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How to Create a Timeline in Microsoft Word [20+ Templates]

Written by: Jennifer Gaskin

May 31, 2021

Timeline Template Word

Timelines are among the most engaging types of visual communication because they are immediately recognizable. Adding them to many types of documents is easy, and it’s even possible to create a timeline in Microsoft Word.

Note that I said it’s possible, not that I endorse doing this. After I take you through the steps of creating a timeline in Word, I’ll share some timeline templates that will make you think twice about using a word-processing program for graphic design.

With Venngage’s timeline templates, you can quickly create beautiful and engaging timelines that you can use to visualize projects or schedules in your Word documents by simply importing them.


Click to jump ahead:

How to create a timeline in Microsoft Word

You can either create a timeline manually or use SmartArt graphics in Microsoft Word.

The manual process will take longer, but you’ll end up with a more custom result than using SmartArt graphics. Let’s break down the steps with each process and check out the finished product.

Manual timeline in Microsoft Word

As I said, creating a timeline manually in Microsoft Word by drawing a series of shapes and text blocks and then inserting icons will take considerably longer, but you will get a more custom and tweakable end result.

Here’s the timeline template I’m going to create for Word (inspired by a Venngage template):

timeline template word

Step 1: Add title

Type and style the headline. In this case, I used one of the preset design themes in Word, but you don’t have to do that.

Step 1: Add title

Step 2: Draw timeline

Draw the center timeline by going to “Insert” and selecting one of the line shapes.

Step 2: Draw timeline

Step 3: Draw rectangle shapes

Populate the frame with your timeline entries. Go to “Insert” and add rectangle shapes. In this case, I chose to alternate above and below the line because that’s what was in the original I was emulating. The biggest benefit of this is you can basically have twice the amount of content.

The default in Word is blue boxes with black borders, while text boxes default to white with black borders. So you need to change those under the Shape Format menu.

Step 3: Draw rectangle shapes

The default in Word is blue boxes with black borders, while text boxes default to white with black borders. So you need to change those under the Shape Format menu.

Step 4: Add and style content

Insert text boxes, add the content, bold the date and part of the entry. Again, remember that you’ll need to change the default style of the text box.

Step 4: Add and style content

Step 5: Add white circles and icons

Under the “Insert” menu, add and size a circle, centering it within the blue shape. Under “Insert” > “Icon”, find the best option for each entry. This requires some finessing, as you need to set the icon not to wrap around text and then adjust it to be in front of text.

Step 5: Add white circles and icons

Step 6: Add connecting lines and circles

Insert lines and circles to connect the timeline entries to the center. Adjust everything to get the ideal alignment.

Step 6: Add connecting lines and circles

Finished product: Not too bad, but very time-consuming

It took quite a bit of fussing and manual adjustments, but the finished product is pretty close to the inspiration design.

timeline template word

SmartArt timeline in Microsoft Word

Word offers a pair of timelines in its stock SmartArt gallery, and the creation process for SmartArt timelines is considerably shorter than for custom-made ones. But the result leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Step 1: Insert the title

This is the same first step as in the manual example. Type and style your title as you wish.

Step 1: Insert the title

Step 2: Insert SmartArt timeline

Go to “Insert” > “SmartArt” and choose from the gallery of available options, which is relatively limited for timelines. There are only two graphics made for timelines, though there are some other SmartArt graphics that would probably work, too.

Step 2: Insert SmartArt timeline

Step 3: Write the text

At the top left of the SmartArt tab, pull up the text pane and write all of your bullet points. While you can do some tweaking of the text, it’s difficult to adjust the size of the boxes to get them exactly where you want them.

Step 3: Write the text

Step 4: Do some manual text adjustments

You can bold some of the text, but you’re pretty much locked into the sizing of elements depending on the SmartArt timeline you choose.

Step 4: Do some manual text adjustments

Step 5: Prepare for icons

To insert our icons, you first need to make some room for them. You won’t be able to delete the preloaded circles, but you can select them and change their format to having no fill or outline and that will make them appear invisible.

Step 5: Prepare for icons

Step 6: Insert icons

Under the insert menu, pick the icon drop down and search for appropriate entries. You’ll need to change how they are aligned by bringing them in front of the text under the graphics format menu. Change the color there, too.

timeline template word

In addition to not having a huge supply of icon options, having to do so many manual adjustments made this SmartArt graphic not quite smart enough for us.

