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PRESENTATION IMPROVEMENT Creating a product-development timeline in PowerPoint is well worth the effort by geetesh bajaj w hat exactly is a product- development timeline? Simply put, it visually por- trays the development process of a product from concept to release — its new drug, SunZome. (To follow the techniques explained here, you can download the sample PowerPoint pre- sentation from www.powerpointed. com/files/timeline.zip. You will need and select Fill Effects. In the Fill Effects dialog box, choose the Gradient tab and opt for a two-color fill. Choose your colors (our sample has chrome yellow with sap with all types of research, tests and an unzipping utility such as WinZip or green) and select a diagonal shading prototypes somewhere in the middle. Stuffit to extract the archive file.) style (see EXAMPLE 3 ). Click OK Most of these terms — concept, when you are satisfied. prototype, launch — are classified as The time bar From within the Format tasks. Each task has to be represented We begin our creation with a simple, AutoShapes window, return to the within a timeline. Not surprisingly, uncluttered PowerPoint template that Colors and Lines tab, and from the many tasks can be repetitive, consecu- uses the company’s corporate color Lines submenu, click the Color drop- tive or simultaneous in nature. Beyond scheme of green. The company logo is down menu. Choose the No Line the perspective of a task point of also incorporated into the slide (see option for the outlines and click OK. view, real-world considerations also EXAMPLE 1 ). need to be taken into account for The first thing you need to create is The lines product development. Time schedules a sense of time. This can be achieved Just below the time bar and perpen- and the grouping of responsibilities by placing a time bar on the top por- dicular to it, create four dashed lines are all prone to continual change. A tion of the slide. To create the time slide based on such a product-devel- bar, draw a narrow, ruler-style rectan- opment timeline has to have qualities gle from edge to edge on the slide. that make it easy to evolve, edit and Within this rectangle, draw four verti- expand at any moment. cal lines to create five equal sections For designers, the basic timeline — then type a number, centered, in visual can be classified as an “info- each of these sections graphic.” And while creating an effec- (see Example 2 ). tive timeline for a presentation can be If you want to use a nice graduat- daunting, it is not impossible. ed color fill within the time bar, select For this article, we’ll walk through the rectangle and from the FORMAT the steps of creating a product-devel- menu, choose AUTOSHAPE. In the Format opment timeline for Comitu Inc., a fic- AutoShape dialog box, go to the EXAMPLE 3 The Fill Effects window tional pharmaceutical company plan- Colors and Lines tab, click the drop- offers a number of shading styles and ning the development and launch of down menu next to the Color choices gradients for AutoShapes. EXAMPLE 1 Starting with a clean background is EXAMPLE 2 The segmented bar at the the top EXAMPLE 4 Once you draw a basic AutoShape, important because a timeline will require a full- of the slide represents time. Dashed lines you can use its resize handles to adjust its shape width view. emanate from this time bar to visually divide and size as needed. the onscreen area. WWW.PRESENTATIONS.COM PRESENTATIONS / APRIL 2003 23 PRESENTATION IMPROVEMENT that span most of the slide from top from the Colors and Lines submenu product’s development schedule. to bottom. From the Draw toolbar, before clicking OK. (see EXAMPLE 7 ) under AutoShapes, choose Lines, then To save time creating and coloring draw your first line. Then under the individual AutoShapes, duplicate this Adding animation FORMAT menu choose AUTOSHAPE. This first arrow (CTRL + D) as often as The final steps will create and place returns you to the Format AutoShapes necessary and place the copies where custom animation on the slide. window. Go to the line area to adjust they’re needed (see EXAMPLE 5 ). Usually, it is a good idea to use a sim- color, dash, style and weight to your Tip: To ensure all the AutoShapes ple wipe animation that moves from liking. Be sure to choose a color that’s are aligned, you can create guides on left to right (the direction of the visible on top of the background, yet your slides as necessary. (For tips on arrows) in sequence. Using a complex not too bright. Once satisfied, click using guides, see the March 2003 animation (in PowerPoint 97, 98, OK. Creative Techniques column, 2000 and 2001) or an entry-exit ani- Tip: Once you have formatted your “Precision layout creates clear and mation (in PowerPoint 2002/XP) may first line, select it with your mouse professional design,” page 19.) spoil the simplicity of the timeline as and then press CTRL + D to duplicate Use the Text tool to label each well as distract your audience. For this it for as many other lines as you AutoShape. Keep in mind while label- example, I have used wipes only — need. ing the shapes that some may require each AutoShape appears, animated, in additional scaling. Be sure to scale sequence. The time bar is animated to Adding shapes width-wise, and never height-wise, to appear first, followed by the vertical Now you need to create shapes that maintain design consistency. dashed lines. Finally, all the tasks and will represent the actual tasks within their grouping rectangles complete the timeline. Use a regular AutoShape Another layer of groups the animation sequence. for this purpose. For our example, As you create the AutoShapes (and And remember, this isn’t the only we’ll use the pentagon shape within their text labels) for the timeline, you way to use a timeline. It is possible the Block Arrows section of the may wish to identify several as a to adapt this method for historical AutoShapes menu. Simply choose it group using a larger block. This can timelines, progressive project status, and draw a long arrow onscreen. be accomplished by adding another event planning, training and any Next use the arrow’s resize handles to AutoShape. In our example, a long, other concept that can evolve within size and shape it (look for the white narrow bar visually groups the task a timeline frame. P dots). Change the tapered end of the arrows above it. (see EXAMPLE 6 ). Software and system used: arrow by locating and adjusting the These rectangles are created the PowerPoint 2000; Windows 2000. image’s diamond-shape handle same way you made the pentagon- (see EXAMPLE 4 ). shape arrows. To save time, create Geetesh Bajaj is a Microsoft-awarded Once the arrow is properly sized, and format the shape you need, then PowerPoint MVP, and a consultant special- choose a graduated shaded fill that duplicate it, placing each copy so that izing in the creation and management of complements the slide’s colors. Use it roughly creates other groupings. PowerPoint presentations. He can be the same techniques and menus you Once all the elements have been reached at email@example.com or used to create color in your time bar, put into place, you can rearrange through his Web site, www.indezine.com. even repeating the color options. Be them to achieve their relative position sure to choose the No Line option under the time bar according to the EXAMPLE 5 By duplicating the original EXAMPLE 6 The rectangles provide another EXAMPLE 7 All task elements are in place with- AutoShape multiple times, it’s easy to create var- layer of grouping, by task, within the timeline. in the finished timeline. ious parts of the timeline quickly. You may need to rescale some shapes after placing them. 24 APRIL 2003 / PRESENTATIONS WWW.PRESENTATIONS.COM