Timeline Templates for Teachers

I got an email from an industrious kid.  He was a high school student preparing a history project (building a historical timeline) and he wrote to us asking if we would give him and his classmates the premium edition of our timeline maker software.  Good for him.  He said they were struggling to build timeline templates because his school’s Gantt chart tool was “complicated and ugly.”  I wrote to him and he responded that they needed something that was more graphical, template driven, easier to use and something that could be presented in a simple way.  It got me thinking of the value of timeline makers and timeline templates as education tools.Timeline Template History

I was interested because I had just recently done bit of family history homework on a timeline.  My family seems to have moved around over the past couple centuries, and there were some diligent family historians recording this along the way.  So I had a pretty good log of when and where my ancestors were.  I turned this information into a timeline and found it to be a really cool visual tool for understanding my origins.  Plotting my ancestor’s history in timeline maker had me simultaneously thinking about the events and circumstances of their day.  So then I plotted the significant historical events of the time on top of my family’s timeline template, and that was very educational.

Correlating the major historical events with my ancestor’s timeline made learning history personal.  I spent time researching each event as I was entering it into the timeline maker.  The tool rendered all of this into a beautiful, visual PowerPoint slide, which I shared with my siblings, cousins and parents.  They loved it because it was very visual, therefore easy for them to consume and digest.  I think the high school kid got this (smart kid) and that is why he wanted our timeline maker.

Since my experience of learning was richer with a graphical timeline maker, I assumed I would see plenty of educators in our database.   I ran some queries to check this and can confirm there has been considerable use of Office Timeline by educators, academics and historians.  Much like my experience and the high school kid’s, these folks also understand that engaging their audiences in a visual way creates a more effective learning environment. (Side note: We get frequent comments on the historical date feature in our timeline maker – see the Building Historical Timelines post).

There also has been significant usage by students.  I corresponded with a few of them and it turns out they are using it to make timeline templates across every subject imaginable.  For example political science timelines, historical timelines, science project timelines, one on the history of manuscripts, one on reducing lighting consumption of a corridor, financial forecasting timelines, and even a timeline template that plotted the important milestones of a multi-national corporation.

The net is that graphical timeline slides can be an interesting way to supplement learning and a timeline maker or timeline templates can be powerful teaching tools.

Office Timeline is a free timeline maker add-in for PowerPoint.

Once installed, students and teachers use intuitive wizards to easily create timelines or curriculum plans in a few simple steps.  First select the type of timeline style or template you want to build.

PowerPoint template tool from timeline maker Office Timline

Next enter data, make a few style choices on shapes and colors and then click the Green Check button when done.  Your timeline is instantly built in PowerPoint and it can be shared with and edited by any PowerPoint user or pasted as a image in documents, on websites or other materials.  Also your timeline can easily be changed, updated, or edited automatically at any time.

Free PowerPoint add-in for teaching history and curriculum planning

The short video below shows how it works and you can download Office Timeline Free edition from www.OfficeTimeline.com

Building Historical Timelines

To build a historical timeline slide in PowerPoint with Office Timeline Free or Plus Edition  use the historical date feature.  It enables you to enter AD dates that precede January, 1, 1753 in the Gregorian calendar. You can enable the historical date feature by right clicking in any date cell in the Milestone or Task Wizard (see  below).  From there you can enter historical dates back to year January 1, 0001.

If you are using the Plus version for building historical timeline where the year is relevant and the month and day may not be (as shown below), use the Milestone or Task Date Format button on the ribbon and set the date format to YYYY.   Also to vertically re-position your Milestones higher and create connectors, so their text does not overlap (4 examples below), please see How To Re-position Crowded Milestones

History template

Browse the free timeline template collection for more examples or free downloadable templates.

Re-position Project Milestones To Create Space

Complex projects have many milestones which can overlap with neighboring milestones when placed on a timeline.  With Diamond or Triangle milestones markers, the text for each milestone can overlap each other as shown below.  Re-positioning your milestones can help with spacing, allowing you to fit more milestones onto your slide, without having to abbreviate the text description for each.

With Office Timeline Plus edition you can manually position the text and date box of each milestone, and create a connector to it.  This can be done for milestones that are positioned above or below the time band. To do this click on the text box of the milestone you want to re-position and drag it vertically up or down to the new position. Once in the desired new position, click the Accept button on the tool bar which will create a connector to your newly positioned milestone.

Office Timeline Quick Start

This guide shows you how to create beautiful PowerPoint timelines slides in 5 easy steps. Before you get started you will need to have Office Timeline Free edition or Office Timeline Plus Edition installed and activated.  When this is done the Office Timeline ribbon will become available in PowerPoint.  The asterisks throughout this guide indicate functionality available in Office Timeline Plus edition .

STEP 1 – Click New

Start creating your project timeline by clicking the New button.  This launches the Office Timeline wizards which guide you through a couple easy set-up and design steps before creating your customized timeline slide.

STEP 2 – Select a timeline

Choose between a Metro, Gantt, Phases or Intervals style of timeline or use the Template* tab to browse through pre-designed, industry specific, fast-start templates. Click the Next arrow to begin entering your project data.   

STEP 3 – Add Milestones

  • Milestones are reference points that mark the significant events of your project on the timeline, for example “Project Kick-Off” or “Final Release.”

Add the Date for each of your project milestones and type in their Title or use the clipboard button* to paste complete data tables from Excel.  Next, select what Styleyou want your milestone marker to be and choose the color of each marker by clicking on the Color box, for example a red triangle marker or blue flag marker.  You can pick which milestones will be positioned above or Below the Timeband, or use the up/down button to automatically alternate them.  When you are done hit the Next arrow to enter your task information.

STEP 4 – Add tasks

  • Tasks are your project activities which have a start date and which need to be accomplished by a finish date, for example “Design and Develop Phase” or “Sourcing and Procurement”

Enter the Start Date and End Date for your tasks or use the clipboard button* to paste task data from Excel.  Sort and re-position the order of your tasks with the Order* drop down menu.  Choose a Color you would like for each of your task bands.  Click on theShape drop-down and pick the shape you would like for your task bands.  Click the Nextarrow to customize your timeline.

STEP 5 – Style it

Make style and design enhancements on the 4 Style Wizard tabs.

The General Tab is focused on the Timeband. Change the Band’s color and the color of the Text* on the timeband.  You can also enable and choose a color for  Elapsed Timedisplay which graphically displays how much time has passed.  The Today Makerfunction will show today’s date, which can be positioned above or below your timeband. The End Caps function will place the start year on the left of your timeband and the finish year on the right of your time band.   

The Milestone Tab is for formatting for the color, font style and size of your milestoneTextDates and Flag Connectors.  You can also change the color of your flag connectors.

The Task Tab is for formatting Text and Dates and adding extras.  You can turn on the Task Duration count for each task, choose to show it in weeks or days, and place it inside or below the task band. The Auto adjust long titles function will automatically place long task text titles above the task band when they are too long to fit inside the task band. You can also, turn on/off task Connectors here and pick their colors.

On the Scale Tab you can use the slider to change your timeline’s Intervals from months to days, weeks, quarters, or years.  You can also adjust the way the dates are shown on the time band, and you can specify an exact Time Scale rather than using the automatic time span.

Now you are done, click the green Check box and Office Timeline will build the presentation you have created.  To edit your timeline in the future, open it, click on it and the Office Timeline ribbon will become active.  You can now use the functions on the ribbon to make changes or to access the MilestoneTask and Style Wizards for updating your data and design preferences.

Importing and Exporting Excel Data with Office Timeline

In both Office Timeline Plus and in Office Timeline Free edition you can export your project timelines or Gantt templates from PowerPoint into Excel data tables.  Also, in Office Timeline Plus Edition you can quickly create a PowerPoint timeline or Gantt chart by importing your project schedule from Excel.

Exporting

Exporting project schedules back to Excel is an easy two-step process that uses the Chronology Template which is built into the product.  Here’s how:

  1. From your timeline click on the Change button on the Office Timeline ribbon and select the Chronology Table. This will insert a new PowerPoint slide with Milestone and Task data in table format. From there cut and paste the tables into Excel.
  2. From there cut and paste the tables from PowerPoint to Excel.

Importing (requires Office Timeline Plus edition)

If you built your project in Excel or have exported from Office Timeline to Excel, it is simple to paste your project schedule into Office Timeline Plus Edition. Make sure your Excel table columns are formatted to:

  • Milestone Table = Date, Milestone Title
  • Task Table = Start Date, End Date, Task Description

If you need to create space between your milestones after pasting your table please see Re-position Project Milestones To Create Space.

As Office Timeline iterates quickly, expect to see significant data integration enhancements with Excel and other project tools.

Are you running the latest version?  Check our Release Update site here.