Finished product: Hard to read

The final result is hard to read because the text automatically adjusted to make room for each entry. Writing the text and having it appear was a nice time-saver, but those time savings were completely erased by the other adjustments I had to make.

timeline template word

Here’s the simple, news-y timeline I was trying to replicate. The manual route got us much closer to this finished product, but in both cases, the experience was clunky and time-consuming and ultimately not as effective as this version.

Pandemic Refugee Crisis Timeline Infographic

Related40+ Timeline Template Examples and Design Tips

If you’re looking for SmartArt-like functionality that lets you automatically add, resize and move content around, Venngage’s new smart templates can help you save time while also creating a fully custom design.

Timeline templates for Microsoft Word

Before you start creating a timeline for Microsoft Word, you first need to determine where in your document it will be placed.

If you have the freedom to let the timeline take up an entire page, use more real estate by creating a vertical timeline.

Here are some timeline templates for Microsoft Word to get you inspired as you bring your vision to life.

Project timeline templates for Word

Keeping projects on track is crucial to the success of any organization. In some cases, a delay of even a day could cost big bucks. Project timelines can be used during the planning phases of projects and during the process to keep everything moving smoothly.

5 Stage Planning Process Hospital Timeline

Project timelines can include specific dates, months or weeks on which specific tasks are expected to be completed. That requires the planning of the project to be advanced enough that it’s possible to note these dates, of course.

Modern Simple Timeline

If you don’t yet have specific dates or timeframes outlined, that’s OK. For informational or planning purposes, consider this free project timeline template that will help all interested parties understand the workflow.

Related15+ Simple and Editable Project Timeline Templates You Can Use in Word & PowerPoint

History timeline templates for Word

Timelines can also be used to catalog events from the world at large, including ancient and recent history. These types of timelines are most often used for content marketing purposes, but they can also be used to educate and inform within Word documents.

Word History Timeline Infographic

History timeline templates can be useful additions to Word documents, especially when you want to make sure whoever is reading it has a basic level of knowledge.

6 Years of Tradition
Linear Timeline Infographic

History timelines aren’t limited to world events or developments. This example shows how a personal history can be conveyed in a history timeline that would easily slot into a Word document like a job application or resume.

A Brief History of Valentine's Day Timeline Infographic Template

History timelines are also a good fit for a vertical presentation (more of those momentarily). This is often the best of both worlds, as it takes up basically an entire Word page.

Vertical timeline templates for Word

Word documents default to a letter-sized page, or 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches tall. With a standard 1-inch margin around the page, that leaves a vertically oriented rectangle on each page. When creating timelines for Word, consider ones that get the most of portrait orientation.

Technology Timeline Infographic

This technology history timeline would easily slot into any Word document thanks to its simple design and modern style.

Basic Timeline Infographic

Project timelines can run horizontally, but they’re also a good match for vertical or portrait orientation. While this particular version is probably too tall for your Word doc, just update it with your content and it will flow seamlessly.

Simple Timeline Infographic

This colorful vertical timeline shows you how much personality and visual appeal you can add to the timelines you create for Word using Venngage’s Timeline Maker.

Dark Social Media Timeline Infographic

Integrate well-known logos to enable your audience to make immediate mental connections at just a glance.

Project management timeline templates for Word

I’ve touched on this a bit already, but project managers are some of the most regular users of timelines. Project management timelines are excellent additions to Word documents, particularly proposals or contracts.

Marketing Strategy Timeline Template

Project management timelines are easy to slot into contracts for client review or other planning documents formatted in Word. Add some images of your actual projects to further engage your team and clients.

End of Year Fundraising Campaign Planning Timeline Infographic Template

Keep all necessary tasks clear in the team’s mind with a project management timeline that lists out each task’s target completion date.

Project plan timeline templates for Word

Project plan timelines can be used in the early phases of a project before too much work has been done. In fact, creating a project plan timeline for a Word document like a proposal or the first draft of a contract can help all parties see issues and make changes.

Client Project Timeline Infographic Template

Project plan timelines are useful before, during and even after projects. Even before you’ve landed that big contract, it’s helpful to create a project plan timeline that outlines ideal timeframes for the completion of various steps.

Project Plan Timeline Infographic

Add some light data visualization like this project plan timeline. Note how each week is color-coded and a new team or task is highlighted. This is helpful to help team members understand how their tasks may intersect or overlap with teammates.

Project schedule templates for Word

Get into the nitty-gritty details of the flow of your team’s work with a project schedule timeline. These can be easily updated to cover a single big event or several weeks or months of tasks that need to be completed.

