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Simile Timeline

by Rob Friesel

2007 Garden TimelineMentioned in passing the other day, Simile Timeline is a neat little API for building rich timeline visualizations with annotations.

Though the documentation is a bit thin at the moment, the core code is not too difficult to figure out1 and if you start with a straightforward example (like this one) then you can get a quick-and-dirty one going in about as much time as it takes you to write out the XML.

Considering that the community garden shut down for the season yesterday, I decided to experiment with the Simile Timeline API by building out one for our 2007 garden foray. Again, getting the initial events into the XML data file is super-easy (if a bit tedious); tweaking the JavaScript to get your timeline looking the way you want? That takes a bit longer… Most of the main variables (e.g., the height/width of the timeline) are well-enough exposed that a novice would be able to get it right with a few guesses. Customizing the theme and “zooming in” on sensitive “hot zones” however, that takes a bit more experimentation. That said, considering what I was able to accomplish in an afternoon (between loads of laundry), I must admit to being impressed with its relative simplicity — Simile Timeline is certainly an elegant solution for these kind of visualizations. Poking around on their site a bit, it seems I’ve just barely scratched the surface of its sophistication.

  1. Translation: “Don’t look for comments but be grateful that the variables have Plain English names.” []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night; weekend homebrewer. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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