This article was co-authored by Nicole Levine, MFA. Nicole Levine is a technology writer and editor for . He has more than 20 years of experience creating technical documentation and leading support teams in large web hosting and software companies. Nicole also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University and teaches composition, fiction writing, and zine making at various institutions.
Make A Timeline On Word
A timeline is a great way to show progress on a project or events over time. You can also use timelines to show historical milestones, document changes, and even plan future events. Word makes it very easy for you to create a timeline with SmartArt tools. This article will teach you how to visually display a timeline of events in Microsoft Word.
Free Online Timeline Maker
This article was co-authored by Nicole Levine, MFA. Nicole Levine is a technology writer and editor for . He has more than 20 years of experience creating technical documentation and leading support teams in large web hosting and software companies. Nicole also holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University and teaches composition, fiction writing, and zine making at various institutions. This article has been viewed 142,890 times. A timeline infographic is one of the best ways to make complex information more interesting, digestible, and easy to follow.
Tired of spending hours in expensive online design tools to create a timeline that should take minutes with a timeline template? Don’t have the budget to hire a designer to make one for you?
Before I design any new timeline infographics, I like to start with a simple outline to guide me through the process. This step is crucial because the design of your timeline will depend a lot on the amount of content you want to include. If you don’t know how much content you have to fit into the timeline, you can choose a bad layout design and end up doing a lot of extra work.
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The idea behind a timeline is that you want to provide a bit of information about key events in time, so each event should at least have a specific date and a brief description.
Since the timeline should be a visual summary of many events, try to keep the descriptions very brief. I usually want to aim for less than 30 words per description, then I try to spice it up with some visual elements like icons or illustrations to make it visually exciting.
Also keep in mind that the same amount of text for each event will make it easier to create a nice design that is not asymmetrical.
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For your next visual project, let’s say you create a timeline infographic that shows the history of popular social media platforms. I would start by creating an outline with three of these four basic elements: data, heading, and brief description.
Then I would find a simple visual element like an icon to accompany each point. These visual elements differentiate a timeline infographic from a plain old timeline. They attract the readers’ eye, add visual interest and allow graphics to be easily scanned without too much thought.
If you don’t have your own visuals ready, you can find them directly in the editor. Just go to the left panel and use the icon or photo search to find some fun visuals to go with your text:
How To Make A Timeline On Microsoft Word (with Pictures)
This quick sketch must be completed in the very first step in order to make smart design choices.
With the outline ready, it’s time to choose the layout! This is where you can start making critical design decisions based on your outline.
Some layout designs are better for long text, while others are suitable for many points in time with less text. Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of each type of timeline layout.
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The vertical layout is by far the most popular layout for timeline infographics. It comes in two alignments: centered and left aligned.
The center vertical timeline is my personal favorite. In this layout, the timeline runs right down the middle of the page, with branches coming from alternate sides of the timeline:
Thanks to its symmetry and simplicity, it is pleasing to the eye and very easy to follow. Most people will automatically recognize this as a timeline without studying it for more than a second.
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It is also quite flexible; there is plenty of room for long descriptions, and you can easily extend the length of the page to add more points. Plus, it’s easy to add visuals to this type of layout.
For example, this product timeline is a great example of a layout with all the key stages mapped out vertically, from concept to completion. Perfect for keeping your team organized and on track by visualizing your product roadmap:
Next, we have another most popular timeline infographic layout: the left-aligned timeline. Instead of the branches coming from either side of the timeline, the line itself is aligned to the left side of the page and all content is placed to the right of the line.
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They are ideal for those who want to present complex information hierarchically or as a series of steps. For example, if you’re a consultant outlining a product release timeline for your clients, this timeline infographic would be the perfect way to accomplish that:
A left-aligned vertical layout is great for a text-heavy timeline with few visuals and lots of sections. You can learn how to create a timeline like the example above by following the steps in this guide.
For most timeline infographics, I recommend a vertical layout, either centered or left-aligned, because it’s so flexible. It is the easiest to create, edit and adapt to all kinds of content.
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You have learned how to create a vertical format timeline. You may also recognize the horizontal timeline layout from every slideshow you’ve seen in the past decade. They seem to be a staple of slide decks everywhere (like the one below):
While they work well for presentation slides, they aren’t ideal for most infographics. They can only handle 6 or 7 points at a time (on a letter size page) before they are too cramped to read. If you have less than 7 points and your description is very brief, you can use a horizontal layout.
For example, if you’re looking to raise funds for your new business idea, the presentation timeline above is the perfect addition to your presentation that showcases your company’s milestones and wows potential investors.
How To Make A Timeline In Microsoft Word (examples & Templates)
The last timeline layout you might want to use is the snake layout. Simply put, a snake layout winds around the page and looks like a snake. The best use of the snake layout is for timelines with lots of bullet points and very little text, like this:
Snake layouts are the most space efficient, which is useful if you have more than 10 points or so. The best way to learn how to create a timeline with a snake layout is to remember one rule: include as little text as possible. Use this format when you want to focus on visuals:
To summarize, here’s everything you need to know to choose the best layout for your timeline infographic:
Free Timeline Maker + Online Templates
After you’ve decided on a layout, it’s time to finally answer, “How to create a timeline?” I’ll walk you through the process of how we created the template below from scratch using the online timeline builder.
This is a pretty typical centered vertical timeline infographic template, so the steps I’ll touch on here should apply to most infographic timelines.
Each timeline should be built around the same basic framework: a single line with regularly spaced branches or nodes. This may seem obvious, but it is absolutely essential.
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First, start by selecting a vertical line from the “Lines and Borders” category of the icon library on the left toolbar. Center it and adjust it to run the length of the page, leaving room for the title at the top. This will form the backbone of your timeline.
Then modify the style of this line using the top toolbar. Use the row width drop-down list to set the width of the main row to at least 2 pixels. We used a width of 4px for this row.
Next, use the “End of Line 1” and “End of Line 2” dropdowns to add embellishments to each end of the line. We chose circles, but vertical lines and arrows would also work for most timelines.
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Then be sure to lock the timeline in place using the “Lock” button on the top toolbar. This simple step will prevent you from accidentally moving the line as you add more elements.
Finally, go back to “Lines and Borders” in the icon library and add a horizontal line for each point in the outline. Use a grid to regularly space them on alternating sides of the main timeline.
Oh, and here’s another tip to make the timeline process easier: turn it on
How To Make A Timeline In Word In 5 Easy Steps (with Tips)
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