How to Create a Timeline in Excel (Free Templates Included)


Excel is a versatile spreadsheet tool that can create a variety of graphs, charts and forms, including timelines for projects. In this blog, we’ll go through each step needed to create a timeline in Excel and explain the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

Why Should You Create a Project Timeline in Excel?

Learn how to create a timeline that can be used to visualize how tasks or projects will be executed over time, identify who will be responsible for completing them and identify milestones and deliverables. The best part is that it’s helpful for any type of team or organization that’s executing a plan regardless of its industry.

Once you create this Excel project timeline, you can use this template to estimate future project timelines using project tasks and due dates. Templates are extremely helpful in creating and executing a successful project, so we encourage you to download our free Excel timeline template below.

Get your free

Timeline Template

Use this free Timeline Template for Excel to manage your projects better.


Even though Excel can be helpful in some scenarios, the platform can only do so much. Static timelines are only a weaker version of a collaborative Gantt chart which is an integral project management tool. If you’re looking for best-in-class timelines, ProjectManager has award-winning Gantt charts that populate data in real time.

Use ProjectManager’s Gantt chart to plan projects, define phases, link tasks, build a WBS, set a baseline and link all four types of task dependencies. Since everything is online, it’s easy to collaborate with your team as the project progresses. You can import an Excel file and get started in a matter of minutes. Get started with ProjectManager today for free and build a better timeline.

Project timeline in Excel imported into ProjectManager
ProjectManger is free to use and more powerful than Excel. Get started

How to Create a Project Timeline in Excel

Creating a timeline in Excel using this method takes only five simple formatting steps and doesn’t require any formulas or complicated Excel features. This Excel timeline was created using Excel for Microsoft 365.

1. Define the Length of the Timeline

First, think about the best scale for the timeline. For this example, we’ll make a timeline that spans over one year. To start, list all the months of the year horizontally as shown below. Then merge all the cells above them and write the year for your timeline. Then select all the cells that were just edited and add a border to them.


Writing down the time scale, the first step to create a timeline in Excel


2. Create Rows for Assigning Work to the Team

Now, edit the column on the left side of the monthly timeline, which will be used to list tasks or projects and indicate who will execute them.

In this case, we’re creating a timeline for a business that needs to map the projects that each of its business departments will execute over a year, but instead of business departments, one can write the names of their team members, too.


Create a task list column in your Excel timeline template


Next, format all the cells on the right side of the column that was just created. To do so, start by merging the columns next to the first row and then merge them by clicking the “Merge & Center” button at the top of the screen.


merge cells to create the rows where you'll place the task bars of your Excel timeline template



Now, select the merged cell, click the format painter button and then select all the cells as directed below. This automatically formats the cells as the one above.


Repeat the last step for all the rows that make part of the timeline template for Excel


Edit the borders and after completing those steps, the timeline should look like this.


Excel timeline template without tasks


3. Add a Row for Tracking Milestones and Deliverables

Now create a row for tracking milestones and deliverables by right-clicking the top cell in the work assignment column, clicking insert and selecting “Entire row.”


This insert pop up allows you to add a row for milestones and deliverables in this timeline template for Excel


Once you insert this new row, adjust its height. We suggest using a cell height of at least 100 pixels so you can add a marker for each milestone and deliverable and write a description.


This timeline template contains a milestone and deliverables rows for each team member


4. Make a Task List and Add Task Bars

Once done formatting the timeline, it’s time to start mapping tasks or project plans. In the example below, we’ll use the Excel timeline to visualize a project that the product team will execute, which is to develop the new product called “XYZ.”



That project is intended to start at the beginning of January and should be completed in mid-May. So, we’ll need to create a bar that shows the project duration in the Excel timeline by inserting a shape and then adjusting its size by holding the left-click button.



Repeat this process to add all the projects or tasks to the timeline. Then, identify milestones and deliverables to get a summarized view of all the key events from all the projects or tasks in the timeline.

5. Mark Milestones and Deliverables

We’ll use shapes again to identify when milestones and deliverables will be delivered, but instead of bars, we’ll need a marker like an arrow. For our example, we’ve used the pentagon arrow.



