How to Create a Timeline in PowerPoint

By Published On: August 2nd, 2022Categories: Uncategorized
How to Create a Timeline in PowerPoint

This article has been written with input from designers and presentation experts with over 7 years of experience. Welcome to the ultimate guide on creating a timeline in PowerPoint.

In this article, we shall be looking at the easiest ways to create a timeline, animate it, and customize it as per your needs. The easiest way to get started is by using SmartArt. But the problem with SmartArt is that a lot of professionals find it amateurish and cheap. SmartArt is also not easy to customize, sometimes it can really end up being a pain.

The alternative is to use a timeline template for PowerPoint that can be easily downloaded and customized to fit your needs.

How to make a simple timeline in PowerPoint

Let’s get started with creating a timeline in PowerPoint.

How to insert a timeline into PowerPoint

To get started with a timeline, you’ll need to insert a SmartArt to your slide. You can do this by going to the Insert tab and then clicking on SmartArt.

Create a timeline in PowerPoint by using SmartArt button under the Insert Tab

Once the pop-up box appears, click on Process in the left side. You can try out different options that might suit what you’re trying to do. But for the sake of this article, find and select Basic Timeline.

Select the Basic Timeline to create your timeline in PowerPoint using SmartArt

You’ll end up with something like this:

This is what a basic timeline looks like in PowerPoint using SmartArt

Click on the individual elements to edit or add new text. You’ll notice that while doing so, a pop-up window opens up on the left side titled “Type your text here”. This is the Text Pane. If this isn’t visible you can enable it by going to the SmartArt Design tab, and clicking on Text Pane.

Enable the Text Pane using this button

The Text Pane makes it easier to add and edit text and subheadings in your timeline, so it’s better to familiarise yourself with it.

You can add titles and subheadings when you create a timeline in PowerPoint

You can add the titles of each element using the Text Pane. If you need to add subheadings under any element, simply press Enter and click on Demote in the SmartArt Design tab to demote the text to a subheading.

Demote a piece of text to make it a subheading and promote it to make it a title

You may need to select the text and change the size of the font so that it fits better into the design.

You can add more elements in the Text Pane itself by adding more points, or you could just go to the SmartArt Design tab and click on Add Shape. Add the necessary content you need, and you should be done with a basic form of a timeline.

This is how a basic timeline looks like when you create a Timeline in PowerPoint

How to animate timeline in PowerPoint

You can easily animate your timeline so that every element appears sequentially. To do this, first select the entire timeline. In the SmartArt Design tab, click on Convert, and then click on Convert to Shapes.

Convert your timeline SmartArt into shapes by using this button

Once you do that, right click the timeline, and navigate to Group and click on Ungroup.

You need to ungroup the timeline to animate it in PowerPoint

This will ungroup all elements of the timeline, enabling you to add animations to individual elements.

Click on the first element, and click on the Animations tab. Select a suitable animation effect. For our example, I’ve chosen Fade.

Select animations for timelines that you create in PowerPoint

You can order the animations so that they appear one after the other smoothly. To do this, right after applying the animation, find the section titled Timing. Here, in the dropdown next to “Start:” click on After Previous. Do this for all the elements to get a smooth animation throughout, without having to click each time.


How to make clickable interactive timelines in PowerPoint

You can also make your timeline interactive. In PowerPoint, we have the feature to make each element of the timeline clickable. Let’s learn how to create clickable timelines that take the user to different slides.

To do this, right click on the element you want to make clickable. Click on Hyperlink, which should open a new dialog box called Insert Hyperlink.

You can make your timeline interactive and clickable by converting them into hyperlinks as shown

On the left side, select Place in This Document, and select the slide you want the user to navigate to.


Now, whenever you click on that element, it’ll take you to the slide you’ve selected. You could also add a button to navigate back to the timeline if needed. You can do this by inserting another shape, and following the above steps to make it clickable.

Tips for creating a timeline in PowerPoint

Anyone can create a timeline by following the steps above. How do you make sure that the timeline you’re making is good? Here are some tips you can keep in mind while creating a timeline in PowerPoint.

Plan ahead

It’s better to plan ahead, and write down all the information to be included in your timeline in a separate document first. This is to make sure that you do not miss out on any key information while you’re busy creating the timeline. You can focus on the design side of the timeline, while knowing that all the information within it is going to be top notch!

The text pane is your friend

Instead of using Demote and Promote buttons to create headings and bullet points, use the text pane to save a ton of time. This is the most effective way to add, edit and delete text from your timeline. After inserting a timeline to your slide, while editing the text, access the text pane by going to the SmartArt Design tab and clicking on Text Pane.

Use timeline templates

If you want stunning timelines without spending too much time on the design part, a template is the obvious choice. Let’s take a look at the easiest way to create a timeline in PowerPoint:

How to create a timeline in PowerPoint using a template? (Easiest +fastest method!)

This is the easiest way to create a timeline in PowerPoint. If you have more complicated timeline designs in mind, but either lack the design skills or time to create them, you could always use a timeline template. These templates can be easily customized and edited to suit your needs. And the best part? It’s super easy to get started. Using a template barely takes any time, and you’ll end up impressing your audience with a beautifully designed timeline that gets the job done!

Check out some of these easy-to-use timeline templates for PowerPoint.

Why should you use timelines in PowerPoint?

There are many types of presentations that just works better with a timeline. In these cases, having a timeline can really elevate the effectiveness of your presentations. They become more impactful, memorable, and your message gets conveyed effectively. Here are a few use cases where having a timeline is a big advantage.

  • Historical timeline: If you’re presenting historic events that happened, a timeline probably your best friend. You can use a timeline in your presentation to display the events that happened in a chronological order, along with additional details.
  • Milestones: You can use timelines in your slides to present milestones and deadlines for a project you are working on. This gives your audience all the information they need, at a glance!
  • To show your startup’s journey to a potential investor, or to present your company’s growth. Investors need this kind of information, and a timeline can really help you convey maximum information in the easiest way.

Let’s summarize how to create a timeline in PowerPoint

So, there you have it, a complete guide to getting started with creating and building timelines in PowerPoint. Once you get the hang of it, it’s an easy task that shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes. But for more complicated, visually striking, and impactful timelines that fit into your branding, you might need to look into a timeline template.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Check out more articles like this on our blog to drastically improve your presentations. Until next time, happy presenting!