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How to make a timeline in Google Docs and Google Sheets

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These step-by-step Google Docs and Google Sheets timeline tutorials explain how to create professional timelines from your Google document and Google spreadsheet.

Google Docs Timeline Tutorial

Professionals who need to present project plans and schedules in a visual way can manually create a basic timeline directly in Google Docs or Google Sheets. The resulting visual could be OK for simple projects with few data, but the process is tedious and time consuming - you’ll have to manually add every item to the graphic. Also, the timeline may lack the flexibility and accuracy needed for project reporting or client reviews, which makes it unfit for complex projects.

Those who want to show more details or update their timeline regularly might want to try a specialized tool like Office Timeline Online instead. This is a free web timeline maker that automates the entire process and lets you download the resulting graphic as a native PowerPoint slide. It is a fast and easy-to-use tool that produces professional, clear, and presentation-ready visuals that can be updated as many times as necessary.

Below, we will explain how to make a timeline both manually in Google Docs and Google Sheets, and automatically with Office Timeline Online.

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Manually make a timeline in Google Docs and Google Sheets

How to make a timeline in Google Docs

This step-by-step tutorial explains how to manually create a Google Docs timeline and it consists of the main following steps:

1. Create a new document in Google Docs.

  1. Go to > + Blank. Click on Untitled document and name the document to find it easily later. (You can name it later as well.)

    New Google document for Google Docs timeline

  2. Now it’s a good time to change the default Portrait page orientation to Landscape in File > Page setup, so that you can have more space for your timeline.

    Modify setup in Google Docs timeline

2. Create timeline base from Drawing.

  1. Go to Insert > Drawing > + New.

  2. Click on Line > Arrow and draw a straight arrow, using the grid lines as reference. You can now format the arrow - pick the desired weight, dash type, start and end points:

    Draw arrow in Google Docs timeline

3. Add events, dates, or tasks to your timeline.

  1. Click on T (Text box tool) and click on a spot above or below the horizontal line.

  2. Type in an event, task, or date. Resize or reposition the text box as needed by dragging the corners or sides.

    Customize text box for Google Docs timeline

  3. Then, copy-paste the text box and duplicate it as many times you need so that all your tasks and dates are covered. You can do this later, after formatting and coloring your text box content, in case you want more timeline items to look alike.

4. Format and style.

  1. You can choose to color and format your timeline items as you like. To apply the same changes to multiple items at once, simply press and hold the CTRL key while clicking on the desired items one by one. We used the Highlight color and Text color options to change the font color for some of our milestones.

    Format Google Docs timeline

    Now, your timeline should look something like this:

    Formatted text boxes in Google Docs timeline

  2. At this point, you need to connect the task titles and their corresponding time points through vertical lines. To do that, go to Line tool > Line, and then draw a vertical line under each task until it joins the horizontal arrow at the bottom of your document. The line will automatically adjust to connect the two items, so, if you want straight, perpendicular lines, you’ll need to realign each item as needed. Repeat for all the items.

    After carrying out all the steps above, your final Google Docs timeline should look like this:

    Final version of Google Docs timeline

How to make a timeline in Google Sheets

1. List your project milestones and dates in a table.

  1. Start a new Google Sheets spreadsheet by clicking on the Blank type from the Template Gallery.

    Start New Google Spreadsheet

  2. Enter the key milestones or events of your project in one of the columns, as seen in the image below. Keep the milestone descriptions as short as possible to ensure they'll be fully visible on the timeline.

  3. In the next column, add the due date for each of your milestones.

  4. To create a timeline in Google Sheets, your table also needs to include a third column with plotting numbers. Therefore, add this one next to your milestones dates and enter a sequence of numbers such as 1, 2, 3, 4 as in the example below. These plotting points will be used to define the vertical placement of each milestone on your timeline graphic.

    Enter your timeline data in Google Sheets

2. Create a basic timeline by setting it up as a Bubble chart.

  1. Select all the data in your table and go to Insert → Chart on the Google Sheets ribbon.

    Insert Chart in Google Sheets.