Then add some text to explain what the deliverable or milestone is. In this case, the milestone is that the new product has gone through all the stages of product development and testing and is ready to be launched into the market.


Excel timeline template has been created successfully


Continue to edit the timeline in Excel by color coding projects or tasks, such as assigning a different color for each team or individual who will be executing the work.

Excel Timeline Template

As stated above, you can also download a free Excel timeline template. It was created using the same process we’ve just gone through. On top of that, this template offers six-month, one-year, three-year and five-year Excel timelines that can be used for planning short, medium and long-term projects for a team or organization.

Excel timeline template

Advantages of Making a Timeline in Excel

As we’ve explained, the main reasons for using Excel to make a timeline are that it only takes a few steps and Excel is a software that most people are familiar with. But there are some other advantages of learning how to make a timeline in Excel using our method.

  • Create a timeline that works similarly to a Gantt chart or a milestone chart
  • Make a timeline in Excel from scratch and it can be customized to fit the particular characteristics of a project
  • Excel timelines are simple to understand, which makes them a good addition to project documentation such as project plans or project proposals

However, while Excel templates can be helpful for project and business management, they have their limitations, too.

Disadvantages of Making a Timeline in Excel

The main disadvantage of making a timeline in Excel is that Excel isn’t a project planning or time management tool and therefore lacks the features needed to create and track a timeline for professional purposes such as managing your business operations or managing a project.

  • Excel files don’t allow for online collaboration with team members
  • When changes are made to the timeline an updated copy of that timeline must be sent to all team members, which makes them hard to share
  • Lacks features that Gantt chart software like ProjectManager offer, such as task dependency mapping, critical path analysis or cost tracking
  • Any changes to the project timeline require a labor-intensive process

More Free Project Scheduling Templates for Excel

Other tools can be used to create a timeline, which is why we’ve created dozens of free project scheduling templates for Excel and Word to help with the process of creating a timeline.

Gantt Chart Template

This free Gantt chart template for Excel automatically generates a visual timeline with a stacked bar chart based on a list of project tasks, their estimated duration and due dates.

Project Calendar Template

Project calendars are familiar to most people and offer another popular way of making a timeline. Our free project calendar template helps visualize how tasks and projects span over time and can be color-coded.

Resource Plan Template

Creating a timeline for a project or business requires estimating the time it will take to complete tasks and achieve objectives. In addition, knowing resources, such as raw materials, people and equipment, is necessary to execute that work. This free resource plan template can list all project resources and specify when they’re needed.

Using ProjectManager Is Better Than Creating a Timeline in Excel

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software equipped with all the tools needed to create a project timeline. These features include Gantt charts, kanban boards, project calendars, dashboards and much more. Here are some reasons why ProjectManager is better than making timelines in Excel.

Plan, Schedule and Track Timelines With Powerful Gantt Charts

Gantt charts are the most important project management tool because they can be used for planning, scheduling and tracking the timeline of any type of project or process. They map tasks in a visually stacked bar chart that shows the whole project on one screen. However, not all Gantt chart makers offer the same features as ProjectManager, which combines a user-friendly interface with advanced project planning features such as critical path analysis, task dependency mapping, resource monitoring, cost tracking and timesheet management.

Manage All Key Areas of Projects

The main advantage of using ProjectManager over a simple Excel timeline is that it allows organizations to manage other areas of plans besides timelines. For example, use ProjectManager to estimate the progress of projects, identify risks, estimate the costs of project resources and then use online project dashboards to compare those estimates against the actual cost of your project in real time. In addition, it’s easy to make a variety of project management reports and timesheets in minutes.

Related Content

Making a timeline is very important for the success of a project, no matter how big or small. For this reason, we’ve created dozens of blogs, templates and guides to help anyone master this process. Here are some of them.

ProjectManager is online project management software that delivers real-time data to help you better monitor and track your project timelines. Choose between a variety of tools to schedule your projects such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and project calendars and then use live dashboards and dynamic reporting to keep stakeholders informed. If you want to streamline your processes and work more efficiently, try ProjectManager for free today