How to Make a Timeline in Google Docs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Besides Gantt charts, a timeline chart in Google Docs is a great way to visualize a project’s schedule. Here, we lay out the steps to follow when creating a timeline in Google Docs.

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One hallmark of project success is adherence to agreed-upon timelines, which is why schedules are plotted during the project planning stage to facilitate project implementation. Making a timeline in Google Docs is free, but it can easily become time consuming because you’ll have to do everything manually. There are better and easier ways to create a timeline.

With Gantt charts, for example, you can create an initial timeline, and then make adjustments — e.g., adjust due dates, change the person responsible for a task, add dependencies, etc. — throughout the project’s life cycle by dragging and dropping elements to reflect changes. You can also mark important milestones on a Gantt timeline chart. This way, they’re easy to spot.

Although you can do all these things with a Google timeline, too, you’ll have to manually add every detail you want your timeline to show. Still, if you're interested in trying it out, here’s how to make a timeline in Google Docs.

1. Open a Google document

If you’re new to Google Docs, open a new document by typing in your browser’s address bar. Next, if you haven’t already, sign in using your Google account. Then, click on the New button, and select "Google Docs" from the menu choices.

Google Drive’s drop-down menu of Docs, Sheets, and Slides, with the Google Docs option selected.

To open a new Google document, open Google Drive, click on the New button, then select Google Docs from the list of options. Source: Google Drive.

You’ll be redirected to a new, untitled Google document. Name the document accordingly. (You can name the document now or later — whichever works for you is fine.)

2. Set the page’s orientation to landscape

You want as much space as possible for your timeline. Since Google documents are set to portrait (vertical orientation) by default, you’ll have to change the page’s orientation to landscape (horizontal orientation). Do that by clicking on the File menu on the upper left-hand side of your Google document, then select "Page setup."

The drop-down File menu in Google Docs, with the "Page setup" option boxed in red.

To change the document’s page orientation, click on the File menu, then select "Page setup," then tick the "Landscape" radio button. Source: Google Docs.

The page setup box will appear. Tick the radio button marked "Landscape," then click on the OK button.

The Page Setup box showing the orientation choices: Portrait or Landscape.

Select "Landscape" from the choices, then click on the OK button. Source: Google Docs.

3. Open the drawing tool

We’ll be using the Google Docs drawing tool, which is also Google’s chart maker, to create a timeline. The built-in tool lets users draw lines, manipulate text and shapes, and add color to an otherwise plain and boring document.

To start, click on the Insert menu on the upper left-hand side of your document. Select the Drawing option, and then click on "+ New" to open a blank canvas, which will appear on top of your document.

Take note that aside from drawing directly into a Google document, you may also use Google Drawings to create a timeline, save it to Google Drive, and then insert it into your Google document once ready.

A screenshot of Google Docs' Insert menu, with the "Drawing" and "+ New" options selected.

To open a blank canvas and start drawing, click on Insert, then select "Drawing," and then click on "+ New." Source: Google Docs.

A blank Google Docs drawing canvas with the tool buttons in a row along the top.

This is what a blank drawing canvas looks like. It will pop up over your document when you click on "+ New." Source: Google Docs.

4. Create your timeline

With the drawing canvas ready, we can now start making a timeline.

From the top toolbar of your drawing canvas, click the drop-down button next to the Line tool, then select the Arrow option from the drop-down.

The Line drop-down menu with the Arrow option boxed in red.

To create a horizontal line for your timeline, from the Line menu, select the Arrow option. Source: Google Docs.

Next, starting at one end of your canvas, click and drag the line horizontally to create your main timeline. You want the line to be nice and straight, so use the grayed-out grid in the background as a guide.

A drawing canvas with a horizontal line.

Draw a horizontal line across the canvas for your timeline. Source: Google Docs.

So both ends of your horizontal line have arrows, click on the Line start icon on the toolbar, and then pick an arrow type from the drop-down menu. You may also change the line’s thickness by choosing a larger pixel weight from the "Line weight" menu.

The drawing canvas with the "Line start" tool in the top toolbar selected and a horizontal line across the drawing canvas.

Add an arrow to the other end of the line using the "Line start" tool. It’s the icon with a red arrow. Source: Google Docs.

The drawing canva with a drop-down of the different arrow types you can add to your lines.

