Simple Timeline Creation

Many of the writing projects I take on involve the creation of a timeline graphic. Such timelines can be quickly created using nothing more than a spreadsheet and some clever formatting tips.
  • Start with a new, blank MS Excel (or Apple’s Numbers, in my case) document.
  • Add tasks as row labels (skipping Row 1, the header row)
  • Add Month names to every 4th column (skipping Column 1, the header column)

Step 1: add task and month names

Also, adjust the column width of the B through Z columns so that the entire timeline is narrow enough to display on a landscape printed page.
 Narrowed column widths
Merge 4 cells for each month (B1, C1, D1, and E1 for April, e.g.) in the header row so that the APRIL label spans 4 columns. That way, you have a “first week of April” (1st 7 days) column, a “second week in April” (2nd 7 days), and so on. Be sure to align the month names flush-left.
Select the alternating months’ columns (starting with the second month) and set the background color to 30% gray, for ease of reading.
Use alternating colors to highlight every other month
Then, select the cells representing task timeframes (B2 for task1, e.g.) and set their background to 100% black.
Now showing task duration
But, of course, you wouldn’t include the spreadsheet user interface header (A, B, C…) and row (1, 2, 3…) labels.
Finished timeline