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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Timeline Maker Professional™: now one can take command of schedules
Many companies have adopted SMART objectives to underpin their strategy and increase their chances for success. The SMART acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time specific. In principle, time is easy to quantify since it is measured in standard units. However, specifying a time frame for an industrial process or the success of an advertising campaign depends on a sequence of actions and can be tricky. One tool to keep objectives on track is the timeline. Many organizations use timelines to depict a variety of processes. In the past they were laid out using paper and pen. That meant a high investment in time and cost to build a single static timeline. When adjustments to the timeline were needed, the process had to be redone-incurring more time and cost.
The computer age brought improvements. Programs like spreadsheets offered the ability to use date formatted cells as the basis for a timeline. The original timeline had to be constructed from scratch but the system was dynamic. Changes were easier and were reflected in the rest of the timeline. Still the process was tedious and not always as dynamic as possible. Other programs like Lotus Organizer, offered a rudimentary planning function but it was too simple for many applications.
Timeline Maker Professional™
Overview. Timeline Maker Professional™ automatically builds and adjusts timelines to meet changing demands. Progeny Software, Inc., the designers of Timeline Maker Professional™, state that no other company offers the comprehensive functionality, the unique tools or the visual appeal of Timeline Maker Professional™ – all in one package.
The program offers the ability to create presentation quality timelines instantly. Progeny states that “if you can use Microsoft® Office products, you can use Timeline Maker Professional.” The company has chosen the familiar look and feel of Office to boost user comfort with the program. One enters event data through an intuitive table interface similar to Microsoft Excel. Alternatively, one might use some simple formatting to import data directly from other applications. Once the data is entered, a single click creates flag charts or bar charts from pre-defined themes. The result is creation of a variety of timelines for printing, sharing or presentation. The program is flexible. One can insert company logos, colors and other visual elements to customize timelines to meet the specific needs of the organization. One can even insert video files at various points on the timeline. In addition, the program can supply a text formatted chronology report to support the visual chart, with just one click.
Printing timelines for distribution is simple. There are many options to print and publish timeline charts and chronologies, including a variety of graphic formats, PDF and HTML. The program has a built-in presentation tool that offers seamless integration with Microsoft PowerPoint. That capability will be valued and welcomed by many marketers.
Timeline Maker Professional boasts a new and exclusive Package for Sharing function. It insures that specific timeline files are always intact for sharing with others or making a presentation on a different computer. Progency understands that providing PDF or HTML format timelines may be helpful. They are also mindful of Adobe’s great success in establishing a publication standard by charging for its Acrobat program but making Adobe Reader free. Its own free “read only” viewer is called, Timeline Maker Viewer. The company states that it is the only free tool that enables any user to view and print a timeline created with either Timeline Maker Professional or Timeline Maker Basic. It allows users to accurately and securely share timelines with anyone, anywhere. This is also the perfect solution for sharing PowerPoint presentations that include Timeline Maker charts.
Applications. Business control processes are the first applications that come to mind. In planning a strategy ranging from launch of a new product or a stage-gate new product development process, timelines are invaluable. However, marketers may find that the communication abilities of a timeline are equally valuable.
For users, entering data in the program is simple. Data entry involves entering an event description like, “Crash Occurred,” a start date and time, and an end date and time. Other events can be entered just as easily. The program has valuable internal documentation and training applications. Timelines containing video elements can track developments of products and processes and impart a great deal of information. For the consumer tracking the progress of a custom home build, a vacation or even kids growing up, the timeline can be wonderful.
Features. Progency provides a laundry list of the program’s features. The company states that using Timeline Maker Professional™ one can:
Start creating your first timeline as soon as you launch the software – it is so easy there is no learning curve.
Create great looking charts quickly – just click on the chart tab and the chart instantly appears.
Easily change the appearance of your chart using the built-in library of themes/styles – another time saving feature!
Customize the chart by creating your own styles, using corporate colors, or by adding a company logo.
Include photos or clip-art to visually tell the story.
Include links to external documents, web sites, audio clips and video clips to supplement the data in the chart.
Color code events and categories for easy visual interpretation.
Add notes to the chart to annotate the timeline or provide comments to the author.
Specify the begin and end dates/times for your timescale, or let the program automatically determine this for you.
