Time Line and EditGrid

EDIT- What I should have said was check out the SIMILE Time Line project and their Exhibit project on US Presidents. They both show some interesting interactive ways to check out data. If you’re interested in my at least semi-geeky pursuit of an easy way to generate the XML for the timeline read on at your own risk. Real geeks will probably just be annoyed at my ignornace.

My interest in the SIMILE time line project was peaked by this post on TuttleSVC.


It is by far the best time line option I’ve seen.  I encourage you to check it out even if you have no intention of trying to create your own versions.  The Presidential Exhibit example is also awesome and well worth checking out.  It works in google maps and the Time Line feature as well as a variety of optional searches based on lots of data.

  • interactive
  • lower level overview view (I know that sounds awkward) is a good idea
  • you can embed images and links in the pop up windows (like google earth/maps) so the time line can become a pretty effective index for a historical website that helps teach concepts while you navigate


  • difficulty for teachers/students to create their own content
  • css knowledge is needed for more advanced formatting

I played around and made a time line or two and realized very few teachers/students would want mess with formatting the xml data to drive the time line.

I started out seeing if I could create the xml based on a convoluted formula in a googledocs spreadsheet. Feel free to laugh at my attempt here– (although it is worth noting that all the data, other than the name of the President, is retrieved via the googlelookup function). So that didn’t work out too well . . . and I started looking around a little more and found that EditGrid will export to XML (some people were using it to create KMZ files for Google Earth which is neat in and of itself).  The XML is then taken and converted using XSL to the type of XML you’d need for (in this case) the time line.

After all that I haven’t really achieved anything other than becoming frustrated with my own ignorance.  But- I think the idea is sound and has some possibilities.  It’d probably be easier to just write something server side that would transform data entered on web page into the right XML directly but I’m even farther away from figuring out how to do that.

Maybe I’ll figure something out, maybe someone else will and I’ll find out about it.  What’s interesting is that we are getting closer to being able to push data around and view it how it is most useful to us.  Although it is frustrating to be on the cusp, it’s also exciting.

Comments on this post

  1. Ben said on December 21, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Your assessment of the SIMILE timeline project was about the same as mine Tom. It’s a fantastic tool! But it’s in no way ready for “prime time” teacher use. Manipulating XML code, hooking up to the API, and other technical barriers are a bit much for most non-bionic teachers.

  2. Todd said on January 3, 2007 at 12:49 am

    I’ll be using something in Excel for timelines with my students very soon:

    I’ll do a write up about how it worked afterward. And I’ll write a little something about this site, too:

    That’s got some wicked cool stuff.

  3. Tom Woodward said on January 3, 2007 at 10:36 pm


    I love the excel option for timelines. I had done a few attempts at some similar things but nothing nearly as nice. I really appreciate the link.

    I’m going to play around with the template and see if I can’t make it a little more student friendly/indestructable.

  4. Todd said on January 4, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Yeah, I played around with it and managed to do a few things to make it nicer (shrunk a few columns, hid some things, moved the actual timeline to a separate sheet in the workbook, etc.), but part of the Vertex42 guidelines is that you don’t make any modifications available on a network. So I technically can’t post the changes I’ve made to the Web and neither can you. Meh… maybe it’s not so crucial to follow that guideline. I’ll show mine if you show yours.

  5. Todd said on January 4, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Here’s another link I found:

    It’s a bit cumbersome, but once you teach the students how to enter information, this provides a lot of options and plenty of room for expansion/explanation. I’d use the “Description” part of the event detail for students to put in a quotation or page reference. The idea of linking images with events is great, though I wish it would show up in the main timeline (you have to click an event, a little box pops up with extra details about the event, and the image shows up there). The main timeline is just the title of the event and a black box, both of which are links to more details. Once students finish these timelines, they are easy to throw online, available to anyone that wants them.

  6. David Huynh said on January 9, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Tom, we have a way for you to create exhibits from Excel spreadsheets and here is a tutorial:


  7. Jeff said on March 6, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Hi, you got a really great blog. I just came across it today while researching the simile project for a timeline of Argentine history I want to create. I’m adding your site to my feeder since there’s a lot of handy tips here. Thanks.

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