Tables versus Sheets (note-taking in Timelines for Historian

I’m using DTPO2 to write my dissertation. The data is already input and I’m getting started with the note-taking and write-up. For note-taking, I was hoping to create some kind of table or spreadsheet where I can have the date in one column, the source in another and the ‘facts’ in another-- a glorified timeline. I tried to do this by creating a new “Sheet” but it wasn’t a nice view: there was too much info in the ‘facts’ column. I also tried to do this as a Table inside a Rich-Text File. However, doing it this way, I couldn’t sort the events by date-- that is, unless I exported it to MS Word and did it there.

Any suggestions for making time-line type documents where the entries can be sorted by a date column, but the ‘facts’ can be input into a large, easily viewable column alongside it?

Thanks for the help. Happy new year…!

As the late Senator Russell Long said, “There are more ways to kill a cat than by stuffing it with butter.”

You would gain more flexibility, both in creating your notes and in subsequent use of them, by creating a group to hold a collection of notes and then creating a new rich text note for each ‘fact’.

In the view window that displays that group, add sort columns for Modification Date and for Comment. Enter your ‘source’ information in the Comment field of a note’s Info panel. There’s a script at … ripts.html that will let you assign any date as the Modification Date of a note.

Now a view of the contents of that group is a table displaying the Names of your notes and sortable by Name (“Fact”), Modification Date or ‘Source’.

Now suppose you want a ‘timeline’ list of the facts from one source. Easy: Sort by the Comment field. To truly isolate a source, search that group by Comment and replicate the resulting hits to a new group, and sort by Modification Date. To isolate a specific range of dates in the timeline, sort by Modification Date, select the included notes and replicate them to a new group. And so on.

For example, having created a list of notes sorted by date, you can merge them by selecting them (or a sub-range of dates) and choosing Data > Merge. A new document will be created that merges the notes into a single document, in the desired order.

That describes only one approach to organizing research notes in a way to meet objectives. There are other approaches.

For example, I might create a note that is used to list other notes and link to them. That’s the approach I usually take. This can be a very powerful but flexible way to ‘outline’ a project by listing and linking to notes, groups and reference documents. It’s the way I usually start a writing project. In that ‘master’ or TOC note I will summarize the project objectives, identify and link to important references and notes in my database and list and link to notes that will hold the segments of my draft writing.

Thanks Bill,

This really is solid solution-- and certainly not one I would have come up with myself! One question though: if I use your idea of having one master/index note with hyper-links to other substantive notes, is there a quick way to make those links? I find that the usual way of creating new links (right-clicking on the mouse and scrolling to new link, then scrolling through folders to find the link) is quite slow. Is there a way that I can drag-and-drop files into an RTF documents as links? In other words, can I hold down a couple of keyboard buttons and drag a closed file into an open file as a link? Or, can I some how click on a closed file and ‘save as a link’?

Thanks again for your help!

Yes, indeed. Select one or more documents to which you would like to create links. Start dragging, then hold down the Option and Command keys and drop the selected item(s) at the cursor insertion point in your rich text note.

Or, while viewing a document that you would like to establish a link for, choose Edit > Copy Item Link. Then paste that link into your rich text note. If you wish to set up a link to a particular page of a PDF, make sure the sidebar of the PDF is displayed (View > PDF Display > Sidebar). Now Control-click (right click) on the page icon in the sidebar and choose Copy Page Link. Paste the Page Link into your rich text note. When clicked, the PDF will open at the desired page.

Tip: You can open such a link in a new tab if you Command-click on it, or if you Control-click on it and choose ‘Open in New Tab’. That’s useful if you don’t wish to lose your place in the note you are viewing. I often open my TOC note in its own window and create a set of tabs from the links while I’m working on a project. Although (currently) a tab set isn’t retained when the document is closed, it’s easy to recreate the set next time the document is opened, by rapidly Command-clicking on the desired links.

Fantastic! I had no idea about all the options for ‘links’. I suppose I should have a read through the manual at some point. Thanks again for taking the time to help!

