Learn the history and popular uses for dozens of diagrams, charts, and visuals.


Timelines show the steps or events of a process or project over a certain period of time. They show minimal detail, but they do make it easy to see when each step of the process must be completed. A Timeline consists of a horizontal bar or line representing time progressing from left to right. This bar is marked with events or steps to indicate when they should or did happen.

Typical Uses

Timelines show a broad overview of a certain project or process and are especially useful when there is a project with many different aspects that must be completed by a certain time. They simplistically show the deadline of each task. They can also be used to show when past events have occurred. Timelines should not be used to indicate what individuals need to do to reach the completion of the project; instead they show when deadlines for various segments of the process or project.

Best Practices
  • Identify the purpose. Determine what project or process for which the Timeline is being made. Place a fitting title at the top of the page.
  • Make the timeline. Decide when the project or process begins and when it must be completed. Make a horizontal line or bar in the center of the page. Place the start date at the beginning of the line and the end date at the end. Create Timelines quickly and easily using the Timeline template offered by SmartDraw.
  • Divide the timeline. Based upon the total duration of the project, divide the timeline into equal, reasonable sections using small vertical line segments or dashes and labeling each as what it is. (For instance, if your timeline covers a year you may want to divide it into months, for a day it should be divided into hours, and for a century, into decades, etc.)
  • Change time. If there is a period of time with no activity, it may be bypassed by removing that segment and adding a zigzag line.
  • Add events. Place small circles or points along the line wherever an event takes place or a task must be completed. Then attach a vertical line and extend it from the dot up or down, depending on how crowded the page is, and write the event or task due in a box at the end of the line. If the Timeline is very crowded, use angled arrows instead. This may also indicate that the scale of the Timeline is too small.
  • Add visuals. Use pictures to further illustrate the event or task on the Timeline. This can add clarity and appeal.
  • Don't deviate. Use the Timeline as a guide to finish the project and its steps on time.

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