Top timeline tips in Visio

With the new Visio you can quickly create clean, organized timelines that make it easy to order events and share information. Improvements we made across the product allow the new timelines to take on a variety of different looks to create beautiful, professional diagrams. Specifically, we made it easier to:

  • Apply themes
  • Customize dates and elements
  • Reposition shapes
  • Switch between timeline styles

Visio timeline

This blog post will walk through making a timeline so you can learn about the new features and some tips and tricks along the way.

Timeline Template

Suppose you want to create a timeline to illustrate key milestones and map out events in your project. To begin, navigate to the Start Experience, and then find the Schedule category.

 Visio Start Experience

Select the timeline template.

 Timeline template icon in Visio

In Visio, each template includes shapes and tools that are specific to a type of diagram. The timeline template includes features that let you align milestones and intervals to timeline shapes based on dates. The Timeline tab is a useful place to adjust settings for the entire diagram.

From the Shapes Pane, chose one of three timeline shapes. Don’t worry – you can switch between types at any time through the right-click menu. We simplified the set of shapes, giving you the option to choose a block, line or cylindrical one. After you choose a shape, you can also choose from a greater combination of styles. You can create a ruler or divided timeline, as you did in previous versions of Visio. All you need to do is change the interim marker position through the right-click menu. You can apply these combination of styles at any time!

Tip: To make formatting milestones and intervals quicker, set the timeline defaults when you start. To do this, go to the Timeline tab, and open the “Date/Time format” dialog. Now make all your milestones and intervals have the desired date format on drop, by entering them in the diaglog box.

 Change Date and Time Format Dialog in Visio

Milestones & Intervals

You can now populate the timeline with your milestones and intervals. To distinguish different categories of events or highlight significant deadlines, set the milestone type by using the right-click menu.

Next, position your milestones so all the text is readable. To help you do this, we improved how you position milestone and intervals. When you drop a milestone, it now sits on the top of the timeline by default. (You can get the old position back through the right-click menu.) We made the leader line (the line that connects the milestone to the text) easier to position with one click.  Additionally, when you drag the leader line below the timeline, Visio automatically updates the position of milestones.

 Milestones on a Visio timeline

Tip: For timelines with several milestones, we added a text-positioning feature to help with spacing. You can set how the text aligns to the leader line by using the paragraph alignment properties available in the floatie or the Home tab.

Aligning milestone text on a timeline

Milestones and intervals have smart behavior to adjust their geometry based on the timeline type. For example, when you drop an interval on a cylindrical timeline, the interval adjusts to fit the curved shape. This makes it even easier for you to switch between timeline styles!

Cylindrical interval on a timeline

You can change the interval type through the right-click menu. For example, a block interval can have text inside or outside the timeline, and can easily switch to a bracket or curly bracket interval. The bracket interval has been updated so that brackets can be extended as a whole or switched to a leader line to conserve space.

Square bracket updates on Visio timelines

Expanded Timelines

When a timeline has a lot of details, you can add an expanded timeline. The expanded timeline lets you create a copy of a segment from the original timeline and resize it or add events independently of the timeline so you can drill down into further detail. This is particularly useful for a specific event such as a conference or trip. Drag an expanded timeline shape from the Shapes pane and drop the expanded timeline on top of the desired timeline. Select the date range for the expanded timeline to create a separate segment.

Expanded timeline in Visio

An additional customization can be used to show or hide elements of the intervals or milestones. Select a milestone or interval shape, then use the right-click menu to position the date above or below the description. You can also hide the date or description for any event.

Alignment Guides

Tip: Using guides is a great way to align milestones evenly. Once guides and rulers are turned on in the View tab, drag a guide from the top ruler onto the page. Attach the control handles of the leader line for each milestone or interval to the guide. For more information about guides, see this help article: Snap to guides to lay out a drawing.

Glue to guide to align milestones

Tip: An entire row of milestones can be adjusted by simply moving the guide up or down.

Move guide to adjust row of milestones

Quick Styles & Themes

You can easily use themes to adjust the style of your diagram. Apply Quick Styles to milestones and intervals to visually differentiate between categories of events.

To create even more looks, try using different embellishment levels. The new timelines automatically adjust with the embellishment level of themes. For example, if you chose a high embellishment level theme, the block timeline gets wider and the text switches to all caps for emphasis. See the Theme blog post for more information about themes and embellishment levels.

 Visio timeline with high embellishment theme

 Our timeline is complete and we can print it or share on the web with Visio Services!


Through our review of how to create a timeline in the new Visio, we hope you see how easy we’ve made it to create great looking ones. Updated positioning behavior makes it quick to align events and unclutter busy regions. New geometry allows timelines to take on any theme, and new options in the right-click menu gives you the power to customize timelines the way you want.

Have a favorite timeline tip of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!