Fluco Toolbox: Timeline JS

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to have students do more than just another timeline on a poster? Have you ever wanted them to be able to create a timeline that was interactive with different multimedia elements embedded?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Timeline JS

First, the basics:

Name: Timeline JS
URL: http://timeline.knightlab.com/
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Create interactive timelines rich with multimedia tools. These timelines can easily be shared and saved. The timeline is created using a Google Spreadsheet template.

When I first began teaching in 2009 (I know, I know, I’m young!), this was the kind of tool I wished was around back then. Who hasn’t given a project that involved creating a timeline? Chances are, students created a timeline for a project on paper or posterboard, and it only showcased the date, the importance of the date, and maybe an image. It was a static timeline, and pretty basic as far as the information it represented.

Fast forward to today. Timeline JS is more than just a static timeline with pictures and information. Now links, Google maps, videos, and more can be embedded within the timeline, which is created through a Google Spreadsheet template.

Before I delve into how to use the tool, check out some of these created samples:

Nelson Mandela’s Extraordinary Life: An Interactive Timeline
Revolutionary User Interfaces

Those are definitely a step up from the timelines of days gone by! This post will introduce creating a timeline, but it is highly recommended that you watch the How To video under Resources to guide you.

The first thing that must be done when creating a timeline is to copy the template that Knightlab provides on their website. It can be retrieved here. This will save a copy of the Google Spreadsheet to your Drive.


Once the template is downloaded, it’s time to edit the spreadsheet. Timeline JS instructs users to NOT edit anything in Row 1. These are the column headers, and should not be changed, as this will mess up the timeline. Though there is not a limit for how many slides can be used in a timeline, Knightlab recommends no more than 20 slides. This keeps the timeline from becoming too long and unengaging to the user.

Row 2 is where the timeline is begun. This will be the title slide in the timeline. Users should skip to Column J and give their timeline a title. Column K will provide a simple description of the timeline. Columns L-O deal with the media. This is where an image can be added. Provide the link to the image, and make sure to credit the creator.

Here is what mine looks like, both in spreadsheet and as a final timeline image. I have used an image that is saved on my Google Drive and shared publicly. There is no way to preview your timeline as you work, but you can use the Publish to the Web feature. To find the directions for this, refer to the video in the Resources section below. Once the timeline is Published to the Web, follow the directions at the bottom of the Knightlab homepage. Now you can preview as you work on the timeline simply by clicking the blue “Preview” button.


Once the title slide is done, all that’s left are the information slides to go along with it. These will be done similarly to the title slide. First, input the date to use. You can be as specific as the time, but it’s not required. If there is an end date, such as with a battle that lasted multiple days, you can add that as well. After the date is entered, then do the media, and add captions where necessary. If importing images from a cloud-based storage, such as Google Drive, make sure you have set the sharing options to public. Finally, you can add a color background by putting in the HTML color code for the color you wish to use. Also, here is a link to all of the different types of media that Timeline JS supports and how to embed them in the timeline.

Here is a snapshot of the data for my timeline within the Google Spreadsheet:


Here is a quick video sample of my timeline. Unfortunately, WordPress.com sites cannot have the timeline embedded into it. For a direct link to this timeline, go here.

For those importing images from Google Drive: One thing I noticed as I worked on my timeline was that I had to get a specific share link in order for my images to show up. Right click on the image to be shared, then change the share settings to “Anyone with the Link can View”. Once this is done, copy the link directly from that same screen by clicking the “Copy Link” button. If you only right click the image in the Drive and then “Get Shareable Link” the image won’t appear in the slideshow.

Once the timeline is set up to your liking, you can then refer to the website and make optional changes, such as font, starting slides, and more. There is a direct embed code, as well as a direct link. Here is the direct link to my timeline. I can always go back and make changes to my timeline in the future using the same Google Spreadsheet file. All changes to it are automatically updated in the link.

Enjoy creating your own awesome timelines!


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