Just one tip, I"ve discovered: Using this method, you may want to change the “Creation date” as opposed to “Modification Date” as the latter will change each time you alter the note. Somehow the Script that Bill mentioned seems to change whatever dateview is open-- so just have the Creation dat showing.

Hi Bill,
Two more questions, related to organizing the timeline as you suggest:

  1. Is there a way to select multiple files and apply meta-data, specifically “comments”, to all of them at once?
  2. If I wanted to apply another category to the data–so that I was organizing the entries in terms of time, source and region–is there another field that I could enter that into? is there an option to have comment1,comment2, etc.?

Thanks again for your help.

Another question for you:

I’ve created a smart-folder to locate everything that has, e.g., “Christmas” in it. Now, I’m going through those documents and entering them into a timeline, in the way you suggested. How would you suggest MARKING the documents which I’ve already processed/entered into the timeline so that I know which ones I’ve done and which I haven’t (esp b/c the smart folder continues to pick up new documents as i enter them, so working down through the list isn’t an option)? The potential complication is that many of the files have many different kinds of information-- information that I may want to enter into other timelines and have pop-up in other smart-folder searches. Thus, one document maybe used in many different chapters of the dissertation. (So, the ‘exclude from search’ button wouldn’t be good.) Moreover,for any button/label/classifying function that I do use, I would want to be able to Select ALL files and undo all buttons w/ one command once the timeline was complete.

What do you suggest? Thanks again…again.

If the same document may be relevant to multiple timelines, you probably need to do a bit more thinking and planning — although I suspect you can come up with workable solutions.

You might consider duplicating documents that have multiple timeline dates, although that doesn’t seem terribly attractive to me. Remember that, if you change the creation or modification date of a replicant, you change all instances of that document.

You might use tags to designate timelines; that may have potential. Any document can have as many tags as you wish.

I have no idea how many documents you may have, or what you mean by a ‘timeline’ date (is it a specific YYYYMMDD date, or a historical period such as 13th century, or some other reference such as Bronze Age, or even combinations?).

I would avoid getting into a system that involved enormous drudgery in exhaustively tagging or marking thousands of documents, as you could spend endless hours on the mechanics without getting more productive work done. Unless, of course, the project is to exhaustively catalog and organize a collection of references — which is the kind of project I personally avoid. :slight_smile:

I would look into the possibility that, instead of organizing each and every document in multiple ways, I could create rich text notes to accomplish similar objectives for some important concepts. For example, I can, on the fly, Option-Command-drag into a rich text note multiple items from a search list or smart group. I might be interested in only a representative set of items for such a list, not the entire list. In that note I’ve collected some important references as clickable links. If you’ve used the trick of modifying creation dates, you can run a sort in a search list by creation date and select any desired range of dates, for example. Remember that, for a major reference document you might create several notes with different topics and/or timelines.

Your question about marking items in a smart group in some way so that you can identify new content that hasn’t been tagged or marked in some way gets tricky, especially if you are using a mark like a Label color, and some of the content in one smart group is going to be present in multiple smart groups or search result lists (I tend to use a Label as a temporary mark and erase such marks when an action has been done). One thing to think about is making a note of the ‘Date Added’ when you last worked on the content of a smart group, as that will help you immediately identify and sort by that property so as to work on newly added content.

Yet another question for you that arises using a version of this technique:

Is there away to click on links in an RTF document so that the linked document will appear in another window rather than in another tab? (That seems to the be the only option, as far as I can tell.)

Thanks (yet) again…

Have you seen the excellent Simile JavaScript timeline widget created at MIT - the URL is here…
also see … index.html

It can run from your hard drive. I bet it could be embedded in a local DT web page. The only drawback is that it stores data in JSON and there are few GUIfied tools to work with JSON. But that would not be too big of a problem because JSON is fairly simple.

Any update on whether one can export from DTPRO to simile or vice versa?

Would be great to have a script to do this. Something that could intelligently sift dates from documents and translate into a timeline would be wonderful :slight_smile:

For now, I’m using Beesdoc Timeline 3D v3: nice presentation, but am struggling to get it to integrate with DTPRO or Personalbrain, for example