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Creating Timelines with PowerPoint Designer in PowerPoint 365 for Windows

Learn how you can quickly convert a bulleted list to a timeline in PowerPoint 365 for Windows. PowerPoint Designer has some awesome timeline designs that you can create with a click or two.


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Product/Version: PowerPoint 365 for Windows

OS: Microsoft Windows 8 and higher






Yes, you can create timelines in PowerPoint, by using shapes or via the SmartArt option, but what if you could create a timeline by doing nothing other than typing into a bulleted list, and then make PowerPoint change the content into a properly formatted timeline? Wouldn't that be cool? In this tutorial, let us learn how you can achieve this trick in PowerPoint 365 for Windows.

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. First of all, your bulleted list should include content that indicates time in some way. Figure 1, below shows a list that begins with dates, and then has some content. You could also use first-level bullets that had dates (or time of any sort) with the rest of the content in second level bullets, as shown in Figure 2.
  2. Bullet list containing dates
    Figure 1: Bullet list containing dates
  3. Bulleted list containing dates with sub-bullets
    Figure 2: Bulleted list containing dates with sub-bullets
  4. The important part to remember is that there should be a space and preferably a hyphen after your date if you are not using sub-bullets. If you use a colon after your date, as can be seen in Figure 3, below, PowerPoint may not recognize this content as a bulleted list of sequential dates, and then you will not be able to follow the rest of this tutorial.
  5. Colons don't work
    Figure 3: Colons don't work
  6. PowerPoint will now show you the Design Ideas Task Pane, as can be seen, highlighted in red within Figure 4, below.
  7. Design Ideas Task Pane
    Figure 4: Design Ideas Task Pane
  8. If you don't see the Design Ideas Task Pane, you can access the Design or the Home tab on the Ribbon, and click the Design Ideas button.
  9. Sequential for PowerPoint

  10. What is it that appears sequential to PowerPoint, and prompts the Design Ideas Task Pane to show timelines?
  11. Here are some time-related sequences you can use:
  12. Dates (Dec 23rd, Dec 24th, Dec 25th, etc.)
  13. Days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.)
  14. Days of another type (Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, etc.)
  15. Months (January, February, March, etc.)
  16. Years (2017, 2020, 2023, etc.)
  17. Click any of the thumbnails that look like a timeline in the Design Ideas Task Pane. We duplicated our original slide to end up with 4 slides, and applied a different timeline to each of them from the Design Ideas Task Pane, as can be seen in Figure 5, below.
  18. Timeline variations from the Design Ideas Task Pane
    Figure 5: Timeline variations from the Design Ideas Task Pane
  19. Do note that all these timelines are essentially SmartArt graphics. You can add and remove time-stops from them by first selecting the timeline, and then clicking the small Text Pane button on the left, as shown magnified in red within Figure 6, below.
  20. Text Pane button
    Figure 6: Text Pane button
  21. Doing so reveals the Text Pane, where you can find your original bulleted text, as can be seen in Figure 7, below (compare with Figure 2, shown earlier on this page).
  22. Text Pane
    Figure 7: Text Pane
  23. Notice that we added an extra time-stop in the Text Pane, highlighted in red within Figure 8, below. You'll also notice that PowerPoint added an extra shape in the timeline to represent the new time-stop (also highlighted in red).
  24. Adding an extra time-stop
    Figure 8: Adding an extra time-stop
  25. At any point in time, if you want to go back to your original bulleted text, all you need to do is select your SmartArt graphic (timeline), and access the SmartArt Design contextual tab on the Ribbon, shown in Figure 9, below. Now choose the Convert | Convert to Text option, highlighted in red within Figure 9.
  26. Convert to Text
    Figure 9: Convert to Text
  27. What's a Contextual Tab?

  28. Contextual Tabs are special tabs on the Ribbon that are not visible all the time. They only make an appearance when you are working with a particular slide object which can be edited using special options. The SmartArt Design tab is one such contextual tab on the Ribbon that is only visible when you select a SmartArt graphic on your slide.
  29. Doing so will change the SmartArt graphic to bulleted text, similar to what you could see in Figure 2, shown previously on this page.

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