Learn: Four Ways to Create PowerPoint Timeline

About this lesson

Learn four different ways to create a PowerPoint Timeline. There are three-click-fast timelines, time scale timelines, elegant timelines, and sophisticated professional timelines. Learn all four methods in under 15 minutes with the first two strategies in under five minutes!

We show quick SmartArt time graphics, cool Design Ideas timelines, the XY Scatter Chart timeline method plus both the free and paid versions of Office Timeline Pro.

Find the right solution to all your timeline projects in PowerPoint.

Note that I do reference a paid tool as strategy #4, but I am not compensated by the company and I bought the tool with my own money. There is a free web version for 10 elements or less but the full tool is very much worth the cost. Office Timeline Pro can be found at https://www.officetimeline.com/


00:52 Technique #1 – SmartArt Timeline
02:58 Technique #2 – Design Idea Auto Timeline
04:54 Technique #3 – Date Perfect Timeline w/ XY Scatter Chart
11:50 Technique #4 – Office Timeline Pro


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility Starts with Office 2013 for Mac & PC with some advanced tools needed for the second technique.


Course Completed

PDF Files There are not any files associated with this lesson.



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Welcome to Creating PowerPoint timelines in four acts. Hi, this is Les from Power Up Training. In the next 15 minutes, you will learn how to create timelines in PowerPoint using four completely different strategies. The first technique will be super fast. With your bullet points already typed in, we will then just be three clicks to a timeline. The second technique will be almost as fast, but it will present you with multiple timeline styles to choose from, for the perfect representation of your data. The third strategy will take more steps, we’ll put all of your data into a scale perfect timeline. And the last strategy will create the most sophisticated solution of the group. So let’s power up to creating timelines in PowerPoint. For our fast and simple technique, we’ll use the smart art tool, which can be found in all versions of PowerPoint, going back to 2013 for both Windows and MacOS computers. I’ve already typed in our project steps and dates. And so all I have to do now is highlight the bullet points, then go to the Home Ribbon Menu, where I will find the Convert to SmartArt action icon. Here I’ll be presented with just a subset of the 200 layouts. But we want to find the graphic that represents the movement of time going forward. While for the Mac, you have to click to try on different layouts, Windows will let you hover your mouse over the shapes to preview the results. Find one that might work and click. It’s just that easy. In under 30 seconds, we have a timeline graphic, let me move and resize the object. That was so easy. Let’s go back and see some of the other choices that we could have made. With the objects selected, and the Smart Design Menu selected, we can now preview even more choices. Some just do not match our idea of a timeline, and others have too small of text. But there are lots to experiment with to find just that right look. And Once selected, we can add some extra enhancements with SmartArt design, change color action icon.

These choices should match your presentation layout, as they’re based on the presentation color scheme. And to go one more step, you can then try on different SmartArt Styles. Some of these visual enhancements changes are subtle, and some are over the top like this 3d tilted look. Let’s go with this simple 3d embossing. To learn more about the amazing tool of SmartArt do look for our extended tutorial listed above. Technique number two is even faster. But it also adds some amazing elegance to our timeline slide. This will employ the more recent tool of Design Ideas introduced with PowerPoint 2016. But expanded with more features and capabilities over the subsequent versions for both Mac and PC. With the most complete capabilities on Office 365. This time around, I don’t have to highlight anything, just go to the Design Ribbon Menu and click Design Ideas action icon. Let PowerPoint think for a moment. And then the magic happens. I can click on several of the Design Ideas suggestions to see my slide transformed from a bullet list to different styles of timelines with visual colors, shapes, and even changing the title location, a total transformation of the slide if I so choose. This was even faster than the first technique. With the bullet lines already in place. It was about 10 seconds of clicking to a beautiful set of layouts to choose from. Behind the scenes Design Ideas does employ the SmartArt tool that we saw before, but just in coordination with the other elements with the same ability to change colors and styles. And to dig a bit deeper into SmartArt. You can still edit the text data by either editing the text on the left outline box or directly in the graphic. I do want to point out one subtle change. The Design Ideas did see the five steps in our single bullet items, but it split them up into bullets and sub bullets, as it recognized the concept of dates. This is extremely clever. To learn more about Design Ideas and how it can transform all of your Slides, check out the tutorial listed above. On to technique number three timescale Perfect. Let’s jump back to the previous slide and see an issue that impacted both techniques of number one and number two, the timescale is not accurate. Look at the time between July 15 And July 25, it is the same spatial sizing, as between September 2021, and March 2022. So 10 days, and six months are shown as equal distances. The first two strategies creates visually pleasing representations, but not timescale perfect. So, let’s fix that with our technique number three, well, I will do some heavy duty modifications of the xy chart. To get ready and save some time from typing. I’m going to highlight the dates in our table and copy them. Next, I’m going to go to the insert Ribbon Menu and select Chart and then specify x y scatter chart. So that we can see more of what’s going on. Let me move two elements. One, the Data Import Table dialog box, I’ll move over, and then I’m going to resize and move the actual x y chart to an open spot on this slide. So what is an XY scatter chart? you will place a marker inside the table intersecting the x and y axis values. See the first one is at .07 for the x value, and 2.7 for the y value, but the chart will also understand date. So I’m going to paste our already copied five dates into the data input table. This will transform our chart by need to stretch out the columns and the data entry table size, just for our convenience to see what’s here. Curiously, only three data points are represented inside the chart area. And the reason is that our last two dates have no y values. If I put in the random number one into both cells, then we now show up all five dates.

