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Excel Project Timeline (Table of Contents)
Create a Project Timeline in Excel
Project Timeline is the list of tasks recorded in an order to be accomplished to finish the project within the given period. In simple words, it is nothing but the Project Schedule/Timetable. All the tasks listed will be the having a Start date, Duration and End date so that it becomes easy to track the status of the project and have it completed within the given timeline. Project Timeline is one of the important aspects of Project Management. It is required to plan & determine the flow of tasks from the beginning to the end of the project.
The easiest way of representing the Project timeline in excel is through graphical representation. This can be done using the charts in Excel and it is called “Gantt Chart”. Gantt chart (named after its inventor Henry Laurence Gantt) is one of the types in Bar Charts in Excel and a popular tool used in Project Management which is helpful in visualizing the project schedule.
This can be better explained with the examples. The below-given chart is how the Gantt chart looks like.
The horizontal bars visible in the below graph are the activities to be done in order and the duration of each task.
How to Create a Project Timeline in Excel?
Below are the steps for creating a simple Gantt chart to represent Project Timeline in Excel.
Project Timeline in Excel Example #1
Creating a Gantt chart using normal stacked bar graph:
- List down the tasks/activities need to be completed in the excel sheet(as shown below)
- Enter the Start Date for each of the tasks in the column next to the activities.
- Update the Duration of the task next to the Start Date column (Duration is the no. of days required for the particular task/activity to be completed)
- The End Date for the activities can be entered next to the Duration column. This column is optional because this is just for the reference and will not be used in the chart.
Note: Duration can be entered directly or formula can be used to find out Duration.
In the above table, Duration is calculated using the formula i.e., End Date (-) Start Date.
In the formula, “+1” is used to include the day of starting date.
Now let’s begin to build a chart.
In the Ribbon, go to “INSERT” tab and select the Bar graph option in “Charts” sub-tab. Select the Stacked Bar (second option in 2-D Bar Section)
By selecting this graph, a blank chart area will appear. Select that blank area and do a right click to select “Select Data” option.
- “Select Data Source” pop up will appear to select the data. Click on the “Add” button under Legend Entries (Series).
When the “Edit Series” Pop up appears, Select the “Starting Date” label as Series name. In this example, it is cell B1. And Select the list of dates in Series Values field. Hit the OK button.
Again hit on the “Add” button to select Series name and Values of Duration column same as above.
After adding both Starting Date and Duration data into the chart,
- Click on “Edit” under Horizontal (Category) Axis labels on the right-hand side of the Select Data Source Window.
- In Axis label range, select the list of tasks starting from “Task 1” to the end and click on OK.
Below given is the output you can see after completing all the above steps.
In the above chart, you can see the list of tasks in Y-axis and dates in the X-axis. But the list of tasks shown in the chart is in reverse order.
To change this,
- Select the axis data and right click to select “Format Axis”.
- In a Format Axis panel, under Axis Options Section, check the “Categories in reverse order” box.
When the categories are reversed, you can see the chart as below.
We need to make a blue bar invisible to show only the orange bars which indicate the duration.
- Click on the blue bar to select and right click, select format data series.
- In the Format Data Series panel, select “No fill” under Fill Section and “No line” under Border Section.
- The chart looks as below.
Now your Project Timeline Excel Gantt chart is almost done.
Remove the white space at the beginning of the chart.
- Do a right click on the date given for the first task in a table and select format cells.
- Note down the number shown in the window under “Number tab” and “General” category.
(In this example, it is 43102)
- Click on the dates on the top in the chart and do a right click, select Format Axis.
- In the panel, change the Minimum number under Bounds options to the number you have noted.
- The units of date can adjust the scale as you want to see in the chart. (in this example I’ve considered units 5)
The Chart looks like as given below.
Now trim the chart to make it look even nicer by eliminating the white space between the bars.
- Click on the bar anywhere and right-click, select Format Data Series.
- Keep the Series Overlap at 100% and adjust the Gap Width to 10% under Plot Series on Section.
- The data labels can be added to the bars by selecting Add data labels using right click.
Data Labels are added to the charts.
- 3D Format can be applied to the chart to give some effects by removing the gridlines and the color of the bar and font can be changed as required in the Format Data Series panel.
- The dates can be shown horizontally by changing the text alignment if required to show all dates.
And, in the end, your Project Timeline Gantt chart in Excel will look like this.
Project Timeline in Excel Example #2
Creating a Gantt chart using the project timeline template available in Excel:
Gantt chart can be created using the template readily available in Excel provided by Microsoft.
- Click on the Start button and select Excel to have a new Excel sheet opened.
- While opening, it shows for the options to select. Search for Gantt Project Planner to create Project Timeline in Excel
- Click on Gantt Project Planner and click on Create in the Pop-up window.
The template is ready to start by entering your project details in the given column as per the headers and see the bars reflecting the timeline.
Things to Remember About Project Timeline Excel Template
- Gantt chart is a Stacked Column Graph which represents the Excel Project Timeline in horizontal bars.
- The horizontal bars indicate the duration of the task/activity of the Project Timeline in Excel.
- The chart reflects the addition or deletion of any activity within the source range or the source data can be adjusted by extending the range of rows.
- This chart doesn’t provide detailed information about the project and lacks real-time monitoring ability.
This has been a guide to Project Timeline in Excel. Here we discuss how to Create Project Timeline Excel Template using Gantt Chart and Project Planner along with practical examples and downloadable excel template. You may learn more about excel from the following articles –