Creating Timelines

Timelines can be a great way to tell a story. Since i’m basing my last assignment for the Online Journalism module in a timeline depicting the most important social scares of the last 20 years (and beyond), i researched a few (free) timeline creating tools that i’m considering for my project, while i don’t have a more customized option.

The features i need are the following:

  • it must be embeddable – i’m creating a website for this project and i need to embed my timeline there, as a center piece;
  • it must look good – this is hard since most free apps are not visually customizable, so i’m going for the  most visually appealing if it provides the remaining items;
  • i can be able to insert information , data and multimedia – click on the dot and there you have it, all the information and  videos, audio you need;
  • it must be reliable – i had some problems in my experiments with slow servers hosting the timeline.

After some Google digging, i found these tools – i already knew and used some of them – which are presented in no special order:



Dipity is a huge reference for timeline creators. Highly customizable, reliable, it offers four types of presentations, from the basic timeline to a map. A pro in the list, it can be RSS fed, like the one here, showing all the posts i wrote for my previous blog. It’s one of my top choices.


Simile is quite interesting when it comes to show simultaneous events. The problem is you need some xml skills to work with it and host it yourself (i prefer that, to tell you the truth). Gina Trappani wrote a post in 2007 explaining how to build a timeline with Simile, and even offered a xml creator interface, that was really nice of her 🙂 . I haven’t tested it properly yet, but i think that it can get the work done.



I like xTimeline a lot just because of the way you can embed multimedia in the event’s description. But you can’t customize it much, it’s a bit ugly, and sometimes goes AWOL, can’t really understand why. But it has lots of potencial, although it hasn’t been seeing much development for some time now…

Timeline Tool 2.0


This tool is quite interesting to create simple timelines. Although it’s not good for precision works, it’s self hosted and allows you to embed video, audio and images through a simple interface. I believe if we tamper with the source files we can customize it, but it’s a bit far from what i want, though i installed in my server and liked playing with it.



Another great option. I havent signed in to try it out, mostly because i don’t like the black dots thing but besides that it’s a quite complete and competent tool. I really need to take a closer look.



Timerime seemed to be quite powerful but it’s too messy for my taste. Anyway, it can be amazing for some projects, especially if they have overlapping events. I like the style and the navigation, and if i can control the amount of clutter i’ll use it.

Good examples

While researching for this assignment i found a few websites using timelines in an amazing way. One of my favorites is the NYT Time Glider, a search engine based timeline that uses the NYT’s articles database: input a keyword and you’ll see the articles spread out or concentrated certain periods of time.

The other is one that i really enjoyed because it relates to one of the issues in myn own timeline. The GTD – Global Terrorism Database offers different visualizations of terrorism data using timelines. It’s an amazing resource.

What other tools and cool timeline websites do you know? If you want to help me out building my timeline just join the Wave, i’m on a deadline here, so any help is welcome.

10 thoughts on “Creating Timelines”

    1. hi Matt, I went for Dipity, because it was the easiest and more reliable, though i’d rather preferred a self hosted option. Unfortunately, i had a database problem and lost the website, but i think i’m giving it a go again sometime soon. Thanks for visiting 🙂

      UPDATE: The website is still up

  1. Olá Alexandre
    Nem imaginas como estas dicas me vão ser úteis para uma apresentação que também estou a preparar (mas não online, don’t worry). Vou certamente utilizar alguma destas ferramentas que indicas.
    Bom trabalho! Continua! Eu estou realmente muito curiosa em ver o que a nova geração da Comunicação Social anda a fazer neste novo contexto das Social Media.
    Tens mais uma leitora atenta.
    Linda Machado

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