Monday, November 02, 2009

Creating Timelines

How to SORT OF hunker down and work while finding a way to blog instead? Easy! Let me show you.

Since Draft One of Lakansyèl I've created a lot more scenes (a LOT more scenes) which need to be plugged in where appropriate through the text and then filed smooth. Daunting? You bet!

I figure the miracle tool I need to get me out of this quagmire is a timeline program that I can input the various actions into and see where I need to go. This is the best thing I've found so far.

I did try Liquid Story Binder XE, but it crashed after I input two character names and I thought, Self. This sucks. Try something else.

This one is an Excel timeline, worked up by someone who likes to do these things, who also teaches you how to do it yourself if you don't want to use his template. I'm going to play around with it now. Meanwhile, if you come across any even simpler programs, let me know. I'm looking for something I can keep adding into, rather than having to know in advance how many columns I'm going to need. Not having used Excel almost at all, I'm not sure if this is the answer, but I'm hoping it is.

Thanks Jon!

Excerpted below:

There are many ways to create a timeline in Excel, but most of the methods I have seen make use of the drawing tools or bar charts or a gantt chart for project timelines. I wrote an article about this a while back (see Timelines in Excel).

Well, I am happy to say that I have finally found an easier way to rapidly create timelines. This means being able to quickly make timelines for various historical periods or documenting events in a person's life (for historical timelines, geneology projects, school reports, etc.). The figure below is an example, showing some of the events in the life of Benjamin Franklin.

Timeline Chart in Excel Showing Events in the Life of Benjamin Franklin
Figure 1: An Excel chart showing an example timeline.

If you don't have time to learn how the timeline is created, and want to just jump right in and create your own timeline, go ahead and download the Excel Timeline Template below.

Project Timeline Template

Excel Timeline Template

This template creates a timeline using an XY chart with error bars as leader lines. The first worksheet contains the example timeline above. The second worksheet contains a project timeline example, where the time scale is days rather than years.

No Installation, No Macros - Just a simple spreadsheet

Download the Timeline Template Download Now

Cost: Free ($0.00)
License: Personal Use Only

File Type: .xls (~50KB)
Required: Microsoft Excel® 2002(XP), 2003, or 2007

This article provides a tutorial describing how to create a timeline like the one above, from scratch (without requiring any macros or VBA). I won't go into detail on some of the specific formatting used to fancy up the chart, but the necessary details are listed below...

- Wittwer, J.W., "How to Create a Timeline in Excel" from, Sep 2, 2005,

Ah! Pretty cool, eh? Here I am half an hour later with the beautiful beginnings of a life-saving timeline:

1 comment:

Lynda said...

Very cool, Casey. I might try it. I have a spreadsheet I use to keep track of characters' ages (rows) for each date (columns) of interest. You can add rows and columns but you have to replicate the formulas. E-mail me if you're interested.