How to Use Timeline in Excel? (A Visual Presentation)

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In this Excel tutorial, you will learn how to
-Create a timeline using a template.
-Use Excel’s built-in Scatter chart, SmartArt and PivotChart features to create a timeline.
-Use Excel command to create a timeline.

Besides that, we have discussed some built-in timeline templates available in Excel that you can use to create timeline in Excel.

While preparing this article, we have used Microsoft 365. However, the methods in this article are also applicable in the other versions as well.

A timeline is a representation of events in chronological arrangement. It provides a simple summary of a series of events in time.

Overview image of Timeline in Excel

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How to Create a Timeline in Excel?

There are several ways to create a timeline in Excel. We will be using the following dataset as an example to describe some most convenient methods of creating a timeline in Excel. The dataset represents one company’s plan for developing a website. Now the company wants to illustrate this plan within a timeline.

Dataset to illustrate methods of creating timeline in Excel

1. How to Create a Timeline Using a Template?

There are many timeline templates already available in Microsoft Excel. You can insert one while opening a new Excel file or from the File tab. From there on, you can select your template type, which is the timeline in this case.

Creating a timeline in Excel using a template makes it more satisfying to go through. Here, we will utilize that feature to develop a timeline.

  • First, click on File in the toolbar.

Go to File tab at the toolbar

  • Go to the New option.
  • In the Search for online templates bar, type Timeline, and press Enter.

Searching for online timeline templates

  • You will find many timeline templates there such as project timeline, work plan timeline, wedding planning timeline, etc.
  • We selected the Detailed project timeline template as it seemed to be more convenient for our example.

Selecting Detailed project timeline

  • Something as follows will appear on your screen.
  • Click on Create.

Clicking on create to create timeline

  • The template will appear within a new workbook as follows.

Project timeline appeared on worksheet

  • Now, you just need to modify the Project details section with your data.
  • Here, we have inserted the Start Date of each task into the DATE column and the Tasks into the MILESTONE column from our dataset.

Modifying project details table

  • After inserting all our data, the timeline is created as follows within the template.

Timeline created with template

2. How to Use Scatter Chart to Create a Timeline?

Using the Excel Scatter Chart feature, we can also create a timeline chart. The secret is to use and modify the error bars. You can

  • To make our timeline exquisitely presentable within an Excel chart, add a Position column as follows.

Modifying dataset to create timeline using scatter chart

  • Select the range C4:D10.
  • Follow these steps as shown below: Insert >> Insert Scatter (X, Y) or Bubble Chart >> Scatter.

Inserting Scatter Chart

  • A chart will be created as follows.

Scatter chart created

  • At the top-rightmost of the chart, click on the Plus (+) icon.
  • Mark the Error Bars box.

Marking error bars in created scatter chart

  • Right-click on the dates along the horizontal axis.
  • Select the Format Axis option.

Going to format axis menu

  • A sidebar titled Format Axis will appear on your worksheet.
  • From there, click on the Axis Options first.
  • Select Series “Position” X Error Bars.

Selecting Series “position” x error bars option

  • Go to the Fill & Line section.
  • Select No line.

Selecting No line

  • Now, click on Error Bar Options.
  • Select Series “Position” Y Errors Bars.

Going to Series “position” y error bars menu

  • Go to the Error Bars Options section.
  • Mark Minus from the direction part.
  • At the Error Amount section, mark Percentage and set the percentage as 100.

Selecting minus and setting percentage as 100

  • Following all these will make your chart look as follows.
  • Click on the Plus (+) icon again.
  • Mark Data Labels.

Marking Data Labels

  • Go to the Format Axis sidebar again.
  • Click on Axis Options.
  • Select Series “Position” Data Labels.

Selecting Series “position” data labels from Axis Options

  • Go to the Label Options.
  • Unmark Y Value.
  • Mark Value From Cells.

Marking Value from cells and unmarking Y value

  • After marking Value From Cells, you will be asked to select a range.
  • Select range B5:B10.
  • Click on OK.

Selecting range for data label range

  • Finally, the timeline you have created using the scatter chart feature will look as follows.

Timeline created with scatter chart

3. How to Use Excel SmartArt Feature to Create Timeline?

The SmartArt feature in Excel is used to visually represent information and data in a more engaging and easy-to-understand way. There are built-in shapes available to create timelines. This is true not only in Excel but also in some other Office applications. Later on, you can add other details depending on your case.

In this example, we are going to use the basic timeline shape.

  • First, go to the Insert tab.
  • Then, click on SmartArt.

Go to insert tab and select Smartart

  • A dialog box titled Choose a SmartArt Graphic will appear on your worksheet.
  • Now, go to the Process section.
  • Then, select Basic Timeline and click on OK.

Selecting Basic Timeline Smartart

  • A SmartArt as follows will appear.
  • You are now required to fill in the Type your text here section with your data.

Basic timeline Smartart appeared on worksheet

  • We have inserted our data as follows.
  • The timeline is as follows after inserting our data.

Timeline created with smartart graphics tool

  • You can customize your created timeline.
  • Right-click on your timeline and you will see many options to customize your timeline. You can format fonts, colors, and much more from there.

Customization options for Smartart

  • We have customized our timeline as follows to make it more elegant.

Customized timeline using SmartArt feature

4. How to Utilize PivotChart Feature to Make a Timeline?

PivotChart allows us to sum values based on dates. We can utilize this feature to plot total values for dates in a graph and represent a timeline.

  • Select range B4:D10.
  • At the toolbar, go to the Insert tab.
  • Click on PivotChart.

Go to Insert tab and select PivotChart

  • From the appeared Create PivotChart dialog-box, select Existing Worksheet.
  • Select any cell you want. We have selected cell F4 as the location and click on OK.

Modification in the Create PivotChart dialog-box

  • A sidebar PivotChart Field will appear on your worksheet.

PivotChart Fields sidebar appeared on worksheet

  • Drag the Tasks option in the Axis (Categories) section.
  • Drag the Start Date and End Date options in the Values bar.
  • Drag the Days (Start Date), Months (Start Date), Days (End Date) & Months (End Date) options in the Legend (Series) bar.

Dragging options to relevant fields in the PivotChart Fields sidebar

  • At the Values section, click on Count of Start Date.
  • Select Value Field Settings.

Going to Value Field Settings option

  • At the Summarize values By section, select Sum.
  • Then click on Number Format.

Selecting Sum then go to Number Format

  • After that, in the Format Cells dialog box, go to the Date menu.
  • Select any date format as you want.
  • We have selected the following date format.
  • Click on OK.

Go to Date menu then select Date format

  • Again click on OK from the Value Field Settings dialog-box.

Clicking on OK

  • Go through the exact same procedure by clicking on the Count of End Date from the Values section.

Going to Value Field Settings

  • Following all these will make your timeline as follows.

Timeline created with no data labels

  • Let’s add labels to the timeline.
  • Click on the Plus (+) icon at the side of your timeline.
  • Mark the Data Labels.

Marking data labels

  • Finally, a stunning timeline is now created as follows.

Timeline created with data labels

5. How to Use Excel Command to Create Timeline Chart?

If you don’t want to go in-depth with plots and charts, you can also modify your dataset to create a timeline. Adjusting alignments, cell size and fills, we can make our dataset to represent timeline too.

  • Select range B4:D10.
  • Follow these steps: Home >> Orientation >> Angle Counterclockwise.

Select Angle Counterclockwise

  • Your dataset will look as follows.

Dataset with no proper modification

  • Select range B4:D10.
  • Now go through these steps: Home >> Cells >> Format >> Row Height.

Adjust row height from the format menu

  • Set the Row Height as 60.
  • Click on OK.

Setting row height and clicking on OK

  • After that, follow these steps: Home >> Alignment >> Wrap Text.

Go to home tab then select wrap text

  • Your timeline is created as follows.

Timeline created with simple Excel Command

  • Finally, add some colors to your timeline to make it more presentable.

Adding Colors to the created timeline

What Are Some Built-in Timeline Templates Available in Excel?

In Excel, there are multiple timeline templates that you may find really useful while creating a timeline for your work. Most of them are powered by Microsoft Corporation.

Let’s explore some of those.

Project Timeline

You can track your project schedule with this premium timeline template in Excel. You can simply input activities into the table below and watch how your timeline template generates.

Project timeline template in Excel

Work Plan Timeline

You can plan your work around outcomes and activities with this template. You simply enter data and the template automatically updates.

Work plan timeline template in excel

Milestone Infographic Timeline

You can track up to five milestones of your project development with this premium milestone infographic timeline template. Simply enter your information in one sheet and the template in another sheet will automatically update on its own.

Milestone infographic timeline template in excel

Wedding Planning Timeline

This wedding timeline template is customizable with the details of your wedding project. Excel has made life really easy in too many ways. This one is also provided by Microsoft Corporation.

Wedding planning timeline template

Event Planner and Timeline

A timeline is an essential part of managing and organizing events as an event planner. A well-planned timeline enables you to successfully explain the event schedules to your team, keeps you organized, and guarantees that all tasks are performed on time. You can get an Excel template for this kind of timeline as well.

Event planner and timeline template

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which chart is best for timeline?

Excel Scatter Chart is good for creating a timeline though you can make a timeline using the rest of the Excel chart features as well. Because of scatter charts’ sequential representation, clear visualization and flexibility with dates and times make scatter chart really useful for making a timeline in Excel.

2. What is the difference between slicer and timeline in Excel?

Slicer in Excel: A slicer is an Excel visual control element that enables users to filter data in a pivot table or pivot chart by choosing particular values from a predefined list. It offers a convenient method for interactively filtering data without the need to manually change filter parameters.

Timeline in Excel: A timeline is a visual control element in Excel that enables users to filter data in a PivotTable or PivotChart based on a specified date or time range. Without having to manually modify date filters, it offers an easy way to analyze data collected over a range of time periods.

3. What is project timeline?

A project timeline is a diagram or schedule that shows the development of activities, tasks, and milestones related to a project. It gives a comprehensive overview of the project’s schedule, including start and finish dates, significant outcomes, and project dependencies.

4. What is a timeline spreadsheet?

Specifically created to build and manage timelines, a timeline spreadsheet is a form of spreadsheet. It gives you an organized structure to arrange things systematically and present them. A timeline spreadsheet focuses on the visual representation of time-based data compared to a conventional spreadsheet, which places a greater priority on numerical data and calculations.


We have already seen some easy methods of creating a timeline in Excel. The use of Excel’s features like timeline templates, SmartArt, PivotChart, etc. allows you to make a timeline quickly and efficiently. We have gone through each process in detail. We have also added different types of timeline templates available in Excel. Hope you have found what you were looking for. Visit our site ExcelDemy to explore more relevant topics.

Timeline in Excel: Knowledge Hub

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Raiyan Zaman Adrey
Raiyan Zaman Adrey

Raiyan Zaman Adrey, armed with a BSc in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, efficiently combines engineering skills with a passion for Excel. In his role as an Excel & VBA Content Developer at ExcelDemy, he not only tackles complex issues but also demonstrates an enthusiastic mindset, efficiently managing critical situations with patience, showcasing his commitment to excellence. He is interested in C, C++, C#, JavaScript, Python, Microsoft Office, AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, Data Entry, and... Read Full Bio

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