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Using a Visio Timeline Diagram in PowerPoint

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The Microsoft Office drawing tools are very handy for creating line art, but if you want true power you'll combine Visio's capabilities with those of Office. In this article, Tom Bunzel shows you how to use Visio to create a true parametric timeline for your PowerPoint presentation.
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In this article, we create a timeline that illustrates some of the processes involved in taking a new restaurant from conception to opening night in three months. A diagram like this is much more effective than using a set of stale bullets, or even a table, to visually convey a process that spans an interval of time.

Combining PowerPoint and Visio

If you're a PowerPoint user, you've probably used the Drawing toolbar and its multiple shapes to create some very useful diagrams in your slides. You may have also used the PowerPoint diagrams, which are great for illustrating complex ideas visually. We may cover either or both of these features in a future article. This time, however, we're going to visit PowerPoint's long-neglected cousin, Microsoft Visio, to take advantage of its ability to quickly and efficiently create a very useful diagram—the timeline.

I say that Visio is neglected because it's used primarily by architects and engineers, while its myriad of templates and stencils can greatly enhance almost any kind of presentation.

Some people are intimidated by Visio, so we're going to use this opportunity to get acquainted with this incredible program, and emerge with a project that we couldn't create in PowerPoint.

What's that you say? "I can make a timeline in PowerPoint." Certainly you can, and you'll spend a long time doing it, and the timeline still won't be parametric—which is the secret of Visio. What parametric means is that, as you'll see, every element of the timeline accurately represents its true duration in relation to the entire span of time. Portions of the projects that take three weeks out of a ten-week total are shown representing exactly 30% of the entire timeline. That makes the information easy to grasp.

So, enough talk. Let's open Visio.

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