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How to Make a Timeline in Microsoft Word

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A timeline is essential for managing a complex project and juggling dozens of due dates. It allows you to quickly visualize the sequence of events in a project or event, and clearly convey the timing to team members.

In this article, you’ll learn how to make a timeline in Microsoft Word. You can also download a free Microsoft Word timeline template and we’ll show you how to customize it to meet your needs. 

And lastly, you’ll see how to create a timeline using Smartsheet, a collaboration and project management tool in a simple spreadsheet layout. You can organize and collaborate on project information in Smartsheet, then integrate with Office Timeline to create beautiful, visual timelines.

How would you like to create your timeline?

- or -

Manually create a timeline in Word

Time to complete: 30 minutes

Download Our Free Timeline Template in Word

Timeline template in Word

Quickly create a timeline in Word with this free template. Enter your own project information in the text boxes, change the colors, or even choose a different timeline layout.

To learn how to customize this timeline template, scroll down to the “How to Customize Your Timeline in Word” section.

Click here to download a free timeline template in Microsoft Word

 

How to Make a Timeline in Word

Although Microsoft Word is traditionally used to develop and edit copy, you can still create a visual timeline using SmartArt graphics. You can choose from dozens of timeline layouts and customize the colors to fit your project.

Before you start, we recommend changing the orientation of your Word document from portrait to landscape (go to the Page Layout tab and click Orientation).

Note: We are using Windows running Word 2013 in this example.

Select a Timeline Style

  1. Open a blank document in Microsoft Word.  
  2. In the Insert tab, click SmartArt.​
    SmartArt Microsoft Word
  3. You’ll see a pop-up box with different kinds of SmartArt graphics, ranging from lists to processes to pictures. You can choose any layout you like, but for this example, we’ll choose the basic timeline layout (the arrow with the dots in the middle).

Timeline layout Microsoft Word

Add Project Information to the Timeline in Word

  1. To add an entry to the timeline, you can either double-click on the [Text] blurbs in the Word document or type directly in the floating box.
    Timeline in Word
  2. The basic timeline starts off with three timeline entries, but you can add additional events on the timeline by hitting the Enter key after a bullet point in the floating box.  
  3. If you want to add two events on the same date, first type in the date in the floating box. Then, hit Enter and Tab to nest multiple tasks under the same date.

    Word Timeline
  4. To delete an entry in your timeline, simply click on the text in the floating box and hit Delete. The timeline will automatically re-adjust.
  5. To move tasks on the timeline, click on the task in the Word document and click the text box around the words. Drag the text box to the new location.

How to Customize Your Timeline in Word

Once you’ve added your project information and dates, it’s easy to modify the timeline. You can add a title, switch to a different timeline layout, and customize the color palette.

Add a Title

  1. Double-click on the header area of the Word document (the very top of the document).
  2. You’ll see a line appear with a little grey box that says Header. You’ll also see your cursor appear in the header area. Start typing your timeline’s title here.

    Header timeline in Word
  3. In the Home tab, in the Fonts group, you can change the font size and color. And in the Paragraph group, you can change the alignment of the text.

Title timeline in Word

 

Choose a Different Timeline Layout

  1. Double-click on the light blue part of the arrow.  

  2. In the Design tab, in the Layouts group, click the bottom arrow on the right side. Here, you can access all the different SmartArt graphic options. Click on the timeline layout you’d like to use.

Timeline layouts in Word

Change the Timeline Color

  1. To change the background color of the timeline, click the image and in the Format tab, click Shape Fill. Select the new background color you’d like.
  2. To change the color of the circles, click on a circle, hold down Shift and click the other circles. Select Shape Fill again to pick the color you’d like.  
  3. To change the font and font size of the tasks on the timeline, click on the text in the Word document and in the Home tab, in the Font group, adjust the size, type, and color.

Colors timeline in Word

How to Use Smartsheet to Make a Timeline

Smartsheet is a work management tool in a simple spreadsheet layout. With robust communication and collaboration capabilities, Smartsheet makes it easy to collect and organize information with your team and connect with Office Timeline to easily create a visual timeline.

Here’s how to use Smartsheet and Office Timeline:

Choose a Smartsheet Timeline Template

  1. Log in to your Smartsheet account or start a free, 30-day trial.

      Try Smartsheet for Free
     
  2. In the Home tab, click the Create New button and click Browse Templates.  
  3. Search for “timeline” and select the Project with Gantt Timeline template.
    Project with Gantt Timeline Smartsheet
     
  4. Rename the template and choose where to save it.

Enter Your Own Project Information

  1. You’ll see that the template is already pre-filled with sections, subtasks, and other fields. Simply double-click on the cells to delete the pre-filled copy and add your own timeline information. Use the cells titled Section 1, Section 2 and Section 3 to establish hierarchy.
  2. Add dates by clicking on a cell in the Start Date and End Date columns and either manually type the date or click the calendar icon to choose a date from the calendar.
  3. Assign tasks to certain team members in the Assigned To column and convey progress with the % Complete column. You can also flag at-risk tasks in the far left column.

    Project with Gantt Timeline Smartsheet Template
  4. To delete or add a row, right-click on the cell and select Delete Row or Insert New Row.

Connect Smartsheet Data with Office Timeline

Connect information stored in Smartsheet with Office Timeline to visually highlight the most important parts of your project. The Smartsheet and Office Timeline integration allows you to easily create a customizable timeline and share the image with others as an image, .PDF, or PowerPoint slide.

Note: You must have Windows and PowerPoint to use Office Timeline. Mac users will need to run Office Timeline using a virtual machine like Parallels Desktop, Fusion, or VirtualBox.   

  1. You can get a free, 15-day trial of Office Timeline, and you can download and install the trial version here. After the trial ends, you’ll need to buy a license to continue using the Office Timeline and Smartsheet integration.
  2. Open PowerPoint and create a new slide. Click the Office Timeline tab and select New > Import Data > Import from Smartsheet​.

    Import from Smartsheet Office Timeline
  3. Log in to your Smartsheet account and allow access to Office Timeline.  
  4. Select the sheet you’d like to import then choose if you’d like to include or exclude certain information from your sheet.
  5. Office Timeline will automatically generate the timeline for you. You can then change the colors, layout, symbols, font, and more.
    Office Timeline and Smartsheet

 

 

Improve Visibility with Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet

A timeline gives you an easily digestible, big picture view of your project. It consolidates key dates into one spot, helps you visualize trends, and keeps everyone on the same page.

To create the most effective timeline for your  projects and process, consider using a tool that allows you to track, manage, and update timelines in real-time, from anywhere.

Smartsheet is an enterprise work execution platform that is fundamentally changing the way businesses and teams work. Over 74,000 brands and millions of information workers trust Smartsheet to help them accelerate business execution and address the volume and velocity of today's collaborative work.

The familiar Smartsheet interface that is designed for how people actually work leads to rapid and broad adoption across your organization. Use self-service reports and dashboards in Smartsheet to provide real-time visibility into resources, status, and performance, so you can rapidly align operations with strategy.

Discover why millions of professionals around the world use Smartsheet to move from idea to impact, fast.

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Interested in learning more? View our step-by-step guides on How to Make a Timeline in Excel and How to Make a Timeline in PowerPoint.

Discover why over 77,000 brands trust Smartsheet to get work done.

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