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How to Make a Timeline in PowerPoint With Templates (w/Video)

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Read Time: 10 min
This post is part of a series called How to Use PowerPoint (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
How to Make a Flowchart in PowerPoint With PPT Templates
How to Embed (YouTube & Other) Videos into PowerPoint PPT Presentations

Timelines and presentations go hand in hand. One of the best ways to tell a story in your presentation is to give your audience a timeline that connects the past to the present. 

The Timeline PowerPoint Template is a premium template that features timeline infographics.The Timeline PowerPoint Template is a premium template that features timeline infographics.The Timeline PowerPoint Template is a premium template that features timeline infographics.
The Timeline PowerPoint Template is a premium template that features timeline infographics.

When you're crafting your story, share the key events that led you to the current moment. Timelines can also bridge the gap to the future. These past milestones can help you explain why you've reached a decision or chosen a new direction.

PowerPoint is synonymous with presentations. It's not surprising that you can build timelines using its features. This tutorial will teach you how to make a timeline with many milestones right inside of PowerPoint.

I'll walk you through creating a timeline from scratch that adapts to your content using PowerPoint's SmartArt feature. We'll also look at how to use custom PowerPoint themes to build professional timelines quickly.

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We also have a useful complement to this tutorial. Before reading on, download our FREE eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations, which will help you write, design, and deliver the perfect presentation.

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How to Quickly Make a Timeline in PowerPoint (Watch & Learn)

In this quick two-minute screencast video, I'll teach you an easy way to add a timeline to your PowerPoint slide. You'll learn to use SmartArt to add a timeline with points for key dates. These timelines are easy to edit, so if your points change, you can adapt your timeline without having to start from scratch.

We'll also take a look at using a great-looking PowerPoint template to add a unique timeline to your presentation quickly.

How to Make a Timeline in PowerPoint

Envato Elements has a premium template that contains timelines that you can use in PowerPoint. The template that will be used in this tutorial has a timeline in it.

The Project Timeline PowerPoint Infographics template is a premium template from Envato Elements.The Project Timeline PowerPoint Infographics template is a premium template from Envato Elements.The Project Timeline PowerPoint Infographics template is a premium template from Envato Elements.
The Project Timeline PowerPoint Infographics template is a premium template from Envato Elements.

This template is the Project Timeline PowerPoint Infographics. It comes with over 30 unique slides in 16:9 format. The premium template contains ten premade color schemes and light and dark backgrounds. 

If the timeline that is in the template isn’t right or you want to create your own, you can. We will use the SmartArt feature to create your timeline in PowerPoint.

I’m on a macOS using PowerPoint version 16.67. If you're using a different operating system or a different version of the software, your results may vary.
In this tutorial, we'll explore two ways to create a timeline in PowerPoint:
  1. Using a PowerPoint template timeline
  2. Creating a timeline with SmartArt

How to Customize Your PowerPoint Template Timeline

The quickest and easiest way to create a timeline in PowerPoint is by customizing a PowerPoint template timeline.

Using a template simplifies having a timeline in your presentation. Plus, it means that few edits are needed since the template was created by PowerPoint design professionals.

The Project Timeline PowerPoint Infographics template from Envato Elements has many timelines in the template. For this tutorial, we’ll edit slide 2. Let's get started:

1. Add Your Information

Add your text to the timeline.Add your text to the timeline.Add your text to the timeline.
Add your text to the timeline.

To add your information, click inside the box where the current text is and highlight the text. Next, press the Delete button on the keyboard.

Now you can add your own information into the text box. Add a title for each point and type the text for any more information you want to include. 

You can also delete graphic elements of the timeline and replace them. Just select the item you want to remove and press the Delete button.

Continue modifying the timeline slide until the timeline meets your needs.

2. Add Animation

Add animation to your timeline.Add animation to your timeline.Add animation to your timeline.
Add animation to your timeline.

You can add animation to text or objects to add more emphasis to your timeline. For example, let’s add animation to the text.

  1. Click the text or object that you want to animate.
  2. Click on the Animations tab. There are three different types of animation Entrance Effects, Emphasis Effects, and Exit Effects.
  3. Entrance Effects menu is already open. Choose an animation that you want to use.
  4. Or select another type of animate from the Animations tab.

3. Preview Your Presentation

You've just finished modifying a PowerPoint timeline template. It's that simple because a template gives you a head start.

But it's always a good idea to preview a presentation after you've customized a template. To review your presentation, click on Slide Show tab. Click the Play from the Start button or the Play from Current Slide button in the toolbar.

How to Make a Timeline Using SmartArt

The second way to make a timeline is to create one yourself through SmartArt:

1. Add a Blank Slide

Add a blank slide to your template so that you can add a timeline to your slide.Add a blank slide to your template so that you can add a timeline to your slide.Add a blank slide to your template so that you can add a timeline to your slide.
Add a blank slide to your template so that you can add a timeline to your slide.

If you want to create a timeline in PowerPoint, you'll probably want to do it on a blank slide.

If you've got a slide in your template with enough room to add a timeline, you don’t need to add a blank slide.

To add a blank slide to your presentation, click between the two slides where you want your blank slide to be in the sidebar on the left of your window.

You should see a flashing orange line. That is where your new slide will be added.

Next, click on the Insert tab above the toolbar. Then in the toolbar, click on the New Slide button.

2. Open SmartArt Menu

SmartArt can help you build a timeline from scratch.SmartArt can help you build a timeline from scratch.SmartArt can help you build a timeline from scratch.
SmartArt can help you build a timeline from scratch.

Now that you’re on the slide that you want to add your timeline to, click on the Insert tab.

