful to many writers, not just (like me) whodunit writers trying to work out timelines of events in a story with murders and alibis, but also anything that includes actual historical events, whether that's from ancient Egypt, Henry VIII, Georgians, Edwardians, Victorians, or just plotting around 9/11 or the Brixton riots.

    So surely there must be something decent around that people use?

    Help?
    FranOnTheEdge




  2. #2
    wants moar baddassery.
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    There's an old thread here you can find by typing in "timeline software" in the search field. There was a link on it to make your own timeline in excel, which I thought was pretty nifty.

    Also, have you tried searching google for "timeline freeware"? There were a few promising results, but idk if any would fit your needs.

  3. #3
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSDR View Post
    There's an old thread here you can find by typing in "timeline software" in the search field.
    Aha!

    There was a link on it to make your own timeline in excel, which I thought was pretty nifty.
    Oh... Don't have excel.

    Also, have you tried searching google for "timeline freeware"? There were a few promising results, but idk if any would fit your needs.
    I tried various searches both on google and on http://download.cnet.com/, most of the results I had to wade through were for some sort of coding thing, or cleaning your computer I think, as well as painting software like picasa (how that was relevant to 'timeline' I have no idea!!!) not relevant anyway IMO, and there were an awful lot of the not relevant's to wade through, but I did it, and that's how I found the one 'Timeline Software' which was just too expensive for me.

    But I didn't use that exact "timeline freeware" search term (just didn't think of it, I guess) so I'll try that now...

    Having done so much searching is why I came in here, to try to short cut all the searching I was doing....
    FranOnTheEdge




  4. #4
    wants moar baddassery.
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    Heh, that's why I suggested the phrase "timeline freeware."
    There's one i saw that was "web-based" but I don't know if that means you store all your info on the interwebz or what...

    Anyway, Timeline Studio looks pretty nifty. And it's $16.50 AD. Is that close to your ... shoot, I don't know what the key for that squiggly L thing is. For your 20 something price range?

    ETA: Also looks like it has a Free Trial period and there's a Forums tab on top.
    Last edited by JSDR; 12-10-2011 at 04:47 AM.

  5. #5
    Not a Reader, a Writer BotByte's Avatar
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    Flash card to write scenes, pen to write, table to place everything on.

    I remember why timeline, but I can't remember the dates so I need to organize that.

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    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=229696

    Start with post #29. Some discussion follows.

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=229701

    And there's a discussion here that may be of use.
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    Makes Things Up cameron_chapman's Avatar
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    Have you tried just a plain calendar or agenda/journaling software? You could use something like Google Calendar (which is free), and even have different colored calendars for each different character. Or even a paper agenda or planner and different colored pens for different characters.
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  8. #8
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Writers who never worried about "timeline software", or any other kind of software:

    Charles Dickens
    Fyodor Dostoyevesky
    H.G. Wells
    Ernest Hemingway
    Louisa May Alcott
    William Faulkner
    Carson McCullers
    Mark Twain
    George Eliot
    Jane Austen
    Henry Fielding
    Edith Wharton
    Willa Cather
    Olaf Stapledon
    J.R.R. Tolkien
    Alexandre Dumas
    Graham Greene
    Rex Stout
    Edgar Rice Burroughs
    Zane Grey
    Jack London
    F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Charlotte Brontë
    Edgar Allan Poe
    Dashiell Hammett
    Agatha Christie
    Joseph Conrad
    Ambrose Bierce
    John Steinbeck
    William Shakespeare
    C.S. Lewis
    Jules Verne
    Victor Hugo
    Stephen Crane
    James Fenimore Cooper
    Flannery O'Connor
    Walter Scott
    Arthur Conan Doyle
    Nathaniel Hawthorne
    James M. Cain
    Philip K. Dick
    A.E. Van Vogt
    Theodore Sturgeon
    George Orwell
    Leo Tolstoy
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Jack Kerouac
    Thomas Mann
    Anatole France
    George Eliot
    L.M. Montgomery
    James T. Farrell
    Katherine Anne Porter
    Max Brand
    Clark Ashton Smith
    Raymond Chandler
    John D. MacDonald
    E.F. Benson
    Thomas Wolfe
    Emile Zola
    Ivan Turgenev
    Rabindranath Tagore
    Miguel de Saavedra Cervantes
    José Rizal
    Kobo Abé
    Robert Service
    Anthony Trollope
    H.P. Lovecraft
    Alan Paton
    Richard Wright
    Zora Neale Hurston
    L. Frank Baum
    James Joyce
    Iris Murdoch
    Rudyard Kipling
    Robert Heinlein
    Aldous Huxley
    Arthur Koestler
    Geoffrey Household
    Honoré de Balzac
    Scott O'Dell
    Pearl Buck


    . . . amazing that they got anything done at all, isn't it?

    caw

  9. #9
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSDR View Post
    Heh, that's why I suggested the phrase "timeline freeware."
    There's one i saw that was "web-based" but I don't know if that means you store all your info on the interwebz or what...
    The highest number of events you can input on the web based ones I could find was 9 events – I already have 15 and I've barely started. But it shows how desperate I've become that I even looked at web based, as I hate that idea, I've even seen a facebook one – ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!"!!!!!! NOOOooOOOooOOOOooo!

    Anyway, Timeline Studio looks pretty nifty. And it's $16.50 AD. Is that close to your ... shoot, I don't know what the key for that squiggly L thing is. For your 20 something price range?
    Tried this one, - that's the one I can't afford after the trial – it's £30. I don’t have that.
    Plus I couldn't get it to work properly, there should be text on the menu tabs - mine were blank, I had to guess what each tab was for.
    Plus it insisted on opening with times from 0000 in the morning of the day, I only need from 10.30am, plus it wouldn't let me have any more times after 17.00 hours.
    Times I inputted like 21.00 hours, and 12.30am and 12.15am – all wrote over each other – so you can't read them, and up at 0000, above the 10.30 (in the morning) instead of below the 10.30 time, i.e. in the evening.
    It's a nightmare!

    ETA: Also looks like it has a Free Trial period and there's a Forums tab on top.
    Couldn't find any forums anywhere, trial is 20 days, looks like it'd take a year to conquer this software – it's put me off it big time.

    Quote Originally Posted by BotByte View Post
    Flash card to write scenes, pen to write, table to place everything on.

    I remember why timeline, but I can't remember the dates so I need to organize that.
    Don't understand what "Flash card" is. I've already tried the pen/pencil way, and failed there too. This is what I've got:



    (need to add lots more to the right hand edge, but.... you can see I've got problems with it.)

    Quote Originally Posted by bearilou View Post
    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=229696

    Start with post #29. Some discussion follows.

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=229701

    And there's a discussion here that may be of use.
    Looked there, no. (tried lots and lots, nothing worked) - one came close - a simple web based schools one - but only the times show on the timeline, no texts, so if you could print it - it'd tell you nothing.

    The scrivener software looked most hopeful, but although there is timeline software that someone is developing, called Aeon, and people can download the beta and test it out (thus helping in the development) and it sounded really good, easy to use, people liked it etc etc. I can't use that – cos it's mac only.... I'm PC only.

    The Aeon bloke has talked of a Windows version, but it's not sounding like anytime soon, maybe in a few years... only I need it now.

    Sigh.
    FranOnTheEdge




  10. #10
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cameron_chapman View Post
    Have you tried just a plain calendar or agenda/journaling software? You could use something like Google Calendar (which is free), and even have different colored calendars for each different character. Or even a paper agenda or planner and different colored pens for different characters.
    I don't really need fancy colours for each character, I just need to be able to see it, I have a few problems with joints, so can't write for long periods (pencil/pen/keyboard) - I use Dragon Naturally Speaking and a microphone for long periods of word inputting, so my pencil scrawls are untidy and just at the moment my right wrist is a bit stabby.
    Thus this search.

    What's agenda/journaling software?
    I'll try anything - I'd even try the calender if I knew were to find it, thanks for mentioning it.

    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    Writers who never worried about "timeline software", or any other kind of software:

    Charles Dickens
    ///// (cut to save space)
    ////
    Agatha Christie
    etc


    . . . amazing that they got anything done at all, isn't it?

    caw
    I'm sure that's a great demonstration of your memory for authors, but to me it's really not helping me. I'm sure you're trying to help, but it's actually having the opposite effect and depressing the heck out of me. I really wish I was as clever as any of them.......
    Last edited by FranOnTheEdge; 12-10-2011 at 09:32 AM.
    FranOnTheEdge




  11. #11
    I want a cupcake. Sidney Bristol's Avatar
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    I use OneNote, which comes as part of the Microsoft Office suite. I pair that with the Novel Notebook an author named Lynn Viehl has on her blog. It's a lot like having digital pages.

    Though I haven't tried it, Evernote is supposed to be a free program very similar to OneNote.

  12. #12
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidney Bristol View Post
    I use OneNote, which comes as part of the Microsoft Office suite. I pair that with the Novel Notebook an author named Lynn Viehl has on her blog. It's a lot like having digital pages.

    Though I haven't tried it, Evernote is supposed to be a free program very similar to OneNote.
    OneNote?
    I've got Office 2003, does it come with that?
    I only have Word, Publisher, PowerPoint and an unused Outlook - all 2003 but somewhere the disc may have more, if it comes with 2003.

    Evernote.... I'll search, thanks.
    FranOnTheEdge




  13. #13
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by FranOnTheEdge View Post
    I'm sure that's a great demonstration of your memory for authors, but to me it's really not helping me. I'm sure you're trying to help, but it's actually having the opposite effect and depressing the heck out of me. I really wish I was as clever as any of them.......
    I guess my point is stimulated by my teaching of freshman-level English composition classes as the local university. One of my major assignments every term is a short, formal academic-style research paper, because I feel that the students will benefit by learning how these things are constructed, for possible assignments in later classes. I'm always a trifle dismayed by how hard they work to find computer shortcuts for simple stuff like formatting citations and references, rather than just learning how it's done, which would be much easier.

    When I need to figure out a timeline, I find a yellow legal pad and a remote operating system called a "pen" work just fine.

    caw

  14. #14
    I want a cupcake. Sidney Bristol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    I guess my point is stimulated by my teaching of freshman-level English composition classes as the local university. One of my major assignments every term is a short, formal academic-style research paper, because I feel that the students will benefit by learning how these things are constructed, for possible assignments in later classes. I'm always a trifle dismayed by how hard they work to find computer shortcuts for simple stuff like formatting citations and references, rather than just learning how it's done, which would be much easier.

    When I need to figure out a timeline, I find a yellow legal pad and a remote operating system called a "pen" work just fine.

    caw
    I think there's a great deal lost in that this is a written forum. No one can hear how you're replying, so the points come across as not-quite-constructive.

    When I write, a lot of it is in my head. I don't necessarily need to write or type it out, but the process of writing and then typing it up somewhere that I can reference back to it is a good exercise. It also helps me see where there are holes. There's nothing wrong with looking for a more productive or better crafted tool for the process. There's also no right or wrong way to write a novel.

    Also? Kudos to you for teaching Freshman English! I took my 101 and 102 while I was in high school, because I'm crazy like that. I was rather shocked by the lack of ability to form coherant sentences from my classmates. It's college. One would think it would be a skill already learned!

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    I want a cupcake. Sidney Bristol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FranOnTheEdge View Post
    OneNote?
    I've got Office 2003, does it come with that?
    I only have Word, Publisher, PowerPoint and an unused Outlook - all 2003 but somewhere the disc may have more, if it comes with 2003.

    Evernote.... I'll search, thanks.
    Look up Evernote and see if it's useful. I don't think OneNote is in the 2003 version. I think it was a later creation, much like a digital binder, with tabs and pages.

    Not that you asked, but here's the other links...

    Here's Lynn Viehl's blog => http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/
    She uses the Dragon software as well. She's legally blind, and still writes amazing books. I'm kinda a fan-girl.

    And here's her Freebies page, if you scroll down to the Nonfiction, you can see the link to the Novel Notebook download. It's not a timeline software, but it is a handy tool that she's made available.
    http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/p/freebies.html

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    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FranOnTheEdge View Post
    Hi,
    I'm getting all confused and running out of space on my paper, so I've tried searching for timeline software that writers can use, but only found one possible, and it's too expensive for me.
    A $5 whiteboard and a few pads of multicolored sticky notes are perfect for the job. In place of a file save, I photograph them.

    Old copies of Microsoft Project could be adapted if software is absolutely essential, but it's got a steep learning curve and demands total obedience from its users. Excel is probably a better bet and nearly as easy to use as the whiteboard.
    Dangerous Bill

    'Lessons for a Dominant Woman' - A woman's journey, breaking out of the abused wife trap to enslaving her college professor. Romantic realistic femdom. A prequel to 'Lessons at the Edge' CAUTION: Explicit, 18+
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  17. #17
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidney Bristol View Post
    I think there's a great deal lost in that this is a written forum. No one can hear how you're replying, so the points come across as not-quite-constructive.

    When I write, a lot of it is in my head. I don't necessarily need to write or type it out, but the process of writing and then typing it up somewhere that I can reference back to it is a good exercise. It also helps me see where there are holes. There's nothing wrong with looking for a more productive or better crafted tool for the process. There's also no right or wrong way to write a novel.

    Also? Kudos to you for teaching Freshman English! I took my 101 and 102 while I was in high school, because I'm crazy like that. I was rather shocked by the lack of ability to form coherant sentences from my classmates. It's college. One would think it would be a skill already learned!
    This story used to be in my head - before my car got broken into about 5 years ago, and all my writing (laptop too etc etc,) got nicked, but now I'm trying to continue with it using an earlier incarnation (lucky I found any of it) after 4- 5 years of college and Uni.
    So it's been sometime.
    Not that my head has ever been all that organised! Lol!

    2 reasons why I need to organise the times and alibis - if nothing else.

    Actually when I've got the times sorted out, I also plan to add more to this novel with other story threads weaving in and out of the main detecting thread - there are hints and jumping off points for these in the main text already but no further content in them as yet - I'll need to be able to organise those too.

    I thought a timeline might help - but if there isn't one, there isn't. I'll just have to try sticking more paper onto the end of my notepad....

    I've found the Novel Notebook - looks like a lovely way to procrastinate even further, but I'm going to look into it more tomorrow. Not sure if a virtual notebook page is much better than just dictating into Word: if I can dictate into the Novel Notebook.

    But it looks interesting.

    I've found no journaling software yet...

    (wonders vaguely what on earth a 'yellow legal pad' is... then shrugs and forgets about it)
    Lol

    Correction; found some diary software, will look into it... Not sure about it as it's online only.
    Hmmmm
    FranOnTheEdge




  18. #18
    I want a cupcake. Sidney Bristol's Avatar
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    I'm writing series right now, so the Novel Notebook is essential. Tracking the tiny details from one book to another stretches my brain.

    Quote Originally Posted by FranOnTheEdge View Post
    (wonders vaguely what on earth a 'yellow legal pad' is... then shrugs and forgets about it)
    Lol
    It's a pad of paper, longer than an average sheet of notebook paper. Typically they're yellow, but come in all sorts of colors now. Here's a picture...

    http://www.jiffysupply.com/catalog/y...egal%20pad.jpg

  19. #19
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidney Bristol View Post
    Look up Evernote and see if it's useful. I don't think OneNote is in the 2003 version. I think it was a later creation, much like a digital binder, with tabs and pages.

    Not that you asked, but here's the other links...

    Here's Lynn Viehl's blog => http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/
    She uses the Dragon software as well. She's legally blind, and still writes amazing books. I'm kinda a fan-girl.

    And here's her Freebies page, if you scroll down to the Nonfiction, you can see the link to the Novel Notebook download. It's not a timeline software, but it is a handy tool that she's made available.
    http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/p/freebies.html
    Yes, I already found her page, that's where I downloaded the Novel Notebook from after you mentioned it earlier.

    Found Evernote, gonna watch the vid.
    FranOnTheEdge




  20. #20
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidney Bristol View Post
    I'm writing series right now, so the Novel Notebook is essential. Tracking the tiny details from one book to another stretches my brain.



    It's a pad of paper, longer than an average sheet of notebook paper. Typically they're yellow, but come in all sorts of colors now. Here's a picture...

    http://www.jiffysupply.com/catalog/y...egal%20pad.jpg
    Ah, I see. Looks like a fullscap pad, I don't think you can get those in the UK.

    I'm writing a series too, this is book one I'm attempting to ensure the times/alibis all work for, and I'm halfway through - well... a quarter through - book two.
    I've noticed that one of the victims in book 2 is present here in book 1 - good job I didn't kill him in book 1!

    I definitely need some sort of organiser.
    FranOnTheEdge




  21. #21
    wants moar baddassery.
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    Hmmm... Ok, so you don't have excel. I use the latest version of Word, so idk if you've got what I'm about to suggest, but I think you might.

    There's a button in Word that lets you put in a table (in mine, it's under the "Insert" Tab, and it's a little icon that looks like a table (not the kind you eat on, har har) and labeled "Table"), which is like an excel table. you can change the alignment of the fonts in the cells, merge cells, pretty much do a lot of stuff you could on one excel sheet (well, stuff I use it for anyway).
    And then, you could try that site that tells you how to make a timeline using the excel method.
    I think that could be helpful as a workaround in the meantime?

