TimeScale Creator Tour

Download Tour and Exercises here.

How to use it:   (a simple step-by-step tutorial, see internal Help documents within the program for more features)

First, if you haven’t already downloaded the program, go to www.tscreator.org/download/download.php and install either the .jar (JAVA for most platforms) or .exe (a wrapped JAVA that avoids some system problems in some Windows versions).  If you have a problem with the program under Windows, then you may need to update the JAVA – see link on the download page of the website.

Tour #1 -- Default settings

(1)  Begin the program by double-clicking on the TS-Creator.jar icon. 
(2)  An opening screen window appears with our main non-commercial sponsors and data-providers, and the internal database is automatically loaded (~40,000 data lines).  Stretch this window to fill your particular screen size, because this will determine the “fit to window” size of the output graphic display.

            [NOTE:  The default screen display is independent of the actual diagram, but you can rescale the image to actual size.  The saved SVG graphics will be scaled according to the scales set by you, and will not be the sizing that you initially see on the screen.  Advanced users can go under the File-menu to append external databases  or replace the default suite– but – we will give examples under the Exercises 2 and 3 below.]

 (3)  Click the “Settings” button.  This opens a new window.
            There are 3 tabs.  Begin with “Choose Time Interval”.  For your first adventure, set the “Top of Interval” as “Thanetian” stage (55.8 Ma at top), and the “Base of Interval” as “Campanian” stage (83.5 Ma at base).  [Notice that you can also designate the Top/Bottom of the interval in millions of years.]

(4) Click “Generate”.  A message about “Rendering” should be displayed.  The initial run takes about 10 to 20 seconds, but later runs are generally quicker.

(5)  VOILA!  The image has the default set of zonations – international divisions of geologic time, magnetic polarity chrons, ammonites zones of Tethyan Realm, major planktonic foraminifer and calcareous nannofossil zones.


This is a sampling of the array of biologic, geochemical, sea-level, magnetic and other information that has been cross-calibrated by a generation of earth scientists.  In the supporting databases (a separate array, with output that is mirrored in this software), the age of all these events are computed according to their observed or statistical occurrence relative to each other, to astronomical-climate cycles and to radiometric-age control.  If one calibration is changed, or an age is updated, then all events that depend upon that calibration will also automatically adjust; therefore, new charts can be quickly produced.  It is not real-time, yet – the relational databases do not directly feed into values within the visualization system – but this will come in the near future.

Tour #2 -- User-selected stratigraphic columns and other options

Now, suppose we wish to plot planktonic foraminifer datums and named global sequences through the late Campanian through mid-Paleogene (75 Ma to 60 Ma).

(1) First, click the Choose Zonations tab of the Settings window.  The available stratigraphic columns are indicated.  For now, we will turn OFF the Ammonite columns.  Open Main Mesozoic-Paleozoic Macrofossil Groups.  Then open Ammonoids.  See the checked blue-box for Tethyan Ammonoids – Click the highlighted box to OFF.
(2) Close the directory of Main Mesozoic-Paleozoic Macrofossil Groups; and Open Standard Chronostratigraphy (top of directory listing).  Click the box ON next to the GSSPs to activate that column.  This will display which stages have international-ratified basal definitions or Global Stratotype Section and Points (“GSSP”).  Close the directory.
(3) Next, open the directory Microfossils.  Turn OFF the Calcareous Nannofossils.  Opern the sub-directory Planktonic and Benthic Foraminifers, then sub-sub-directory Planktonic Foraminifers.  Highlight the name Planktonic Foraminifers, and notice that the main selected sources of data appear in the lower-right box.  Click the boxes ON next to Foram Zone Marker and Other Foram FAD/LAD.  Notice on our original screen display that the column for N,P,Cret Zones was too narrow to adequately display the full zone genera-species names.  Highlight the name N,P,Cret Zones, and notice that a set of options appears on the right panel.  In the middle is “Width”, which has a default of 100.  Change this to 150, followed by a Return to activate that choice.  Turn OFF the P,E,O,M,PL Zones column, which is not significantly different in this interval.

            Notice the sets of options on the right-hand.  You can also change the title of the column that is highlighted (by typing in that window), font sizes, direction of labels, move the column relative to adjacent ones, change background color, and other simple graphics.  Close the Microfossil directory.

