There are many ways to create project timelines using Excel or other software tools. This particular template uses a stacked bar chart technique and also includes up to 4 milestones as vertical lines. You can edit the data tables, then the charts will update automatically. This template is a cross between my project schedule and task list templates. I've populated the template with some generic product development terminology but it is designed for you to enter your own tasks and dates.

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Project Timeline Template

for Excel
Project Timeline Template with Milestones
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For: Excel 2013 or later

Template Details

License: Private Use
(not for distribution or resale)

"No installation, no macros - just a simple spreadsheet" - by

Using the Project Timeline Template

Grouping Tasks Using Different Colors: One of the key features of this template is the ability to choose a different color for the bars in the timeline via a drop-down box in the Color column. This makes it easy to identify the different phases or categories of tasks. You can insert and delete tasks by just inserting or deleting rows in the spreadsheet's data table.

The example above shows some of the steps in a product development cycle (Concept Development, System Design, Detail Design, Testing and Refining, Production, etc.), with different colors representing different phases of the cycle. However, there are other ways to use this type of timeline. Another common way to group tasks within a project timeline is by key organization function, such as Marketing, Design, Testing, Manufacturing, Finance, Sales, Quality Assurance, Legal, etc.

Milestones: With any project timeline, you will most likely want to define at least a couple key milestones. In the above example you will see 3 milestones as vertical lines. You can edit the milestone labels and dates via the data table. The template lets you show up to 4 milestones. Adding more is possible but would require you to create the new data series yourself (you can't just insert rows for more milestones like you can with the tasks).

Can I Add More Colors? This project timeline is set up to allow up to 6 different color choices. Adding more colors is possible, but that would require more Excel experience. Some general steps to follow to attempt adding more colors:

  1. Add a new column to the right of the current data table.
  2. Copy the formulas in the previous column into the new column.
  3. Select the timeline and drag the range marker to the right to include the new column.
  4. Add some data to see what color the new column uses and then update the column label.
  5. Update the list used for the data validation drop-down box in the Color column to include the new label.

Want More Flexibility / Ease of Use? If you don't care about automation and just want a simple way to create a high-level project timeline, you might want to try the Project Schedule Template. Colors are modified by just changing the background colors of the cells in the spreadsheet.

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