Choose an arrow type from the "Line start" menu. Once the arrow has been added, the "Line start" red arrow icon will be replaced by an arrow facing the direction of the drawn arrow. Source: Google Docs.

The drawing canvas with the drop-down showing the different pixel weights to make lines thicker.

If you want a thicker horizontal line, choose the appropriate pixel weight by clicking on the "Line weight" tool (icon showing three lines of varying thicknesses) on your top toolbar. Source: Google Docs.

5. Add timeline events or project tasks

Now we’re ready to add tasks or events to the project timeline. To do that, from the top toolbar, click on the boxed "T" text box tool, click on an area above or below the horizontal line, then type in a time or an event. Drag a corner or side of the box to resize and reposition the text box as needed.

A Google drawing canvas with a horizontal line running across it and an empty text box above the line.

Add timeline entries — e.g., tasks, events, or dates — by clicking on the text box tool on the top toolbar. Source: Google Docs.

A Google Docs drawing canvas with a horizontal line across it, a highlighted text box with the phrase "Week 1," and a drop-down menu showing the different font size choices.

To format your text, highlight it, then select the font, size, and alignment by clicking on the three dots next to the Font tool on the toolbar. Source: Google Docs.

Copy and paste the first text box to duplicate the styling and format. Then edit the text as necessary. When you’re done, your timeline may look something like this:

A project timeline showing the different tasks and timeline points.

What your timeline will look like when you’re done adding text entries. Source: Google Docs.

Now, connect the project tasks or events to their respective time points with vertical lines. To do that, go back to the Line tool in the toolbar (see the first image in Step 4), then select "Line" from the choices.

A Google Docs timeline showing the different project events and timeframes.

To add vertical lines, go back to the Line tool on the toolbar, select "Line" from the options, and then drag and drop your vertical line until it joins the horizontal line. Source: Google Docs.

6. Add images (optional)

You may add images to your timeline to spruce things up a bit. From the Image tool in the toolbar, insert an image by:

  • Pasting an image URL
  • Uploading an image from your computer
  • Selecting an image from your albums or Google Drive
  • Performing a Google search

Once inserted, resize the image and position it as appropriate.

Google Docs timeline entitled "Project XYZ Web Design and Development" that also shows where to locate the Image tool in the toolbar.

Click on the Image tool on the toolbar to insert images to your timeline. Drag and drop timeline elements as necessary to make room for images. Source: Google Docs.

Screenshot of the "Insert image" box with tabs labeled "Upload," "By URL," "Your albums," "Google Drive," and "Search."

The different ways you can add an image to your timeline: Upload, via a URL, select from your albums or Google Drive, or conduct a Google search. Source: Google Docs.

A Google Docs drawing canvas with a web design project timeline.

Images are optional, but your timeline may look something like this with an image. Source: Google Docs.

7. Save your timeline

When you’re done, click on the blue "Save and Close" button on the top right to add the timeline to your Google document. If you need to go back to the drawing canvas to make changes, simply double-click on the timeline.

If you’re worried that your timeline or any of the elements in it isn’t properly aligned, enable the horizontal and vertical guides from the Actions tool in the top toolbar.

Screenshot showing the Action tool, "Guides" option, and the "Show guides" command highlighted.

To show the horizontal and vertical drawing guides, click on the Actions tool on the top toolbar, then click on "Guides," and then select "Show guides." Source: Google Docs.

A website design timeline created in Google Docs, with the drawing guides visible.

This is what your timeline will look like with the guides shown. Source: Google Docs.

Staying on top of your project’s schedule

Using Google Docs to create a timeline so your team and relevant stakeholders can better visualize the project schedule is an option project managers can definitely explore. However, as we mentioned in the beginning, it’s a time-consuming process, even when you have ready-made templates on standby.

Plus, when projects go live, scheduling changes usually happen, which means you’ll have to manually update your timeline to mirror what’s happening on the ground.

No matter the approach, methodology, or framework you’re using to tackle projects — whether you're using waterfall, agile, or project cycle management — a better and more efficient way to keep projects on schedule is by using project management software with built-in Gantt charts, such as TeamGantt, Smartsheet, and Wrike. Drawing and timeline tools such as Visme, Venngage, and SmartDraw for structuring the different phases of your project are also worth checking out.


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