Excel - Creating a Timeline

December 2016

Learn how to create timelines under Excel!

Creating a basic timeline

The general principle

We will use a graph where the x-axis will be graduated in years.
  • Labels identifying the event will be entered one by one.
  • The vertical axis is graduated from 0 to 10, to set the location of each label, in order to avoid any overlapping.
  • We will also hide the gridlines .


We wish to indicate milestones in the life of Victor Hugo ( series 1), and the publication of his great works (series 2).
The first step is to compile a table of data:
  • In column A enter the year,
  • In column B the scale chosen for the biographical events
  • In column C the chosen literary work .
  • In column E contain the titles of labels.
  • Series 1 and 2 have different colors.

Creating the timeline

  • We select the A1:C9 range and click on Insert/Graph/Column/ 2D histogram .
  • Graph containing 3 bar of is obtained, as Excel assumes that the numbers in A are the first bar.
  • Right-click on a bar, choose "Select Data" and "Delete" the "Victor Hugo" series and change the x-axis by selecting A2:A9
  • There are 2 bars left and the dates are displayed horizontally.
  • Right-click on the bar and Format the data set to your convenience.

Remove the gridlines

  • Right-click on the first bar, select Add Data Labels, click on a label: all are selected, click again: only the label marked as 9 is selected, type the = sign and click in E2:
  • In the formula bar you can read =Sheet1!$E$2, validate; the label dislays "naissance".
  • Continue for three other labels. Repeat the procedure for the second series.
  • Click Format the data labels. Fill-in the first series with a pink color and the second series with a pale green color.
  • We shall notice the overlapping of the 1853 and 1859 labels, to remedy this, simply change the values ??in columns B and C, for example put 2 in C7 and 1 in C8.

Creating an improve timline

If you want the x-axis elements to be proportional to the dates , you will need to use a table with 84 lines, instead of 9.
There will always be eight dates with events and 65 without date.
The procedure and implementation are exactly the same .
It will thus comply with the time scale and provide a better visualization of the evolution of Victor Hugo.

Related :

This document entitled « Excel - Creating a Timeline » from CCM (ccm.net) is made available under the Creative Commons license. You can copy, modify copies of this page, under the conditions stipulated by the license, as this note appears clearly.