Next, click on the SmartArt button in the toolbar. From the drop-down menu, choose the Process option.

A menu appears. Choose the Basic Timeline option from the menu and click OK.

3. Adjust Basic Timeline Graphic

Adding a basic timeline from SmartArt makes it to create a timeline.Adding a basic timeline from SmartArt makes it to create a timeline.Adding a basic timeline from SmartArt makes it to create a timeline.
Adding a basic timeline from SmartArt makes it to create a timeline.

After adding the basic timeline graphic to your slide, you may need to adjust it. You can change the size by dragging the handles that appear in the box around the graphic.

4. Add Your Information

Add your information to the timeline.Add your information to the timeline.Add your information to the timeline.
Add your information to the timeline.

When the graphic appears, you’ll notice a window next to it called SmartArt Text. This is where you can add your information.

Type in this box to add your information. The text boxes automatically adjusts according to how much text you type in the boxes. This feature automatically keeps all your text in the timeline the same size.

5. Add Colors

Change the colors of the basic timeline to match your color scheme.Change the colors of the basic timeline to match your color scheme.Change the colors of the basic timeline to match your color scheme.
Change the colors of the basic timeline to match your color scheme.

The timeline automatically appears in a green color. This may not match your color scheme, and you’ll want to change the color.

To change the color, click on the timeline arrow. We’ll change the color of that first.

Next, click on the Shape Fill button in the toolbar under the Home tab. A color menu appears. Choose the color that you want from the menu.

Select each circle and repeat the previous step to change the color of the circles in the arrow. Learn more about working with PowerPoint SmartArt in this tutorial: 

5 Top Timeline PowerPoint Presentations from Envato Elements

Here are the top five timeline PowerPoint presentations from Envato Elements:

1. Business Timeline PowerPoint Infographics

Business Timeline PowerPointBusiness Timeline PowerPointBusiness Timeline PowerPoint

The Business Timeline PowerPoint Infographics comes with over 20 unique slides that can be edited in PowerPoint. Each slide features a different timeline infographic. Everything in this template can be edited.

2. TIMELINE PowerPoint Infographics Slides

TIMELINE PowerPoint Infographics SlidesTIMELINE PowerPoint Infographics SlidesTIMELINE PowerPoint Infographics Slides

Timeline PowerPoint Infographic Slides comes with 33 unique timeline slides and a total of 35 total slides. The slides are in 16:9 format. It comes with eleven color scheme options that you can choose from. Also, this template comes with infographics and icons.

3. Business Timeline PowerPoint Template

Business Timeline PowerPoint TemplateBusiness Timeline PowerPoint TemplateBusiness Timeline PowerPoint Template

This premium timeline PowerPoint template comes with 35 unique slides in 16:9 format. Plus, the Business Timeline PowerPoint Template comes with both light and dark versions of the template. Everything in the template is entirely editable.

4. Business Timeline PowerPoint Infographic Slides

Business Timeline PowerPoint Infographics SlidesBusiness Timeline PowerPoint Infographics SlidesBusiness Timeline PowerPoint Infographics Slides

The Business Timeline PowerPoint Infographic Slides comes with 20 unique slides and a total of 240 slides. The slides are in 16:9 format. This template comes with 12 color variations that you can choose from. It also comes with 280 vector icons.

5. Corporate Timeline

Corporate TimelineCorporate TimelineCorporate Timeline

This premium template comes with 30 unique slides in HD resolution. Easily drag and drop an image of your choice by dragging it into a picture placeholder. You can use this template for any data-heavy business presentation.

Explore More PowerPoint Templates

Are you still looking for more PowerPoint template choices? Read these articles to find some great PowerPoint templates:

Download Our New eBook on Making Great Presentations (Free PDF)

We have the perfect complement to this tutorial, which will walk you through the complete presentation process. Learn how to write your presentation, design it like a pro, and prepare it to present powerfully. 

Download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It's available for FREE with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. 

How to Make a Great Presentation Free eBook PDFHow to Make a Great Presentation Free eBook PDFHow to Make a Great Presentation Free eBook PDF

Recap and Keep Learning More PowerPoint Skills

A timeline is a great way to step your audience through the past into the present. In this tutorial, you learned two ways that you can easily create them in PowerPoint. Whether you're using SmartArt or adapting a template to your liking, a timeline is a powerful storytelling tool. Consider a timeline for your next presentation.

These tutorials are a great way to learn other skills to help you connect better with your audience in presentations:

The Best Source for Timeline PowerPoint Templates (With Unlimited Use)

Envato Elements is a top source for premium Timeline PowerPoint Templates. It is a subscription service where all you need to do is pay a low monthly fee by paying a low monthly fee and become a subscriber. Once you’re a subscriber, you can access hundreds of premium timeline PowerPoint templates. You also get access to images, fonts, audio, and more.

Professionals make every premium template look professional and stylish. Also, using a premium template saves time because instead of creating a presentation from scratch, you start with a well-made base.

Once you download a template, all you need to do is to add your text and images. If you’re someone who likes to customize your presentation, you still can with a premium template. A good premium template is fully customizable.

Explore Envato Elements

Envato ElementsEnvato ElementsEnvato Elements

Download a Premium Timeline PowerPoint Template Today!

As you’ve seen, timelines are a great way to show a process over time. Using a premium template, you can have a nice-looking timeline within seconds.

In this article, you learned how to create your own basic timeline in Microsoft PowerPoint. Save time by downloading a Premium Timeline PowerPoint Template for your next project. If you use digital assets often, sign up today!

Editor's note: This post was originally published in September of 2017. It's been comprehensively updated by Sarah Joy

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