Text based plotting interface needed rather than UI
I love the visualisation of the timeline but constructing it with a UI is very cumbersome. I would suggest that a markdown based text interface would be faster for most writers even if it is just to create/maintain the character, location, objects and events.
Then you can use the timeline UI to create the timeline - perhaps have a text version of it as well. Another option would be to allow a google spreadsheet to be used.
This sounds like an interesting idea! I'm curious as to what such a text interface would look like, did you have anything in particular in mind?
Import and export features are on the roadmap, so it's not unlikely that spreadsheets will be supported at some point :)
Markdown is both very limited, as well as commonly extended. MultiMarkdown, for instance, is a common Markdown extension. To me, it is more important that it is plain-text and supported for import and export than for it to be strictly Markdown.
I've never, ever dealt with an outline as a CSV or spreadsheet file. Spreadsheets hard to manage without dedicated software. I'd be down for a JSON import/export functionality before a spreadsheet.
How about this (pure Markdown with unordered lists and blockquotes):
* Part 1. Unseen doom > The summary of this part. + Chapter 1. Greetings, hero! > This is the summary of the first chapter. > It's really long, but this is still the first paragraph. - Scene 1. Ouch, that hurt. > The hero is hit over the head with an outline. > Another paragraph of the scene 1 synopsis. + Chapter 2.
The DaringFireball Markdown supports
-as unordered list indicators. (Though MultiMarkdown might not?) It's nice to support all three of these because it allows for visual flavor for the list level, particularly as such indicators may be helpful when folks have deep outlines without summaries and want to reduce the whitespace between list-items.
Using the explicit
>for the synopsis prevents folks from confusing a wrapped outline entry with the synopsis line.
I know there's other metadata, but that can be supported with MultiMarkdown's "Metadata variables" and "Definition list" support, depending on whether it is mostly invisible or mostly visible data.
Markdown is an amazing markup language and we have some plans for it. At the moment you can export all your texts as markdown, but not outlines or timelines. Your idea for exporting outlines is quite good, and we might implement that soon.
Timelines will be a bit more difficult, although it could be expressed in the same way: top level will be the key, second level will be a block and the third level will be an event. We don't know how useful this would be, but we'll be running some tests.
In terms of future plans for Markdown, we were considering using their syntax as the syntax for our editor. You would be able to type things like *italic*, **bold** and other syntax (instead of selecting and clicking on the toolbar) and it will be converted to the appropriate style. That, together with some shortcuts for structure, would make writing really smooth and quick, with little if any need to take your hands off the keyboard.