Timeline World War 2

The future of history for iPad, presented by Dan Snow and Robert MacNeil.

The challenge

Award-winning documentary maker Ballista Media approached us with a truly ambitious aim – to reinvent the communication of history for iPad. Working with TV historian Dan Snow, and veteran news presenter Robert MacNeil, our aim was to tell the story of the Second World War like never before.

The approach

At the heart of our app is a day-by-day timeline, showing an overview of every significant event in the war. This timeline can be zoomed to show more detail, or reduced to show just the key events. Further events are visible in the background, and the entire timeline can be filtered to show specific people, battles, ships, operations and locations.

Each event can be viewed in more detail as a full-length document, with photo attachments to help visualise the story. (To make these documents feel as real as possible, we tracked down a working typewriter from the 1930s, and created our own custom font.)

We also created a custom video player, to stream over 100 newsreel videos from British Pathé and Universal News straight into the app, or direct to your TV via AirPlay. Many of these videos have additional commentary tracks to provide further historical context.

We were keen to give a sense of the geography of the war, and in particular to show how fronts and allegiances ebbed and flowed. No such map existed, and so we made one from scratch, writing a custom map generation tool to create a beautiful, 1940s-styled paper map that changes over time. Any event from the war can be pinpointed on the map, and the map can be navigated as an animated timeline. You can even switch between European and Pacific-centred views of the world – one of the best ways to understand why Pearl Harbor was such a key turning point in the war.

The focus of the war's story varies around the world, and so we created content tools to enable Ballista to tailor the app's content for different audiences. In the US, the app is fronted by veteran PBS news presenter Robert MacNeil, with a greater focus on the US involvement in the war. Elsewhere in the world, the app is presented by British TV historian Dan Snow, providing an international story. And the entire timeline can be searched to show events involving your particular nationality – a sign of just how much the war affected the entire world.

Add an On This Day feature, highlighting today's events from the war, and you have Timeline World War 2 – the future of history for iPad.

Timeline World War 2 is available on the iTunes Store from Ballista Media, priced at £9.99.


  • A stunning zoomable timeline of the entire war, filterable to show key personalities, battles, locations and more
  • Over 100 contemporary British Pathe newsreel videos, many with an additional commentary by Dan Snow and Robert MacNeil
  • A detailed day-by-day view of the war, showing the full detail and location for every key event
  • A dynamic map of the war, showing invasions, occupations, allegiances, fronts and country boundary changes – the only such timeline map anywhere in the world
  • On This Day feature, showing topical events from this day in history
  • Full support for Apple's AirPlay, to play historical videos on your home or school TV
  • Hi-res assets used throughout the app, to support the new iPad's retina display

The results

The app received excellent reviews and won a Bronze Award in the Education & Reference category at the 2012 Lovie Awards.

Media pack

Download the media pack, containing hi-res screenshots, artwork and icon images for the app.