How to create a timeline using SmartArt

PowerPoint 365
PowerPoint proposes a lot of predefined SmartArt graphics, which can help to create your perfect presentation. Sure, all predefined graphics can be modified, but some modifications don't work correctly. This tip shows simple steps that can help you to modify SmartArt graphics.

Modified SmartArt graphic that shows the timeline of Microsoft logo design changes (see

Timeline using SmartArt in PowerPoint 2016

To create your own timeline, see how to create a timeline in PowerPoint:

Timeline in PowerPoint 2016

To create a timeline chart using predefined SmartArt graphic, do the following:

   1.   On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, click SmartArt:

Illustrations group in PowerPoint 2016

   2.   In the Choose a SmartArt Graphic dialog box, on the Process tab, and then select Descending Process:

Descending Process in PowerPoint 2016

   3.   For each milestone, do the following:

   3.1.   Select the shape in the SmartArt graphic, and then type your text.

Note: For best results, use this option after you add all milestones that you want.

   3.2.   Click [Text] in the Text pane, and then type your text:

Text pane in PowerPoint 2016

Note: If the Text pane is not visible, select the SmartArt graphic and open it by:

  • clicking the control:
    SmartArt process in PowerPoint 2016

    For this example, it had been entered six labels (the last one is empty), just for design.

  • clicking the Text pane button, under SmartArt Tools, on the Design tab, in the Create Graphic group:
    Create Graphic in PowerPoint 2016

   3.3.   Copy text from another location or program, click [Text] in the Text pane, and then paste your text.

   4.   When you try to modify the arrow, it can be more complex and even impossible for some modifications. To avoid these problems, do the following:

   4.1.   Select your SmartArt graphic:

SmartArt timeline with milestones in PowerPoint 2016

   4.2.   Under SmartArt Tools, on the Format tab, in the Arrange group, select the Group dropdown list and then choose Ungroup:

Ungroup in PowerPoint 2016

Note: After ungrouping elements of the SmartArt graphic, you can use them like usual shapes. To avoid problems with an arrow and small circle shapes in it, select them all and group again.

   5.   For each milestone, do the following:

   5.1.   Choose the shape with the appropriate year.

   5.2.   To add a picture for the shape, right-click on it and choose Format Shape... in the popup menu:

Format shape in popup in PowerPoint 2016

   5.3.   On the Format Shape pane, on the Shape Options tab, in the Fill & Line group, in the Fill section, select the Picture or texture fill checkbox and then click File... button (you can also use the picture from the Internet by clicking the Online... button):

Insert file in Format Picture pane PowerPoint 2016

   5.4.   Select the file for the appropriate picture.

   5.5.   On the Format Shape pane, on the Text Options tab, in the Textbox group, in the Text Box section, choose the alignment of the shape text and then try different margins to positioning text below picture:

Format Picture pane in PowerPoint 2016

For example, text in the first shape:

Shape with picture in PowerPoint 2016

   6.   Add any other adjustments to your slide.

See also this tip in French: Comment créer une frise chronologique à l'aide de SmartArt.

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