    A peek at your notebook makes me think that you might be able to have the days and times across the top, with the events beneath it. Merge the cells if the events take place over several hours. And there's tons of room beneath the day/time row for you to add a gazillion events, overlapping, depending on how far you want to scroll down

  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW Sentosa's Avatar
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    Not strictly time line software, but I find yWriter's Story Board feature serves a similar purpose for me.

    I use yWriter for outlining. To date, I've not found anything that better suits my style.

    While I could use it's word processor, I prefer Atlantis which has many features for novelists -- and other writers.

    yWriter is free.
    Sentosa

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW areteus's Avatar
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    Office 2003 should include excel... every version of office has excel with it. It may not appear on your list of programs if you haven't used it, though. Expand the list of programs under Microsoft office on your start menu and see if it is there.

    Personally, I don't use anything to do timelines. I might, if it gets complex, scribble it down on paper but mostly I keep it in my head. Never had any issues with it but then I have had practise at complex timelines for LRP games and prefer a more flexible approach anyway.

  24. #24
    Procrastinating lots, writing a bit FranOnTheEdge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSDR View Post
    Hmmm... Ok, so you don't have excel. I use the latest version of Word, so idk if you've got what I'm about to suggest, but I think you might.

    There's a button in Word that lets you put in a table (in mine, it's under the "Insert" Tab, and it's a little icon that looks like a table (not the kind you eat on, har har) and labeled "Table"), which is like an excel table. you can change the alignment of the fonts in the cells, merge cells, pretty much do a lot of stuff you could on one excel sheet (well, stuff I use it for anyway).
    And then, you could try that site that tells you how to make a timeline using the excel method.
    I think that could be helpful as a workaround in the meantime?

    A peek at your notebook makes me think that you might be able to have the days and times across the top, with the events beneath it. Merge the cells if the events take place over several hours. And there's tons of room beneath the day/time row for you to add a gazillion events, overlapping, depending on how far you want to scroll down



    I've used tables before – I have one now, (see above) made following instructions in The Weekend Novelist Redrafts the Novel – but I don't understand what use it is – yet. I'm hoping the book will explain - soon.
    But that's not for a timeline, I did sort of wonder about using a table and just hoping...

    Quote Originally Posted by Sentosa View Post
    Not strictly time line software, but I find yWriter's Story Board feature serves a similar purpose for me.
    Oh? yWriter has Storyboards eh? That's interesting. I've used Storyboards many times before (when animating) – I like Storyboards. I'm just a bit baffled by yWriter's layout, it's just like nothing I've ever seen before.... would you know if there are any instructions or tuts for it anywhere?
    I hate the thought of free software, not being useable, just because it's so very different...

    I use yWriter for outlining. To date, I've not found anything that better suits my style.

    While I could use it's word processor, I prefer Atlantis which has many features for novelists -- and other writers.

    yWriter is free.
    Oh and Atlantis isn't? I see.

    Quote Originally Posted by areteus View Post
    Office 2003 should include excel... every version of office has excel with it. It may not appear on your list of programs if you haven't used it, though. Expand the list of programs under Microsoft office on your start menu and see if it is there.
    I know you can expand it... and I assure you – it's not there. Even if it was, I remember excel vaguely from courses. I hated trying to figure it out then. I'm not maths orientated, this is also probably why all these times are not something that I'm capable of keeping in my head.

    Personally, I don't use anything to do timelines. I might, if it gets complex, scribble it down on paper but mostly I keep it in my head. Never had any issues with it but then I have had practise at complex timelines for LRP games and prefer a more flexible approach anyway.
    I think that might be one very good reason why I never got into such games...

    Well you are all being very helpful, I appreciate it. It's also fascinating to hear what other people use for these tasks.

    I was about to say I admire those who can use numbers with such facility that they don't need to lay things out, but keep them in their heads.... but it's more like 'terrified by' ... ggg


    I'll try all these things out, it's not wasting time, as I was sort of stuck anyway, and this is editing time, the main story is written. Plus in finding the places where times are mentioned, I've found a few glitches and places where I want to add stuff, so it's not wasted at all...

    I found a tut for yWriter. It looks like it might have the means to sort out my times. I'm just watching the tut now.

    I needed to, as I seem to have pasted scene one into the description of chapter 1 - Lol!
    Last edited by FranOnTheEdge; 12-10-2011 at 08:25 PM. Reason: Adding stuff
    FranOnTheEdge




  25. #25
    I want a cupcake. Sidney Bristol's Avatar
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    yWriter is a good suggestion. It was developed by a writer who wanted to offer it to other writers. Don't be nervous about using it just because it's free!

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