(4)  We wish to add major sequences.  Turn ON the directory Sequences, Sea-Level and Stable Isotopes, then open the directory, open the subdirectory Sequences, Sea-Level and Stable Isotopes, then the sub-subdirectory Cenozoic-Mesozoic-Paleozoic.  Click ON Sequences (SEPM Global or Tethyan; Haq and Schutter 2008), which are the major sea-level changes.  To avoid excessive column labels when we are displaying only a single column within a larger suite, highlight the main Sequences, Sea-Level and Stable Isotopes and click OFF the “Show Title” box (middle of the right-hand menu of options).  Then, also turn off the titles for Sequences, Onlap and T-R Cycles, and Cenozoic-Mesozoic-Paleozoic.


(5) Now, we want to select the time interval and enlarge the vertical scale.  Click the “Choose Time Interval” tab at TOP of Menu window.  Click ON the Millions of Years option for the Top of Interval, and enter 60.  Then, click ON the Millions of Years option for the Base of Interval, and enter 75.  Set the underlying vertical scale to be 2 cm per Myr on printed page (rather than the default of 1 cm per myr).
(6) Click Generate.  Depending on your screen size, it will be possible to read the names of the different planktonic foraminifer species that appear or become extinct through this time interval. 


(7) To see this information easier, you can either use the Magnifying or Reducing icons on the upper menu, or use a bit of magic – While continuously pressing down the CONTROL key on the keyboard, hold down the left-button on the Mouse (on Mac; it might be right-button on Windows) and sweep over the region that you wish to display on the screen.  You can use the side-bars on the display to pan over the magnified image.  To return to the full display, either use the Reducing or 1:1 icon as needed, or tap the Generate Chart again.



Tour #3 – Pop-ups, Internet access, and selected display options

(1)  Hot-Mouse
           Now, return to the “Choose Time Interval” menu under Settings.  At the bottom, click ON the Add MouseOver info.  This will activate pop-up windows of additional information.

(2)  Click the Choose Zonations tab, and click OFF the Global Reconstructions column to save screen space.  Under the Sequences, Sea-Level and Stable Isotopes directory, open the sub-sub-directory with the Sequences (SEPM Global or Tethyan).  Highlight the name to bring up options on the Right panel.  Click ON “Show Age Labels” (just below the Width box).  Generate.

(3) Age-Labels:  Notice that all Sequence boundaries now have tiny age-labels next to the displayed names.  Using the Control-mouse-sweep, you can enlarge a portion to One can display such ages for any selected zone or datum columns. 
            Pop-up windows:  Move your Mouse-pointer over Sequence boundary “Ma5”.  As you put the Mouse-pointer over the name “Ma5”, notice a red-dot blinks.  Click directly on the text “Ma5”, and a window will appear with information on the calibration of this sequence boundary. 
            Now, move the Mouse-pointer over the column title “Sequences (SEPM Global or Tethyan)”, and a new pop-up window appears with the source of information.  This “MouseOver” option is currently installed for all Column headers (either major or minor), Sequence boundaries, and many of the Microfossil zones and datums.  Eventually, we will try to provide such background information and hot-links for the other thousands of items.

We will next see how this system acts as a gateway to other data stored around the world in our second exercise and third exercise.

(4) Internet links -- Move your Mouse-pointer over the title “Standard Chronostratigraphy”.  A red-dot blinks.  Click on the title, and another window will appear that says: “[International Commission on Stratigraphy (2006).  Click  GSSP  for official boundary (GSSP) definitions, status and nomenclature.]”  Click on the blue-highlighted “GSSP”.  Your default browser will be activated and Internet site of ICS’s Subcommission for Stratigraphic Information will be opened.  Under its “GSSPs” menu is a table of the definitions of all international divisions of the geologic time scale.


Now, back to the TimeScale Creator display -- click on the GSSP arrow next to the base of the Maastrichtian Stage.  Another window will open, which says “[The base of the Maastrichtian Stage [click GSSP for graphics] is defined … ]“.  When you click on that GSSP, then the Internet sub-site will open with a detailed description and links to location map and outcrop graphics.

(5)  Saving Display Parameters -- If you create a screen display that you like, then under Settings, there are bottom-buttons that enable you to SAVE … a "Settings file" (in our .tsc format) that contains the necessary instructions for TimeScale Creator, or to LOAD … an earlier one to re-generate that same graphic for an audience or for additional revisions.  If you are working on a major diagram, then we suggest using this feature to periodically save intermediate graphics, just in case the operating system has problems.

           Details on the many other capabilities and display options are illustrated under "Features" in the Help menu (main window).  You can also download the full Manual (compiled courtesy of ExxonMobil) from the website.