Upgrading Version 2 files

Aeon Timeline 3 supports many new features and data models, most of which are preconfigured in brand new templates for users starting new projects. It also uses a new file format to support these features, that delivers a faster user experience.

For both of these reasons, files from version 2 need to be upgraded the first time they are opened in version 3. Fortunately, an Upgrade Wizard will guide you through the changes you should be aware of and any decisions you need to make throughout the upgrade process.

This article walks you through the upgrade process.

Opening Version 2 files

Version 2 files can be recognised by their file extension, .aeonzip. You can open a version 2 file by clicking the Open button on the Welcome Screen, and then locating the file in the Open Dialog:

Upgrade Wizard

When you select a version 2 file to open, the Upgrade Wizard will appear to walk you through the process of upgrading to the new file.

Template Selection

Aeon Timeline 3 introduces many new features, including the ability to track an independent narrative of events, new event types and relationships between items

Aeon Timeline 3 templates are preconfigured to take advantage of these changes, by defining:

  • Multiple new event types, such as Flashbacks and Backstory in Fiction templates, or Epics, Stories and Tasks in Agile Project Management
  • New relationships between existing entity types, such as relationships between people (friend, family) and places (birthplaces)
  • New item hierarchies, such as nesting locations within other locations (e.g. cities can sit inside countries)

In order to make it as easy as possible to access these new features in your existing version 2 file (without needing to dive into Advanced Settings panels and recreate these templates from scratch), the Upgrade Wizard asks you to select an existing Version 3 template as the basis for your updated file:

Importantly, you do not need to select a template that is an exact match for your existing data...  just select a template that you feel would be most relevant. As noted in the template wizard screen, no changes will be made to your file at this stage. Your selection is just used to help the wizard suggest new feature settings you may wish to enable, as described below.

Also note that when upgrading from Version 2 to Version 3 leap years will be auto-updated for Gregorian calendars.

Enable the Narrative

The first decision you need to make is whether or not you wish to keep track of an independent narrative order within your timeline.

As a general guideline:

  • You should enable this feature if you may want to plan a way to present this data to an audience, such as:
    • Planning the scenes or structure for a novel
    • Planning how to structure your arguments in a legal case
    • Planning a presentation or lecture from your material, where you will not be presenting all of the material
  • You must enable this feature if you want to sync your project with Scrivener or Ulysses, since the syncing process now works through Ulysses

Turning this feature on also enables the Narrative and Outline Views.

If you choose not to turn this feature on, you can turn it on at a later time via Timeline Settings.

Enable new event types and relationships

Aeon Timeline 3 provides more flexibility in how you create your data, offering greater richness through allowing multiple different types of events, and new relationships that were not previously possible (such as relationships between two entities, and relationships between two events).

The next screen asks you whether you wish to enable those new features within your timeline:

The exact item and relationship types available will depend on the template chosen at the beginning of the Upgrade Wizard.

If you choose to enable these new types, they will be intelligently merged into your existing template settings from your version 2 file. If you choose not to enable these new types, you will be able to turn them on later in Timeline Settings.

New Feature: Dependencies and Constraints 

In Aeon Timeline 3 you can create constraints in two different ways, as opposed to the singular option in Aeon Timeline 2. If your Aeon Timeline 2 file includes constraints, you can choose whether they will appear as dependencies or constraints in your Aeon Timeline 3 file. 

If you choose 'Date Constraints' Version 2 constraints will appear in Version 3 as items that are linked together with a fixed, optional amount of time between them. 

If you choose 'Dependencies' then Version 2 constraints appear in Version 3 as items ordered in relation to each other but not locked to specific dates. 

Syncing Information

The next panel provides some information about how Scrivener and Ulysses syncing has changed between version 2 and version 3. If your version 2 file contained syncing information, you will see the following panel informing you that your syncing information had been updated to the new format:

If your version 2 file does not contain syncing information, you will see a variant of this panel that omits the "your existing sync settings will be imported" message.

There is no decision that needs to be made for this panel, so you can click Next when you are ready.

Confirmation Screen

The last screen in the Upgrade Wizard gives you one last chance to confirm your choices. Hit the Create button to create your upgraded file.

Getting Started Suggestions

When your upgraded timeline opens, you will see a number of Suggestions listed in the Notifications panel on the right side of the screen:

These suggestions are provided to help you learn about the new features of Aeon Timeline 3. As you complete one set of suggestions, the application will make further suggestions as you progress through your project.

Saving the upgraded file

To protect against data loss, the upgraded file will not save directly on top of your existing version 2 file. Instead, as soon as you are happy with the upgraded file, you should save the file manually by accessing the Save option in the File menu, or by hitting Cmd-S (Mac) or Ctrl-S (Windows).

You will then be asked to enter a new name for the file, and select a new save location.Your updated file will be saved with a different file extension,  .aeon, which will help you recognise the upgraded file in future.

Why the new file format?

Those who have used Aeon Timeline for a while will know this isn't the first time we have changed file formats and file extensions. This has mostly come about as new features are introduced that could not be supported under the old format, such as when we added images and attachments to support iOS.

With Aeon Timeline 3, we changed the file format for technical reasons due to performance issues observed with large files/many attachments using the old file format. The old format stored attachments in a zip, which seemed like a good idea at the time as, at a pinch, a user would be able to access all of their attachments. Unfortunately, the zip process proved to be quite slow with lots of images and attachments, as it needed to recompress every attachment every time the auto-save kicked in.

So for version 3 onwards, after researching many alternative existing archive formats and realising none of them were quite up to the task, we created our own custom archive format to overcome those limitations. This new file format leads to significantly faster reading and writing (especially during auto-saving), and structures the data in a way that is very bandwidth-friendly when pushing changes to cloud storage services such as iCloud and Dropbox.

Overall, it is a much better format for us going forward, and has enough flexibility built in to keep up with any feature updates we introduce in the future. Unfortunately, it means we are moving to another file extension one last time.

Why the new file extension?

Each time we have modified the file format in some way, we have debated whether to simply upgrade the file format but keep the same file extension, or whether to move to a new file extension at the same time. 

As frustrating as it is to change the extension, each time we have decided that it is the best approach, mainly because:

  • It provides complete clarity to users about which version a particular file is
  • It ensures there are no backwards compatibility issues, where older versions of the application may crash when attempting to open unrecognised new file formats
  • It makes it much harder for the user to overwrite old data when upgrading, so that their earlier file will remain intact should they wish to revert to the previous app version for some reason