Create multiple charts from the same timeline file so you do not need to create separate data files.
Label several data fields to meet your requirements so the information is meaningful to you.
Check for spelling errors using the built-in general, medical, and legal dictionaries.
Save time by importing events from other software applications.
Export your timeline data to a text file for backup or import into other applications.
Print on any paper size, even large format printers – enabling you to meet your needs best.
Publish timeline charts to a common graphic file type (.jpg,.gif,.bmp,.png) to easily share the presentation with others.
Output the timeline charts to PDF or HTML for publication or sharing.
Use the built-in presentation mode to present the timeline chart(s) to a group.
Insert the chart(s) into Microsoft® PowerPoint slides using the new Timeline Maker PowerPoint menu option.
Use the exclusive “Package for Sharing” feature that automatically collects all linked files, attached images, documents, etc. and creates a zipped file to transport or send the complete timeline file with confidence.
Marketing. Progeny Software, Inc. knows how to maximize their promotional dollars. The company’s product web site is remarkably clear and offers easy to run product demos that ran on several different computers with no problems. The demos provide an encyclopedic view of the program and show the ease with which even novice users can create professional looking, well designed timelines that function well. The web site assumes much of the personal selling and marketing burden.
The web site also shows additional evidence of Progeny’s marketing savvy. Knowing that a demo is helpful but no substitute for users playing with the program, the company allows very simple free trial downloads. One can choose the complete professional version or the more limited Timeline Maker Basic. Both offer a free 30-day trial that is rather generous by industry standards. The web site allows easy purchase with a click on a link. After purchasing, users have a 60-day money-back guarantee.
The web site also provides free downloads of the full featured Timeline Maker Viewer program.
Setup. Setup was straightforward and uneventful. We first downloaded the trial version that operated well under Windows XP.
Performance. We asked a new office intern who had no previous experience with the program, including no exposure to the online demo, to create several timelines. We supplied the data; the intern used the program to enter and display the results. Overall the learning curve seemed to be very short and the decision to duplicate the look and feel of Microsoft Office pays dividends in familiarity. In one session, we saw usable professional looking timelines. In later sessions we demanded more sophistication including addition of a logo and some video files. From the experience, marketers should be able to get their staffs up to speed with little or no training.
Support. The official web site quotes the legalese of their support policies. “The following policies apply to registered users of any Timeline Maker product for the duration of the term of their product license. Trial users will also have their questions answered during the trial period, however, priority will be given to registered users.”
Free technical assistance. Progeny supplies an impressive amount of assistance, made possible by the simplicity of the program. There is unlimited free support by e-mail or telephone. If users have any questions or problems with a Timeline Maker product, Customer Service personnel are committed to responding the same business day if possible, next business day at the latest.
Free updates. From time to time Progeny will issue free updates to the Timeline Maker software, always denoted by a minor version number increment, i.e. 2.5 to 2.6. These will usually be made available through the product’s automatic update feature and accompanied by email notification to registered users.
Product upgrades. Major new releases to the Timeline Maker product, denoted by a major version number increment i.e. 2.6 to 3.0, will be made available to registered users at a special discounted price. All registered users will be notified of these special upgrade offers by e-mail and/or postal mail.
60 day guarantee. If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase of a Timeline Maker product, you can request a full refund within 60 days of purchase.
Conclusion. If your organization needs the ability to create timeline from data for internal control or external marketing, Timeline Maker Professional™ is well worth the price.
Price. Progeny Software, Inc. offers several pricing alternatives. The basic purchase quantity is the one user license priced at $195.00. Additional users cost $145.00 each (up to five users). For organizational purchasing, education and government pricing is available.
System requirements. Timeline Maker Professional is a Windows program, designed to work best on a personal computer that meets these minimum system requirements: Windows® 2000, XP or Vista; 833 MHz processor; 256 MB RAM; 23 MB free disk space; high-speed internet connection or CD ROM reader; Adobe Reader 5.0 or later.
Available from: Progeny Software Inc., 360 Main Street, Suite 14, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada B4P 1C3. Phone: 902.542.0665; Fax: 902.542.0562. E-mail: email@example.com
Edited by Dennis A. Pitta University of Baltimore