What is a Timeline?
Timeline diagrams present events during specific intervals shown chronologically along a line. These events may be historic, related to a specific criminal case or business development, or they may be important milestones in a project.
Timelines are designed to provide a broad overview of a sequence of events in time. They don't go into detail, but links to events, information and images may be added as needed.
A timeline diagram 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.
In project management, timelines are most useful for showing important milestones and deadlines.
How to Make a Timeline
SmartDraw's simple timeline templates let you quickly add events along a horizontal line that represents any time period you define. Click any shape to add text, change colors, add photos and images as necessary.
Use lines and arrows to pinpoint special events and details.
You can also use less conventional timeline templates to display events for a presentation or as an infographic.
Watch this video on how to make a timeline:
Tips for Creating a Timeline
- What does your timeline depict? Every timeline should have a title identifying the project or historic events it illustrates. Place a fitting title at the top of the page.
- Make the timeline. Decide what segment of time you want to illustrate. For projects, identify when work would begin and when it must be completed. Make a horizontal line or bar in the center of the page. Place the start and end dates at each end of the line going from left to right.
- Determine the scale of the timeline. Based upon the total duration of the time depicted, divide the timeline into equal, reasonable sections using small vertical line segments or dashes and label each accordingly. For example, if the timeline covers a year you may want to divide it into months, a day might be divided into hours, and a century into decades.
- Missing time. If there is a period of time with no activity, you can skip a segment in the timeline or add a zigzag line to denote a time gap.
- 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 in a box at the end of the line. If the timeline is very crowded, you can try using angled arrows or lines with varying lengths instead. An overcrowded timeline may also indicate that the scale of the timeline is too small.
- Add visuals. Use pictures to further illustrate an event or task on the timeline. This can add clarity and increase the visual appeal of your timeline.
The best way to understand timelines is to look at some examples of timelines.
Click on any of these timelines included in SmartDraw and edit them:
Browse SmartDraw's entire collection of timeline examples and templates.