How to Make a Timeline in PowerPoint: The Complete Guide

Timelines are a great way to visually present the timeline and key milestones of a project in PowerPoint. Whether you need to make a timeline for a work presentation school project or personal use, PowerPoint makes it easy to create a basic timeline that you can then customize to fit your needs.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the entire process of making timelines in PowerPoint, from creating a simple timeline using PowerPoint’s built-in tools to using an add-in to instantly generate more complex timelines with just a few clicks

Creating a Basic Timeline in PowerPoint

The easiest way to make a simple timeline in PowerPoint is using SmartArt graphics. Here’s how:

  1. Open your PowerPoint presentation and insert a new slide.

  2. Go to the “Insert” tab and click the “SmartArt” button.

  3. In the dialog box, select the “Process” category on the left.

  4. Choose a timeline layout from the main window such as “Basic Timeline” or “Continuous Circle Process”

  5. Click “OK” to insert the timeline graphic into your slide.

You should now see a basic timeline graphic with default placeholder text in your slide.

  1. To replace the text, click inside one of the text boxes and type your own milestone title or date.

  2. To add more milestones, right-click the timeline graphic and select “Add Shape” > “Add shape after” or “Add shape before”.

  3. Repeat this process to add all of your timeline milestones and dates in order.

Once your milestones are added, you can customize the look and feel of your timeline graphic using the SmartArt Tools Design tab. Here are some quick design tweaks you can make:

  • Change the color scheme
  • Add visual effects like shadows or 3D
  • Switch to a different timeline layout
  • Resize the graphic or individual elements

This built-in tool lets you easily create simple, clean timelines to highlight key events and dates. But if you want more flexibility and control over the design, you may want to explore using a timeline maker add-in for PowerPoint.

Creating Advanced Timelines with Office Timeline

For more professional timelines, I highly recommend using Office Timeline – a PowerPoint add-in designed specifically for making timelines.

The key benefit of Office Timeline is that it automates the process of making complex timelines according to your exact specifications and branding.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

1. Install the Office Timeline add-in

First, install the Office Timeline add-in for PowerPoint from This will add a new “Office Timeline” tab in your PowerPoint ribbon.

2. Build your timeline

Next, open PowerPoint, go to the new Office Timeline tab, and click “New Timeline” to launch the timeline builder.

In the builder, you can:

  • Select from dozens of professionally designed timeline templates
  • Enter your own milestones, dates, and other timeline data
  • Import data from Excel or Project
  • Customize timeline settings like the date range, scales, layout, etc.

3. Generate and customize the timeline

Once your data and settings are entered, click “Create” and Office Timeline will instantly generate your timeline in a new PowerPoint slide, already formatted.

From here, customizing your timeline is a breeze:

  • Change colors, fonts, sizes
  • Add images or icons
  • Switch layouts or date scales
  • Move or add new milestones

Plus, your timeline will update automatically if your source data changes.

Timeline Templates, Examples and Ideas

To help spark ideas and speed up the design process, here are some timeline templates and examples you can make in PowerPoint:

  • Project timelines – Show phases and milestones for launching a new product, program or initiative
  • Marketing campaign timelines – Track your marketing plan and key launches
  • Product roadmaps – Highlight releases and features planned for your product
  • History timelines – Create an illustrated timeline of key events
  • Employee lifecycle timeline – Display milestones in the employee experience
  • How-to timelines – Visualize steps in a process or procedure
  • Biographies – Tell the story of someone’s life highlights
  • Event schedules – Breakdown conferences, weddings or trips

You can find more timeline inspiration by browsing Office Timeline’s free timeline templates.

FAQs about PowerPoint Timelines

Here are answers to some common questions about making timelines in PowerPoint:

How do I make a timeline horizontal in PowerPoint?

To orient your timeline horizontally in PowerPoint, first select your timeline graphic, then go to the SmartArt Tools > Design tab. Click “Right to Left” to make the timeline flow horizontally rather than vertically.

How do I make a timeline automatically update in PowerPoint?

With Office Timeline, your timelines automatically update when the source data changes. First, make sure you are linking your timeline to an Excel sheet or other external data. Then when the data is updated, just click “Refresh” on the Office Timeline tab in PowerPoint to update the timeline.

Can you create a timeline in PowerPoint?

Yes, you can create timelines directly within PowerPoint using SmartArt graphics. For more advanced timelines, you can use the Office Timeline add-in.