  2. Within the Chart Editor pane on the right, go to the Chart Type section and click on the downward arrow next to Column chart.

    Select Chart Type in Google Sheets

  3. Now, from the Chart Type menu, select the Bubble chart option under the Scatter category, and Google Sheets will automatically generate a simple timeline out of your selected data.

    Select Bubble chart for Google Sheets timeline

    Note: Don’t worry if you notice some of your milestones are off the Chart Area. We'll fix this in the following steps, so your timeline items will be all fully visible.

3. Format your graphic to ensure legibility.

  1. First, if your graphic looks too crowded or some of your milestone titles overlap, resizing it may ensure a better fit. Simply click on the Chart Area to select it and drag its sizing handles to reach the desired height and width.

    Resize Google Sheets chart.

  2. Now it's time to adjust the Vertical Axis to make the uppermost milestones fully visible. To do so, first go the Customize tab of the Chart editor (pictured below). You can open the Chart editor at any time by double-clicking your visual.

  3. Here, click on the Vertical axis section to open it.

  4. Type "0" in the text field under Min. In the Max field, you will need to add a value higher than the largest plotting number you've entered in your data table. In our case, the Max value will be "5".

    Adjust Google Sheets timeline vertical axis

  5. In our example, we also wanted to remove all those horizontal gridlines that cut across the graphic as they seemed to overcrowd the timeline needlessly. If you wish to do the same, open the Gridlines section on the Chart Editor and set the Major gridline count to 1 for the Vertical axis.

    Remove horizontal gridlines from Google Sheets timeline

  6. While you're still in the Gridlines section, you may wish to add more vertical gridlines to make it easier to see the relative distance between milestones. Click on the downward arrow next to Vertical axis and select Horizontal axis from the small drop-down menu that appears. Here, we set "2" as the value for the Minor gridline count.

    Add vertical gridlines in Google Sheets timeline

    Once you’ve completed all the steps above, your graphic should look like this:

    Formatted Google Sheets Timeline

4. Customize your timeline.

Now that your timeline is properly formatted, you can apply some styling choices to personalize it. The Customize tab in the Chart Editor lets you easily set a different color for your milestones, texts, or dates, change sizes and fonts, add a chart title, and more. However, the trickier part comes when you want to recolor individual milestone markers (bubbles) to differentiate them or show their status because Google Sheets, by default, applies your formatting options to the whole series. But no worries – we will show you below how you can do this too.

  1. To help Google see your milestones as individual items, you will need to go back to your data table and create a 4th column that will break them up into categories. In this new column, you will enter a value or category name for each milestone. In our example, we'll differentiate the milestones by Status, as seen in the image below.

    Add milestone category column in Google Sheets timeline

    Note: If you wish some of your milestones to be colored the same, assign them the exact same value or category name.

  2. Once you've filled out your milestone categories, to apply them to your timeline, you need to:

    i. Go to the Setup tab in the Chart Editor.

    ii. Click on the Add Series box and then on the small spreadsheet icon on the right side, under it.

    iii. Click inside the Select a data range text box, and then select the whole category column from your table. The Select a data range box will be auto-filled with the column's cell range.

    iv. Click OK.

    Add milestone category series to google sheets timeline

    Google Sheets will automatically apply a different standard color to each of your milestone categories and it will also add a legend, as seen in the image below:

    Google Sheets timeline with multiple colors

  3. If you want to change the default colors:

    i. Navigate to the Customize tab of the Chart editor.

    ii. In the Series section, open the series selector and choose the milestone category you want to recolor.

    iii. Under Color, select a new shade for your milestone.

    Change the default colors in Google Sheets timeline

  4. Below, we suggest a few other customizations that you can apply if you choose so:

    i. Add a title to your timeline. For this, double-click the timeline, click on Customize in Chart editor and then on Chart & axis titles. Here, you can select the elements you want to change (Chart title, Chart subtitle, etc.). Type in your title in the Title text field, and set the preferred size, color, type of font for the entered text, as well as its position.

    ii. Move Legend to the right, so that the title section doesn’t look crowded. Go to Chart editor > Customize > Legend and change Position setting to Right.

    Add title and move legend in Google Sheets timeline

    After trying out several colors, adding a title and tweaking font sizes, our final Google Sheets timeline looks like this:

    Final Google Sheets Timeline

How to make a timeline online automatically

Manually building a timeline with Google Docs or Google Sheets can be time-consuming, and the result may lack the clarity and precision expected by clients and executives. An online timeline generator like Office Timeline Online may be a better-suited alternative for creating professional-looking visuals required in business or project presentations.

Below, we will show you how to automatically make a timeline in Office Timeline Online and customize or update it with a few clicks. To begin, open the free tool in your browser and follow the steps below.

1. Enter your timeline data into Office Timeline Online.

  1. From Office Timeline Online's New tab, click on Timeline from scratch ("+") or select one of the various templates available to start building your graphic. If you usually manage your data in Excel, you can also import an existing .xls schedule into the web tool and turn it into a timeline. For this demonstration, however, we will create our visual from scratch.

    Create a new timeline in Office Timeline Online

    After you select the type of timeline you want to make, Office Timeline Online will open the Data View tab, where you can insert and edit data.

  2. In the Data View, list your project's key milestones and their due dates. You can also make a few quick customizations here, such as selecting the color and shape for each milestone marker. As you add or edit items, the web tool will update your visual in real time and show you a live preview to the right of your data list. When you're ready, click on the preview or select the Timeline tab above the data list to go to the Timeline View, where you can style every detail on your graphic.

    Enter your timeline data in Office Timeline Online

2. Easily customize and update your timeline.

  1. Once you've created your visual, personalizing and updating it is easy with Office Timeline Online. For instance, the Timeline View allows you to instantly change colors, shapes, positions, fonts, and date formats, add extra details such as Elapsed Time, or hide items your audience doesn't need to see. If you look at our final timeline below, you'll see we used multiple milestone shapes and sizes, customized texts to draw attention to important checkpoints, and added a Today Marker for a clearer view of where the project is standing.

    Final Timeline Made with Office Timeline Online

  2. If you have a free account, the web app will save your timeline securely in the cloud so you can access it whenever you need it and update it fast if plans change. Drag & drop milestones in Timeline View to instantly adjust their due dates, or use the Data tab to quickly add, edit or remove items. When done, download your timeline as an imagine or as a native .pptx slide that anyone who has PowerPoint can view, update or present.

FAQs about timelines in Google Docs and Google Sheets

How do you make a timeline on Google?

You can make timelines in Google Docs using the Drawing function (Insert > Drawing) or Chart (Insert > Chart). Also, you can insert a chart that you already created in Google Sheets.

In Google Sheets, you have these options:

  • Make a timeline with Chart (Insert > Chart), using data that you organize in a table;
  • Use the Drawing function (Insert > Drawing) to manually draw your timeline;
  • Make a timeline formatting your table as a timetable;
  • Use the table timeline templates that you can find in Google Sheets: Sheets homepage > Template gallery (top right) > Project management section.

Note that these timelines could be fit for smaller, very simple projects and for limited requirements on aspect and functionality. Also, a lot of time and effort will be needed to create/format. For professional timelines and complex projects, a professional, automated tool like Office Timeline Online is a good solution. Google Docs Editors do not have the needed functionalities for this.

Does Google have a timeline template?

Yes, there are a few timeline templates in Google Sheets, but they don’t have the classic timeline’s look that one might expect. They look more like tables - schedule tables or timetables. You can find them in Sheets homepage > Template gallery (top right) > Project management section.

Also, these timelines are highly manual, requiring a lot of time and effort. They can be OK for simple projects with few lines of data, and limited aspect and functionality requirements. If you need professional timelines for complex projects, you won’t be able to do this directly in Google Docs Editors; instead, you’ll need professional timeline software like Office Timeline Online. With this automated tool, the timelines are easy to make, professional-looking, and you save a lot of time.

See how easy it is to make timelines with Office Timeline Online