We don’t care about the y values, we want the data markers at the bottom. The trick to achieve this is to change the y values to zero and watch the markers drop to the bottom of our horizontal line. GREAT our date markers are now perfectly representing the gaps between time. So I can close the data entry window and get to work formatting the chart, we need to get rid of all the non related visual items, which is a click and delete. I will start with the title. Click on it and make sure you have the box selected indicated by the highlight markers on the four corners. If you click inside, you may just be losing the individual letters, but we want to get rid of the whole title box. Next, I’m going to click on the number labels running down the side of the chart. And with the selection around just the numbers, look for the little selector dots on the four corners, I can delete the label. Now click on one of the horizontal lines inside the chart, you will know you got the right element. When you see each horizontal line has a selector dot icon at each end of the line. Go ahead and delete. Let’s repeat the process for the vertical lines. Click one, look for the indicator on all the interior lines and then delete. Since we removed all the excess elements, I can now move down the top of the chart area to just focus on our new time scale perfect timeline. At the moment, we only have the date markers. So let’s add in the text descriptors. There are a variety of ways to do this. But I think the best tool to use is something called call out boxes. I will go to the insert Ribbon Menu, click the drop down box for shapes. And then on the bottom, find call out where I’m going to choose the first item and positioning my mouse clicking and dragging to create the text placeholder. Next, I’m going to copy my existing text, but you could just as easily type inside the call out box. Once pasted in, I’m going to reduce the font size and resize the box to make it look a little more attractive. And here’s the beauty of the call out boxes. If I click the orange dot at the bottom of the call out box. I can click and drag it to the position just over our first June 3 marker. This is starting to take shape. Let me speed up the copy and paste of the boxes to fill out the rest of the data. Note that I tried to get the first box formatted just about right before copy and pasting too. Save me from repeating my work later on. But there will always be a need to do some extra effort afterwards. After you get them put on side your chart and add a touch of class, I’m going to go back and format the dates to bold, underline, and black look or use the Font dialog box to make the change because once completed, if considered a single action, that means I can now repeat all three formatting commands by highlighting the next at a date, and hitting the magic repeat last command key of function f4.

We’ll learn more about PowerPoint shortcuts for this tutorial, our text content formatting is now done. So I’m going to do some extra quick formatting of the call out box size, plus the placement of the call outs and the adjusting of the pointers to point to the matching proper date. The PowerPoint chart date titles look a bit random. So let’s fix that by showing just month and year, I will selected date timeline, right click and Next choose Format Axis. From there, I’ll make sure options is displayed . And then by number and change the type to represent just months and years. And to make the date jump out. With them still selected, I’m going to go to home and click bold, which causes layout to shift. So I do need to go back and do a bit tweaking to get the layout. And finally, we’re done. This technique is now timescale accurate but it was a lot of work. Our last strategy may be the best technique for both visual style and timeline accuracy. Strategy number four utilizes a PowerPoint plugin, which is a paid tool. However, there is a free version for up to 10 date elements. I use this tool which I’ve paid for, for a variety of my consulting work as a project manager. And it is amazing. Let’s see it in action and then come back for the details. To get started, I will once again copy my data to save time. One cool piece is that office timeline Pro will automatically stay in sync with an Excel spreadsheet, which I’ve embedded into my PowerPoint here. Next, I’m going to click office timeline pro Edit menu, choose New and from scratch. And here you get a glimpse of why I find this to be an amazing tool. Look at all the styles and types of timelines. Once again, this is with my paid version. But the online web version has a subset of these choices for free. If you have 10 or less elements in your timeline. I’m going to choose the metro style and create the timeline. From here, I could type in each milestone. But remember, I earlier copied all have my embedded Excel spreadsheet data. So instead, I’m going to click the Paste icon. Bingo, it all drops in. Although I still hold the very first row where I had started typing with a moment ago. So let me go ahead and delete that empty row. Do note that this can hold much more info than just the date you can include date ranges, and percent of completion for tasks. And after clicking create all the magic happens and office timeline drops a new timeline in a new page on our PowerPoint presentation. This is gorgeous. Look at how it handled the dates, putting the year 2021 On the left side and 2022. On the right side. See the intelligence of the timeline month placement with a clear jump at the end of the year showing 2022 And notice the red line divider showing up where we are today. November 9, which is when I made this tutorial. It is quick and elegant. But there is more to my eyes the project team assemble task is too crowded at the top. So I click on it.

And on the right side pops up the office timeline controls where I can click on Position and easily say place below. Watch what else can be changed. If I then open up the milestone date. I can change the format to month slash day. And it gets applied to that one milestone. But then if I click Apply to All and choose just the format, then the change ripples through the whole set of milestones There is so much more that can be done. And if you’re interested, leave a comment below in YouTube, and I can devote a more dedicated set of tutorials. Just on this tool. To recap, this addin tool is a paid addin with different levels with more and more sophistication. I was demonstrating with the $99 annual version. And the added version only works on Windows, but the web version will work with any PowerPoint. As I said, if you only need a few items of the timeline that is free. To recap, we learn to superfast techniques. Then the third elaborate but time consuming skill, perfect strategy. And then finally, the last super professional tool from office timeline. If this tutorial was helpful, give me a thumbs up to encourage more tutorials. And until next time, go power up!