How do you make a timeline template in PowerPoint?

To create a reusable timeline template in PowerPoint, first design your timeline slide including colors, layouts, styles etc. Then save your presentation as a PowerPoint Template (.potx) file rather than a regular PPTX presentation. This template can then be reused.

How do you put timeline in chronological order in PowerPoint?

When building your timeline in PowerPoint, make sure to put the milestones in chronological order from top to bottom or left to right, depending on the layout. Office Timeline makes this easy since it will automatically order your timeline data chronologically.


Whether you need a simple project timeline for a school presentation or a sleek executive roadmap to pitch your startup’s 5-year plan, PowerPoint provides all the tools you need to make professional timelines that impress audiences and bring clarity to your message.

The built-in SmartArt graphics offer a quick way to create basic timelines, while the Office Timeline add-in saves time by automating the design process so you can build boardroom-ready timelines in just minutes.

So the next time you need to communicate a series of events, milestones, or plans over a time period, turn to PowerPoint timelines to engage your audience and clearly present the big picture, as well as the key details.

Frequency of Entities

  • PowerPoint: 25
  • Timeline: 24
  • Milestones: 8
  • Office Timeline: 7
  • SmartArt: 5
  • Template: 4
  • Presentation: 3
  • Project: 3
  • Add-in: 3
  • Design: 3
  • Customize: 3

how to make timeline on powerpoint

How to make a timeline in PowerPoint manually using native PowerPoint feature

  • Create a new PowerPoint presentation or open an existing presentation and add a new slide
  • In the menu bar, click on the Insert tab and choose the SmartArt button. There you will have the option to choose from different SmartArt Graphics. To create a project timeline, choose from the template section Process and then pick Simple timeline
  • Try out different styles and templates from the selection at any time.

By default, the Simple timeline will show 3 milestones and placeholders for your text. Click in the milestone’s [Text] or use the text pane instead. Press Shift + Enter to insert a line break. When you use the text pane, you can easily enter more milestones. Click Enter and you will see another bullet point. PowerPoint will adjust the font size automatically depending on the number of events and the amount of text you enter.

As you notice, the milestones are positioned on the horizontal axis with the same distance between them. Irrespective of the dates you inserted.

PowerPoint offers you many ways to style your timeline. The way you set colors, font properties etc. will affect the perception of your timeline. A client might have their brand colors, font type – all can be adjusted with a few clicks manually.

Before we show you how to change a timeline, note that SmartArt offers you different templates that change the overall look of your timeline. In the menu bar, click on the SmartArt Desgin tab, then open the SmartArt Styles menu and browse the options.

PowerpPoint allows you to change the font family, font weight, font color etc. using Rich Text Formatting. Select the text you want to change and use the Rich Text Editor that will then show up.

In addition, you can use the menu bar like you will know it from Microsoft Word.

Select any milestone using right-click. This will open a menu in which you can change the fill color, outline color and much more of the selected milestone.

It is possible to change the color of the axis just the way you change the color of like you the milestones: right-click on the arrow and use the menu that will then open. Besides the color, you can also change the width of the axis which will help make the milestones stand out more to deliver the message of your timeline.

You can use drag and drop to change the position of a milestone, vertically and horizontally. Moving the milestones closer to their description text will make it easier for the readers of your graphic to make the right connection between circle and text.

How to make a timeline in PowerPoint

This step-by-step PowerPoint timeline tutorial will show you ways how to make professional timelines right inside Microsoft’s popular presentation tool.

After readint this step-by-step PowerPoint timeline tutorial you will be enabled to create a basic timeline that you can adjust and style manually. In the end, you will be able to create a simple graphic suitable for presentations or reports created for your clients. Because Microsoft PowerPoint is a widely used presentation tool the benefit is that many of the steps might be familiar to you. On the downside, using Microsoft PowerPoint to create a timeline might lack drag and drop simplicity, or the flexibility you need to show more accurate details or update the timeline on a regular basis.

If you need to create and update timelines regularly for your slides and reports, you might use a free online timeline generator. Vizzlo offers an easy-to-use and fast solution PowerPoint add-in that will help you to automate this process. In this tutorial, you can read how to create a timeline using native PowerPoint features and how to use Vizzlo’s free online tool to make a timeline in PowerPoint automatically.

How to make a timeline in powerpoint

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