Upgrading a Fiction Project

If you have been using Aeon Timeline 2 to sync your timeline with your Scrivener or Ulysses project, this article will help you upgrade your project to Aeon Timeline 3 and make the most of the new features on offer.

Syncing works a little differently in Version 3:

  • Syncing has become more automated, with your Draft or Manuscript contents synced directly with the new Narrative feature in your timeline
  • New sync settings options allow for a tighter integration between your projects
  • Aeon Timeline will continuously watch for changes to your writing project and let you know when something needs syncing

To take advantage of these new features and minimise the risk of future conflicts, it is a good idea to sync your timeline and writing project immediately after upgrading your timeline file.

This article will guide you through this process, and help you acclimatise to other changes in Version 3 in the process.


  1. Upgrading your timeline file
  2. Prepare your Scrivener or Ulysses project
  3. Sync your writing project
  4. View imported content in Narrative View
  5. Explore the changes in Aeon Timeline 3
  6. And beyond: write, edit, and iterate

Step 1: Upgrading your timeline file

To get started, open your version 2 file in Aeon Timeline 3.

An upgrade wizard will take you through the process of updating your project to the new version:

  1. To help us setup new features suited to your existing project, you will be asked to choose a template to use when upgrading.
  2. Pick one of the fiction templates that sounds most related to your work.
  3. Don't panic: this won't affect your existing data
  4. Make sure you leave Enable Narrative ticked. This will be needed to sync your project.
  5. If your project has previously synced with more than one Scrivener or Ulysses project, you will need to choose a single project in Version 3
  6. Due to other improvements to help streamline and automate the syncing process, you can no longer sync with multiple writing projects.
  7. Save your project once you have completed the upgrade wizard
  8. You will be prompted to save your timeline to a new location (with a new file extension).
  9. Your version 2 file will be unaffected, so you can restart the upgrade process, or roll back to version 2 if you wish

Follow the bouncing ball

The path suggested in this article also happens to be the same path as is suggested in our in-built tutorial system, so the easiest way to get going is to start the tutorial and work through the steps.

The tutorial will teach you how to use parts of the interface, but it is also designed to help you complete actual work. You will get best results if you take your time with each step, enter real data and plan your actual project as you work.

Step 2: Prepare your Scrivener or Ulysses project

As Aeon Timeline automates more of the syncing process, there are a few extra things you might need to do to your writing project to ensure it is ready for syncing.

We have included a handy guide to preparing your writing project for syncing in our knowledge base, so we won't repeat it here.

But follow those steps to ensure your project contents will be recognisable when it is pulled into your timeline.

Step 3: Sync your writing project

Once your project is prepared, start the syncing process:

  1. In Aeon Timeline, click on the sync icon in the Sidebar to view the contents of your writing project in the Sync Panel.
  2. A green + icon indicates new documents or folders that will be imported into your timeline's narrative
  3. An orange → icon indicates previously synced events that already exist but will be moved into your narrative
  4. A red warning icon indicates any conflicts resulting from unsynced changes in your version 2 file
  5. If there are any items with a green + that should not be synced (for example, front matter documents such as a Title Page), select them and tell Aeon Timeline to ignore them in the Inspector on the right side of the window.
  6. Once you are happy, hit the Sync Now button. This will create new items and folders in your writing project that match the structure of your writing project.

Step 4: View imported content in Narrative View

Once you have synced, switch to Narrative View to see the content you have just imported.

Your timeline tracks events in two different ways:

  1. A chronological order, which sorts events according to their order of occurrence in the real-world;
  2. A narrative order, which represents the order (and structure) in which they are presented in your story.

This independent narrative lets you:

  • Omit backstory items that exist in your story world and on your timeline, but are not directly part of your story
  • Include exposition passages (internal thoughts and monologues etc.) that do not belong in your timeline or chronological order at all
  • Order events differently to incorporate flashbacks or non-linear storytelling
  • Organise events into a different hierarchical structure, based on Parts and Chapters that match your story presentation

Step 5: Explore the changes in Aeon Timeline 3

The in-built tutorial will introduce you to some of the key changes in version 3, including:

  • Where to find characters, locations and other entities in version 3
  • New alternatives to group by functionality in version 3 (plus where to find the old functionality)
  • An introduction to some new views, and further improvements to user interfaces

Spreadsheet View

If you open Spreadsheet View, you will see that this has both the events brought across from Version 2, but also any new events (but not folders) included in your narrative:

  • By default, folders in your Scrivener or Ulysses project convert to Narrative Folder types in your timeline, which are present in your narrative but nowhere else
  • In contrast, documents are converted to events, which are assumed to represent real-world occurrences, and so are included in your chronological order

If you see any items in your Spreadsheet View that do not belong in the chronological order (e.g. dream sequences, or passages of exposition, description, internal thought, etc.), select them and change their Item Type to Exposition in the inspector, as Exposition items are another narrative-only feature.

Chronological Order

Initially, your Spreadsheet will show events in the same order as your narrative. However, if any items are out of sequence (e.g. flashbacks, or non-linear or parallel story elements), you can drag them into a different order on the Spreadsheet without affecting their position in your narrative.

Similarly, if you add a new event into your Spreadsheet, it will not be added to your Narrative automatically. This allows you to add story world elements such as character back stories without affecting your written document.

If you add an element to your Spreadsheet and subsequently want to include it in your narrative, you can use split your workspace and drag and drop the element into your narrative.

Adding Dates

Unlike version 2, events can be added to version 3 without specifying start and end dates. You can add dates when you are ready by typing them into the Spreadsheet or the Item Inspector, or by splitting your workspace and dragging events into the timeline.

And beyond: write, edit, and iterate

From here, it is all about iteration: as you flesh out your timeline – adding characters and relationships, setting dates, identifying plot holes, or nutting out the next few scenes – you can make those changes in your timeline, sync them back to your writing project, and continue to edit or write your draft.

The most important advice at this stage is to sync things regularly: if you want to spend a week with your head down writing prose, that is fine, but make sure you sync your data every time you switch between apps. That way, both your timeline and your writing project will stay up to date, and you will be able to enjoy the strengths  that each app brings.

There are more tricks to Aeon Timeline that might help down the track, but only use them when you are ready, and there is something specific you want to achieve.

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