Office 2010

Use Excel to Create a Timeline 

Use Excelís formatting elements to create a clean, effective timeline to show the relationship of events. Several different styles can be created depending on your need. Plan your timeline as a sketch on paper before you start. Each example below uses Excel's formatting elements to make certain areas stand out.

Example 1

Same timeline below in the spreadsheet window; Instructions for creating it below
To merge cells and center the text, select several cells and use the Merge and Center button.   If you decide later to include additional cells, highlight the cells and use Merge and Center again.

After I completed the table, I copied the Year row and pasted it at the bottom.

Widen Columns
If your text is wider than the cell, it will appear to overlap into the next column. To widen a column point to the dividing line in the heading between columns A and B. When you get the double-arrow, click and drag to make the column wider.

Format Text & Cells
Format text the same you would in Word. Remember that when you format a cell to be a dark color, you need to select the text and make it a light color.

  • To center text vertically as well as horizontally, go to the Alignment group on the Home tab and pick Center for both.

  • To use automatic text wrapping, select the cells and choose the Wrap Text button on the Alignment group.

  • To force text to the next line click both the Alt key and the Enter key (Alt +Enter).

  • You can get one cell formatted the way you want and use the Format Painter to paste the same formatting onto other cells.

  • You can select a group of cells by holding down the Ctrl key while clicking on the cells.

  • Use the Paint Can to add fill-color. Click the arrow next to the can for more color choices.
     Note the use of various colors at the bottom of the chart in the example. It is an effective way to group elements.

  • To add borders to cells, use the Borders button. The example timeline has a border around the whole figure as well as between the cells.

  • To make rows or columns uniform in size: Select the rows (columns) and choose Format button in the Cells group on the Home tab. After you click Row Height, try a number like 12 and go up or down from there based on the results.

  • You may also right-click cells to get many of these options. To Insert a Shape or picture, use the Insert tab. Remember that you can add text to a shape by right-clicking it and choosing Add Text.

Locate or scan any images you may want to use and save them in a folder for easy access. On the web you can right-click an image and choose Save As. (Abide by the Fair Use Laws) To insert an image, click the Insert tab, Picture and go to the folder where you saved your pictures earlier. Your image can be resized and moved into itís location. Remember that a corner handle resizes proportionally. I would do images last. You can right-click the picture to go to Format Picture. Note that when you select (click on) a picture, a new Picture Tools tab will appear. Click it to find many editing options.

To suppress the gridlines from showing in the printed page, go to Page Layout tab the Sheet options group, Gridlines and uncheck Print. To suppress the gridlines from showing on the screen, on the same tab and group uncheck View.

Click on the File tab, Print and click the arrow next to No Scaling to scale the page or fit it to one page. You can also click Page Setup at the bottom of the Print options list, click the Sheet tab and then choose the direction your document will print (Over, then down or down and then over).


Example 2 (with rotated text and along one long horizontal line. The gridlines will not show when printed.)

To Rotate Text
Select the cell and on the Home tab, in the Alignment group, click the Orientation button. You can make one of the preset options or click Format Cell Alignment to move the pointer to the exact angle you want. 



Page Orientation
To change the page to Landscape, go to the Page Layout tab, Page Setup group, Orientation.

Example 3  (no new techniques in this example, just a different layout)

I inserted a line from the drawing toolbar to connect the elements. I also used an alternate method of changing column width (row height) by watching the counter as I dragged the double-arrow in the header between columns.

Same timeline in spreadsheet view with gridlines showing. (See above, to remove them.)


Example 3

This site has a nice timeline, but adapting it is a little more complicated. If you save his template and try to adapt it, play with it 1st or get help from Ms. Balton or Ms. Rutledge.


Other Resources: