Wednesday, January 30, 2013

REVIEW: TimelineBuilder by Knowledge Quest, Inc.

TimelineBuilder by Knowledge Quest, Inc. (iPad only, $6.99 at time of review)

General Impression:

I was really excited to see this in the app store- at the time I saw it I wasn't aware of any other timeline making app. I have used it for several projects, and am glad to have it, but am also a bit frustrated by it. I feel the interface of the app is making timeline creation harder than it needs to be, although I do think it will be a helpful tool in classrooms.

For a comparison of several Timeline apps, SEE HERE:

Some features I like:

Photos- I love being able to add photos. This makes all the difference. Once a photo is placed, you can easily drag it away or toward the timeline in either direction, so you can fit all photos on the timeline. Resizing a photo is done by simply tapping the image until it is bordered in red, and then dragging it by the right corner to make it larger. 

Backgrounds- There are nine different backgrounds to pick from, to give the timeline a different feel. I would love a transparent background choice to save ink when printing, and would love to be able to use a photo of our own (with ability to control its opacity) as the background.

Share- Send your finished timeline through email! You can also send a list of events and the pictures as well, or even save the event photos to your Photo Album. I love the email feature, as this means I could print out a timeline easily if I choose. If your timeline is long, it will be separated into more than one image.

Search Wikipedia- this is a neat feature! It will open up Wikipedia and use the title you already entered as the search item. Very handy feature- if you enter the name of a historical figure or event, you can then read up on key events for that person or historical moment in time.

Stored Timelines- you can store saved timelines in the app and refer to them easily through the "Open Timeline" tab.

Hide images- with the press of a button you can hide all images in a timeline. This would be really handy to make an activity out of matching pictures with event dates - I wish I could choose "hide pictures" as an option when sharing a timeline, as I could then print it without the pictures, for a child to fill in.

You can email yourself a copy of your timeline too, along with the details: 


Wish List-
My wish list centers on one main issue, the interface. The settings are very finicky and less intuitive than I would prefer. For example to create a new timeline we have to remember the correct format to enter dates each time. Perhaps each element (month, day, year) could be entered through a picker of some sort, instead of blindly guessing the format. I also want the app to "remember" what was used last time (BCE, BC, AD or CE) and preselect that setting. Also I would like to create a timeline without specifying any of the above- For example a timeline about my life is clearly AD, and I would like to leave that heading off entirely. Also, inexplicably, we have to choose from just stating a year, or stating a month, day and year, but not a month and year by itself (I wanted to create a timeline showing my son was born in December of 2003, without divulging his actual birth date. I settled on putting the year only. When I went to add events within my son's life, I had to make up a date in order to show the month (I don't remember what day in January my son started preschool, so I settled on January 1, 2006, as January 2006 was not an option; for his brother's birth I just put the first day of the month to keep his birthday private.)

For some reason, when I went to enter a photo of my son at Christmas, I could not- the app told me it was outside the range of the current timeline. (The current timeline starts in 2003 and ends in 2012, so I am not sure why December 25, 2012 is not considered within that timeline. To get around this, I had to enter "2012" as the event date.)

One weakness of this app is that it assumes what kind of time units you want to work with. They are all based on years, months, and days- I would like to be able to break it down further and use these timelines to look at different units of time- perhaps I want to show the stages of mitosis? Perhaps I just want to show a student how time has passed for that day in his life, with photos illustrating moments from that one day of his life, to help make the concept of time more concrete.
Although this app is not exactly as flexible as I was hoping for my needs, I think most will still find this app very useful for historical timelines to enrich academic learning.

I do love how easy it is to resize photos, but there should also be a way to choose fonts, colors, and text size for the title, description and each event. I would love to see cropping available as well.

Bottom line, you can make a visually pleasing timeline with this app. This is a good start and one of very few apps for timeline creation that I know of in the app store, so I hope the developer takes heed and makes this app even more user friendly.

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