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Creating a Timeline in Grapher 11

For last week’s blog post, I used Grapher 11 to create a timeline of events relating to Thanksgiving. Today, I’ll go over how that timeline was created. Grapher’s enhanced date and time support makes it easier than ever to make time-based graphs, and that is the same functionality we’ll use to create a timeline! 

You will need your data worksheet organized into three columns--one with dates, one with events, and one with the value “1” in each cell. My data sheet is below.


Sample data sheet for timeline

If your events have a lengthy amount of text like mine do, you can use n to create line breaks in your worksheet cell. For example, I wanted to breakdown President George Washington declares November 26 a day of national thanksgiving into three lines. So, I added \\n where I wanted line breaks. I entered President George Washington\\n declares November 26 a day\\n of national thanksgiving into the worksheet. Be sure to enter a space after \\n for the line break to take effect.

Now that your data is organized, we can begin to create the timeline. To do so, we’ll use two scatter plots.

  1. Click the File | Page Setup command.
  2. Set the Orientation to Landscape.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click the Graphs | Create | Basic | Scatter Plot command.
  5. In the Open Worksheet dialog, select the data file.
  6. Click Open.
  7. In the Property Manager, on the Plot page, be sure your date column is assigned to the X column and your value column is assigned to the Y column.
  8. In the Object Manager, uncheck Y Axis 1.
  9. Select Line/Scatter Plot 1.
  10. Click on the Arrange menu.
  11. Note the values for Size | H and Position | Y. We'll use these values later.
  12. size_pos.pngLocation of H and Y values

  13. Select X Axis 1.
  14. In the Property Manager, click on the Link Axis tab.
  15. Next to Link axis, click Y Axis 1, and select None.
  16. Click on the Axis tab.
  17. Enter 9.000 in for the Length
  18. Enter 0.750 in for the X Position.
  19. For the Y Position, subtract half of the H value from the Y value noted in step 11. So, 4.32 - (0.14/2) = 4.25.
  20. Click on the Tick Marks tab.
  21. Under Major Ticks, check the Show ticks on top box.
  22. Adjust the Length. I entered 0.100 in.
  23. Click the + next to Major Line.
  24. Set the Width to 0.050 in.
  25. Adjust the tick spacing to use for the reference dates. I changed the Spacing to 200.
  26. Under Minor Ticks, uncheck the Show ticks on bottom box.
  27. Click on the Line tab.
  28. Set the Width to 0.050 in.
  29. Click on the Tick Labels tab.
  30. Click the + next to Font.
  31. Check the box for Bold.
  32. In the Object Manager, select Line/Scatter Plot 1.
  33. In the Property Manager, click on the Symbol tab to set the desired symbol properties. I wanted my symbols to look like tick marks, so I decided to use an upper-case “I”.
  34. Click on the current symbol set, and select Arial.
  35. Click on the current symbol, and select I (Symbol 41).
  36. Set the Size to 0.200 in.
  37. Click on the Labels tab.
  38. Check the Display labels box.
  39. Uncheck the Labels in Y column box.
  40. For Column, select your event column.
  41. Click the + next to Label line.
  42. Set the Style to Solid.
  43. Click the Graphs | Plot | Move Labels command.
  44. Click and drag each event description to the desired location.
  45. Press ESC when finished moving the labels.
  46. Now, let's add a second plot to use to label each event with the year in which each occurred. In the Property Manager, click on the Plot tab.
  47. Click the Create button next to New plot.
  48. In the Property Manager, on the Plot page, be sure your date column is assigned to the X column and your value column is assigned to the Y column.
  49. Click on the Symbols tab.
  50. Set Symbol frequency to 0.
  51. Click on the Labels tab.
  52. Check the Display labels box.
  53. For Column, select your date column.
  54. Click the + next to Font to set any desired font properties for the labels.
  55. Click the current color, and select Red.
  56. If necessary, click the + next to Label line.
  57. Click the current Style, and select Invisible.
  58. Click the Graphs | Plot | Move Labels command.
  59. Drag and drop the labels to the desired positions.



Your timeline is now complete! If desired, you can use the Property Manager to change the display of the timeline. You can also use the Draw menu to add text, shapes or additional symbols. I added a rectangle to act as a background for the timeline with the steps below.

  1. Click the Draw | Rectangle command.
  2. Use the mouse to draw a rectangle on the plot.
  3. Press the ESC key to exit drawing mode.
  4. In the Object Manager, select the Rectangle.
  5. In the Property Manager, click on the Fill tab.
  6. Click the current Foreground color, and select Pale Yellow.
  7. In the Object Manager, click and drag the Rectangle to the bottom of the list.

 finished_20141203-182152_1.pngFinished timeline

We've now recreated the timeline used in last week's blog post! You can use the process above to create timelines of your own. Further enhance your timeline with a title, images, and more!



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Tuesday, 07 February 2023

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