By Carli Spina
Interactive timelines can be eye-catching and educational additions to websites, presentations, and course materials, but they can seem overwhelming to create. Luckily, TimelineJS is a tool that makes it easy to create impressive interactive timelines that can include a wide range of media, such as images, videos, and maps. Your entire timeline is based on content added to a Google Spreadsheet, so the first step is creating a new spreadsheet using the provided template. From there, you can simply replace the existing content with your own text and media. Once you are happy that all of your information is in the spreadsheet, you can publish it to the web and use the resulting link in the timeline generator on the TimelineJS site. When generating your timeline, you have the option to further customize it by selecting a language or font for your project, amongst other options. This feature also includes an option to generate code for use in a WordPress site, which is a nice addition that many other online tools miss.
When you are satisfied with your project, you can preview your timeline and generate the code for it. You will also receive the code necessary to add it to a site via an iFrame (unless you have selected the WordPress-compatible option). This code can be added to any website that accepts iFrames, including LibGuides and many standard content management systems. The entire process is very quick and user-friendly and the result is a dynamic timeline that looks impressive on everything from a mobile phone to a desktop computer. TimelineJS offers options for a range of types of users: you can complete the project from start to finish without ever working with any code or you can get involved with improving the project’s code on GitHub.
If you feel that this doesn’t offer sufficient flexibility for your needs, or if you just enjoy adding all of the bells and whistles to your projects, the new version of TimelineJS, called TimelineJS 3, is currently available in beta. This version of the software offers more features, including integration for Dropbox content and support for even larger timescales. You can see examples of timelines made with this new version on the project’s website.
No matter which version of TimelineJS you pick, you will find that it streamlines the process of creating an interactive timeline. Whether you want to add this to your course materials or integrate a timeline onto your website, TimelineJS will meet your needs. For a great example of this tool in use, check out the timeline Mindy Kent, former LLNE President and Manager of Research Services at Harvard Law School Library, created for our current exhibit, One Text, 16 Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library. You can also see how TimelineJS works in the video below: