How to make a timeline easily

Updated on 25 September 2020

How to make a timeline

Are you in search of a project management software application that can render a Gantt chart, roadmap or timeline within minutes? Do you need to create a work breakdown schedule for your next venture that will positively ‘wow’ your execs and stakeholders, but haven’t honed your design skills yet? Have you already tried several PM tools that are just too complex and require you to start from scratch every single time? For those of you who recognize themselves in any of the descriptions above, we might have the solution to your challenges.

Read on to find out how Office Timeline can save project management professionals hours of their time while also generating visually impressive, top-notch roadmaps, swimlane diagrams and Gantt charts, even if they don’t have a degree in fine arts. But first, let’s try to answer this pressing question:

Do you REALLY need a dedicated timeline maker?

In all fairness, multi-functional project management applications that you can utilize as timeline makers already exist, right? Even Excel, Word and Microsoft Project include this feature! However, what you might find is that the process of creating a roadmap or a swimlane diagram this way is anything but easy.

For instance, if you want to learn more about how to make a timeline in Excel, or how to employ other traditional office apps for this purpose, then check out the links below or go to the Make timelines with your usual office tools page.

You’ll notice right off the bat that software applications not specifically designed for generating project visuals tend to lack templatization, feel clunky or unintuitive, and are anything but convenient. Time is a precious commodity and you just can’t afford to spend hours fiddling with the fonts or color scheme of a graphic that’ll probably be used as a one-off. Nonetheless, without the panache of attractive project visuals that allow your audience to make sense of the data, the meeting will quickly turn into another uninspiring snooze-fest.

To sum this up, the downsides of relying on generic project management software for your Gantt chart, roadmap and timeline needs are:

  • They feature limited or non-existing templates
  • They generally come with a steep learning curve
  • The process ends up being highly time consuming

Therefore, a dedicated Gantt chart and timeline maker like Office Timeline can be a project manager’s best friend and ace in the hole.

Why Office Timeline?

User experience played a major role in the development of this Gantt chart and timeline maker from its inception. Office Timeline was conceived as a PowerPoint add-in not just for the convenience of creating and presenting the project visuals using the same basic software. It also leverages the familiar controls and interface of the popular Microsoft Office suite app that’s been around for decades.

Moreover, it supports importing from external data sources often used in project management like Excel, MS Project, Smartsheet or Wrike, for extra flexibility. Finally, thanks to its wide array of fully customizable templates, the design work you’ve put in once can be adapted and repurposed easily.

But don’t just take our word for it

We talked about the advantages Office Timeline can bring to the table, but let’s actually see how it works and if it can rise to the occasion, shall we? Next, we’ll show you how to create a timeline from scratch in 5 easy steps using the Pro Edition of the add-in, so you can judge for yourself if this is the right timeline maker for you.

Note: Once installed, Office Timeline will show up on the PowerPoint ribbon tab and from there you can access the controls that make the magic happen.

Office Timeline menu

  1. Create new timeline
  2. From the ribbon tab, click the New button to get started and navigate to the Styles and Templates page.

    Office Timeline Create New button

    Note: If you already have your project data stored in a compatible external application, you can use the Import button instead of New.

  3. Pick a template
  4. From here, find a style or a template that matches your current category of project or follow your heart and go for the one that first catches your eye. You’ll be able to tailor it as you see fit anyhow in just a few moments. Once you’ve made up your mind, simply hit the Use Template button. For this guide, we chose a swimlane diagram template.

    Office Timeline styles and templates

  5. Set dates and duration for your tasks and milestones
  6. In the Data view, enter the key project milestones and tasks, then set their dates and durations. Once you pick a template, the list will be automatically populated with default values, so you can either remove and add your own, or edit them to match your project’s data. Notice that, because we’ve opted for swimlane diagram template, the milestones are already placed in individual lanes. You can also change the task or milestone design and color at this stage, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hit the green Create button in the bottom right corner when you’re done.

    Office Timeline Data view

  7. Arrange the elements on your timeline
  8. Alright, you’ve got the ball rolling and a rough version of your timeline is on your PowerPoint slide, but it’s time to reorder and rearrange the items. Enter the Edit Timeline view and check out how easily you can move the elements with drag & drop style controls. You can also resize the timeband, swimlane headers and make more space on your slide.

    Office Timeline Edit Timeline view

  9. Style to perfection
  10. Still not happy with the size, shape or colors of the timeline elements? No worries, that’s what the Style Pane is for! Click on any item of the timeline and a menu with all the customization options will pop open on the right side of the PowerPoint window. Edits you make here take effect instantly on your graph and the menu changes according to the element you’ve selected.

    Office Timeline Style Pane

That’s it! Start with a template, add your data and style to perfection using intuitive drag & drop controls, and you’ve got yourself a timeline that would’ve taken hours of work otherwise.

Office Timeline project visual

Did we mention that you can also easily save it as a custom template and reuse it on your next projects? If you get stuck, you can always visit our video tutorials page where we cover all the important operations in more detail.

We believe that the best way to determine if a tool is right for you is to try it out, so we’re offering Office Timeline as a free version for download as well. Give it a go or check out the Pro Edition instead for a no-holds-barred experience and see for yourself just how much time you can save thanks to this intuitive add-on.

For those who want to benefit from the flexibility of the web and the familiarity of PowerPoint when creating important timelines, Office Timeline offers an online solution as well. Use our cloud-based timeline maker to quickly build and share beautiful PowerPoint slides right in your browser.

Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning timelines, roadmaps and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Pro free for 14 days.


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