How to Use an Excel Timeline Template

Businesswoman leading project timeline discussion with coworker in office.

Thomas Barwick

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Do you want to plot your excel data on a visually striking timeline? Follow this tutorial to learn how to download and use a selection of free timeline templates directly from Microsoft. Add a bit of pizazz to your projects with only a few clicks.

These instructions apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and Excel for Office 365. 

Downloading the Timeline Template

A selection of timeline templates is available for free on Microsoft's website.

A screenshot of Excel's template downloads page for timelines.

Once you've browsed the site, follow these instructions:

  1. Click to select the timeline template you want to use. Make sure that it says Excel next to it for compatibility.

  2. Click the Download button on the template page.

  3. Choose the folder where you want to store the template.

Using the Template in Excel

The template is an Excel worksheet with special formatting including borders on specific cells and text boxes where you can input dates below the timeline.

A screenshot of Excel's Project Timeline template.

Everything in the timeline, therefore, can be altered to suit your needs. Here are the most common changes people need to make to the template.

Changing the Default Title

First, you'll want to change the default title and replace it with your own.

Project Timeline (title of graph) in Excel
  1. Double click on the timeline title.

  2. Drag select to highlight the existing title.

  3. Press the Delete key on the keyboard.

  4. Type in your title.

Altering Timeline Dates

The template has pre-filled dates that likely won't fit with the ones you wish to use.

Date column in Excel file

You can change them with the following steps:

  1. Scroll down below the timeline to the chart below it. Double click on the date in the data chart that you want to change.

  2. Press the Delete key on the keyboard to delete the default date.

  3. Type the new date.

  4. Repeat as needed.

Moving Timeline Labels

If you aren't happy with where an event's label is, you can change its positioning with the Position setting in the data set.

Position column in Project Milestones Excel project

First, find the data that you wish to alter, go to the Position column, and change the cell's number.

The greater the number in the Position cell, the farther away the label is from the timeline, while a smaller number moves it closer. Additionally, a negative number places the label underneath the timeline, while a positive number puts it above.

Adding Events to the Timeline

Next, you'll need to make sure that the right number of events is on your timeline.

Angle tool in Excel project

Here is how to add additional labels to your timeline:

  1. Locate the bottom-right corner of your data set.

  2. Find the small black or blue angle tool, and with your mouse, click and drag it down a row for every additional data label you wish to add.

  3. With a new line added, enter all necessary information such as the label's date, position, and any associated text.

To delete an event, right click on the row and click Delete > Table rows.

Finally, you can tweak the default formatting, including the style and colors by clicking anywhere inside your timeline to select it, clicking the paintbrush icon, and choosing styles and colors from the dialog box pops up.