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How to make timelines with your usual office tools

Learn how to create an easy-to-follow timeline using the office software you’re most familiar with.

Timeline example

Using timelines to communicate key events

Timelines are a great way to visualize a series of events that happen over time, making it easy to understand and remember essential data. Professionals who need to create eye-catching timelines for important presentations can use their favorite office software, since almost all of the traditional productivity tools have functions that can produce such visuals one way or another. Alternatively, you can also use dedicated timeline makers that save time and effort by automating the process.

Since the steps to making a timeline can get quite complex, this page presents a series of detailed tutorials and resources to help you get started faster.

PowerPoint Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint is one of the most popular tools for presenting data to clients, managers, and any other non-technical audiences. It is familiar, intuitive, and widely spread in organizations of all types, allowing anyone with the Microsoft Office Suite installed to view and edit a project report or presentation. Click the button below for a step-by-step guide on how to make a timeline in PowerPoint.

Excel Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Microsoft Excel

Professionals who prefer to plan and track their projects in Excel can use the tool’s Scatter Chart function to turn their plans or schedules into a timeline. The process involves quite a few steps to make the graphic look tidy and presentable, and the result looks similar to the image above. See a detailed tutorial on how to make a timeline in Excel and learn about automating the process using a timeline generator.

Microsoft Word Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Microsoft Word

Although commonly associated with writing and editing copy, Microsoft Word also provides some simple graphic tools that can help users create basic timelines and other similar visuals. This step-by-step tutorial demonstrates how to generate a timeline in Word using SmartArt Tools and provides a few customization tips to make the visual easier to follow.

Microsoft Project Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Microsoft Project

Professionals who manage complex plans in Microsoft Project can use the tool’s functions to create an overview timeline that shows only the key milestones of their project. See a detailed tutorial that explains how to build the timeline and prepare it for high-level presentations.

Google Docs Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Google Docs

Professionals who need to collaborate on small to mid-sized projects can work with Google Docs to create a basic timeline online. The resulting graphic may need a bit of formatting to be easy to follow, but it can be accessed and edited from any device with an internet connection. Click the button below to see the exact steps of the process.

Apple Numbers Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Numbers for Mac

Apple's Numbers allows Mac users to create a basic timeline right in the spreadsheet app by tweaking a Bubble chart. See a detailed Numbers timeline tutorial that explains all the steps involved in building and customizing the graphic to show key events or milestones more clearly. The guide also includes a downloadable timeline template for Mac.

Apple Keynote Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Keynote for Mac

While Keynote comes equipped with a variety of eye-catching charts and graphs, it doesn't currently have a built-in timeline feature. However, professionals who wish to illustrate a series of milestones or events in their presentations can still create a timeline in Keynote by formatting one of the pre-designed charts available. Click the button below for a step-by-step guide.

Apple Pages Timeline
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How to make a timeline in Pages for Mac

Primarily a word processor, Pages also comes with many of the graphic tools available in the other iWork applications. Therefore, Mac users who wish to include visual timelines in their documents can create them right inside Apple's word processor. This tutorial explains how to build a timeline in Pages and format it until it looks just right. It will also show you how to save time and effort with a free online timeline maker.

What is an example of a timeline?

A timeline is a representation of related events aligned in chronological order. An example of a timeline can be a listing of key milestones in a historical figure’s life; project schedules, conference programs and wedding agendas are other good examples.
For visual samples that would help you see how to design your own timeline, check out our extensive gallery of downloadable timeline examples.

What do you need in a timeline?

In its simplest form, a timeline includes at least key events (milestones) and their dates, as well as a timescale to help visualize their placement in time. Oher details can be added too, such as activities (or tasks), start and end of your project, or any other info your audience might find useful. Whatever details you need to include, what’s important is to make sure you don’t overcrowd your timeline as this will make it harder to read.

How do you make a good timeline?

A good timeline needs to be concise and highly visual to ensure busy audiences can read it at first glance and understand the main points without requiring further explanations.
One tip to creating an effective timeline would be to use colors, shapes, and fonts to make the visual stand out, to ensure a cohesive look, and, most importantly, to draw attention to important details. For instance, you can use color codes to show the importance or risk level of each milestone, or various shapes to group similar events into easy-to-spot categories.
Another idea, especially useful when making project timelines, would be to add tracking details such as a Today marker and Elapsed Time on the timescale, or a % Complete indicator for activities. This will help your audience see the status of the project instantly, without needing too much explanatory text on the graphic.

Is there a timeline template in Word?

No, there aren’t any built-in timeline templates in Microsoft Word. However, you can make a timeline with the popular text editor using the steps described in our Word timeline tutorial above. If you need to quickly build a visual for a presentation, you can also use the free timeline templates for PowerPoint available in our gallery.

What is the best program to make a timeline?

Whether a program is good for you ultimately depends on your specific needs. However, the best timeline makers have a few key elements in common:
  1. They are fast and easy to use. There’s no point in getting dedicated software to make a timeline if it doesn’t save you considerable time and effort compared to your usual office tools.
  2. They provide a variety of templates to help you find inspiration and create a beautiful timeline quickly.
  3. They integrate with other productivity tools. A good timeline generator can draw data from other programs you use and automatically generate your visual based on that data.

PowerPoint Timeline Maker

For client and executive communications, professionals can use a PowerPoint timeline maker to build eye-catching visuals in less than 2 minutes. The Office Timeline add-in for PowerPoint integrates with popular productivity tools to instantly turn project data into timeline slides and update them on the fly.

PowerPoint Timeline Maker

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I was given an assignment to do a timeline with 30+ milestones and put them on a slide for a board presentation. I used the free version for about 5 minutes and then bought two Office Timeline licenses. I'm getting requests from all over the company for info on what I used to build these timelines. Easy to use.

S. Millar
Office Timeline user

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