Wedding Timeline Infographic

What is a wedding if not one big, joyful, emotionally draining project? Take inspiration from this schedule template for your events, whether they’re big meetings, conventions or other complex projects.

Corporate Weekly Project Gantt Chart Template

This project schedule template can be quickly edited and customized for your team. Note how both names and job functions are listed. Being so detailed with a project schedule is an excellent way to build accountability in your work.

Project milestone templates for Word

Keep the entire team well-informed by adding a project milestone timeline to your Word documents. Depending on how often you’re creating new docs for the project, it may be wise to consider project milestone templates that can be updated when tasks are completed.

Social Media Timeline Infographic

While this example applies to social media platforms, it would also make a great addition to your project milestone template library. Rather than social media logos, consider icons that apply to each phase of the project.

Light Project Workflow Diagram Template

This unique approach to a project milestone timeline reduces visual clutter while it illustrates when and how various roles and responsibilities overlap throughout the course of a project.

Event timeline templates for Word

Events like conventions, gatherings, reunions and others require meticulous planning, often down to the hour. Event timelines are wise additions to participant or speaker packets created in Word.

History Of Nike Timeline Infographic Template

This horizontal timeline created to illustrate the events in the corporate history of Nike could easily be updated for event planning. Think of it as a calendar. When and where will activities happen and who will be involved?

Hospital Weekly Sponsored Activities Timeline Infographic Template

Your Word documents may not need to feel like event posters. But consider templates like this event timeline if what you’re planning leans celebratory rather than corporate.

World History Timeline Infographic Template

This history timeline would be easy to modify for an event timeline. Use the circles and icons to plug the keynotes and other major events and use the smaller text to provide important supporting information.

Chronology templates for Word

Explain the beat-by-beat events with a chronology timeline template. These are useful both for real-world historical events as well as the detailed steps that will take place in your projects.

Instagram User Growth Timeline Infographic Template

Chronology templates are easy to add to Word documents in which the reader will need to know certain basic facts in order to understand what’s to come.

This is especially true with white papers and other research in which a lack of knowledge about how events have transpired could affect understanding and appreciation.

Colorful Timeline Infographic

Chronology timelines can also be created in horizontal formats, as this example illustrates. Consider updating the color palette if your Word doc is for a corporate audience.

Related: 40+ Timeline Templates, Examples and Design Tips

How to make a Microsoft Word timeline in Venngage

Creating a Microsoft Word timeline in Venngage is easy and intuitive. Thanks to the new smart list features and smart templates Venngage is rolling out, it’s even quicker and more streamlined to bring your vision to life.

Step 1: Sign up for a free Venngage account

You can sign up with your email, Gmail or Facebook account.

Step 1: Sign up for a free Venngage account

Step 2: Select a timeline template from our templates library

Aside from the ones I’ve shared above, there are also hundreds of timeline templates you can easily edit even if you have no design skills.

Timeline Template Word

Step 3: Start editing your timeline with our smart timeline editor

Most of our templates are created with the simple drag-and-drop editor that lets you design in minutes, even if you have no design skills.

Venngage is also rolling out new smart templates with the smart editor which makes it easy for you to add new nodes/branches to your timeline.

You can add, edit, delete or drag nodes, texts, icons around in one click, and the node will automatically adjust to whatever content you add to it as well.

Step 3: Start editing your timeline with our smart timeline editor

Step 4: Liven up your timeline with icons, illustrations and branding elements

There are over 40,000 icons and illustrations for you to visualize any information you want on your flowchart.

If you upgrade to a Business account, you can enjoy My Brand Kit—the one-click branding kit that lets you upload your logo and apply brand colors and fonts to any design.

Step 4: Liven up your timeline with icons, illustrations and branding elements

Step 5: Share a public link for free or upgrade to download

Once you upgrade, you can download your timeline as a PNG file that you can insert to your Word document. After you’ve downloaded, feel free to go back and make edits any time.

You can also export your timeline in PDF, Interactive PDF or PowerPoint format—if you want to use it for your presentation.

Step 5: Share a public link for free or upgrade to download

In summary: Use Venngage to create a custom, engaging timeline for your Word documents

Get the best of both worlds by building a stunning and effective timeline graphic that will fit seamlessly into your business reports, papers, contracts and other Word documents.

Use Venngage’s Timeline Maker, start creating for timeline for free and upgrade to a paid plan to export a timeline graphic to Word. No design experience required.

About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.