How To Create a Timeline in Excel (With 2 Methods)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Timelines are helpful project management tools that visually represent the order of events for a goal or project. Professionals can use Excel to make timelines that are easy to make and read. If you'd like to increase the organization of your schedule, then it might benefit you to learn how to create a timeline in Excel. In this article, we discuss how to create a timeline by explaining what one is and providing two methods for you to make one.

What is a timeline in Excel?

A timeline in Excel is a chart that represents events in chronological order. Usually, these charts show when each event starts and ends. A bar usually represents each task or event so that viewers can tell when the event occurs. Making timelines can help employees keep their events organized, which might reduce scheduling errors. Timelines are also beneficial for sharing the progress of an event, such as the launch of a new product.

Read more: 11 Types of Timelines To Consider Using

How to create a timeline in Excel using a scatter chart

Here are five steps to create a timeline in Excel using a scatter chart:

1. List your dates in an Excel table

First, list your dates, deliverables or other events in an Excel table. You can call these events milestones for your project. Once you list the dates, add each of their deadlines. It's important to insert a third column that contains a repetitive sequence of numbers like "1 2 3 4." These are plotting points that Excel uses to create the scatter chart.

Related: How To Make a Timeline in Microsoft Word (With Tips)

2. Create a scatter chart

To create a scatter chart, click on the "Insert" tab, which is in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Find the "Charts" section and locate the "Scatter or Bubble Chart" menu. Click on the "Scatter" option, which is the first choice underneath "Scatter." Choosing this presents a blank chart in your Excel workbook.

3. Include milestones in your timeline

Next, right-click on your scatter chart and choose "Select Data." This prompts Excel's "Select Data Source" window. In this menu, click on "Add," which is under the "Legend Entries" table. The "Edit Series" window appears, allowing you to type the dates from your milestones into the "Series X" text field. Next, add the plot number into the "Series Y" text field. For each field, you can select the range of dates and plot points by clicking and dragging on your table to highlight the entire series of data. Click "OK" to create your scatter chart.

4. Change scatter chart to a timeline

Select your chart and click on the plus button to prompt the "Chart Elements" window that lets you edit your scatter plot. Uncheck "Gridlines" and "Chart Title." Using your mouse, hover over the "Axes" box to present a drop-down menu. In this menu, uncheck the "Primary Vertical" option. Finally, click on "Data Labels" and "Error Bars," which are in the original "Chart Elements" window.

5. Format your timeline

To make your chart look like a traditional timeline, add connectors to each of your milestones. With your mouse, right-click on the dates in your timeline and choose "Format Axis" to prompt another window. Click the drop-down menu next to "Axis Options" and choose "Series 1 X Error Bars." From the "Format Error Bars" window, select the "Fill & Line" controls. Next, click on "No line" to remove the horizontal bars in your timeline.

Repeat this step only with the "Series 1 Y Error Bars" to adjust your timeline's Y-axis. In the "Format Error Bars" window, select "Vertical Error Bar" and choose the "Minus" option. This adds connectors to your milestones and their dates. Once you've done this, you can add titles to your timeline and format it to make it easy to read.

Related: How To Make a Timeline on PowerPoint in 6 Steps (With Tips)

How to create a timeline in Excel using a Gantt chart

Here are six steps to create a timeline in Excel using Gantt chart:

1. Type project schedule in a table

First, type your project schedule, such as tasks, events and goals, in an Excel table. List the start and end date of each task, along with their durations. Also, add a description of each task, which could be "planning stage" or "stage 1." Make sure that you order these events in chronological order.

2. Insert a stacked bar chart

After creating your table, add a stacked bar chart. Click on a blank cell and find the "Insert" tab in the Excel toolbar. Locate the "Charts" section and select the bar chart option to present a drop-down menu. Click on the "Stacked Bar" option to insert a blank bar chart into your workbook.

3. Add start dates for each task

Next, right-click on your blank chart and choose the "Select Data" option to prompt the "Select Data Source" window. From here, click the "Add" button to prompt the "Edit Series" window. Find "Series value" and click the spreadsheet icon with the red arrow. This allows you to use your mouse to click and drag on the series of cells that contain your start dates. Click on the spreadsheet icon again to go back to the previous window and select "OK."

4. Include durations for each task

Stay in the "Select Data Source" window to add your durations. Select "Add" to present the "Edit Series" window and use the spreadsheet icon with the red arrow to add the cells that have the duration for each task. Click on the icon again to go back to the original window and press "OK." Now your Gantt chart has the durations inserted into the graph.

5. Add descriptions for each task

Next, add the descriptions for each task by right-clicking on the blue bars in your Gantt chart. Press "Select Data" again to promote the "Select Data Source" window. Click the "Edit" button, which is underneath "Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels, to locate the "Axis Label" window. Select the spreadsheet icon to click and drag on the cells with your descriptions in them. Exit the window by clicking on the icon again and select "OK" to insert your descriptions.

Related: Creating a Timeline: Tips and Example

6. Format your Gantt chart

Right-click on the blue bars and press "Format Data Series" to prompt a window. From this menu, choose the "Fill & Line" icon and click "No fill" under the "Fill" section. Additionally, press "No Line" under the "Border" section. If preferred, you can change the order of your tasks to make them chronological by clicking on the tasks in the Y-axis to open the "Format Axis" window. Select the "Bar Chart" icon and expand the "Axis Options" menu. Check the "Categories in reverse order" box to put your tasks in chronological order.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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