10 July 2008

Google Docs Timeline Gadget

For the past four days I have been struggling with the timeline gadget in GoogleDocs. I finally figured it out this morning. I scoured the internet, I talked to other teachers, I wailed in frustration. Interestingly, I could find many blogs that expressed exasperation with the timeline gadget from back in April 2008, but couldn't find any solutions to the problem. I found the GoogleGroup discussion for the gadget, but it wasn't clear to my newbie, non-programmer mind. Today, I found a published timeline using an earlier version of the gadget and it conveniently had data to accompany it. Much to my surprise, it kind of made sense. I made one change in my spreadsheet and it started working. So, I pass along my feeling of triumph to you.

Here's how to get a nifty timeline from your spreadsheet:

1. log into your Google account. Go do Documents.

2. click on New under the Google Docs logo and open a spreadsheet

3. in row 1 enter the column headers in this order: start, title, end, image, link, description
some of the documentation online says that the order doesn't matter. I couldn't get the gadget to work unless it was in this order

4. enter your data in the rows below (see example above). Use dates that include mm/dd/yyyy. Keep titles relatively short. No need for an end date unless there is a specific one. It works to link to images you find on the internet (at sites such as American Memory and the like). Just copy and paste the URL into the box. Do the same for the link box. Descriptions should be succinct, but there doesn't seem to be a limit.

5. highlight the cells that are part of your timeline as shown here

6. click on the link to add gadgets in the upper right part of the screen, select the timeline gadget. I've noticed that at times it says different things. Sometimes it just says "gadgets", other times is says "create a chart, graph, or table..."

Here is the top of the spreadsheet with the "create a chart, graph, or table..." link showing.

After clicking the link, this is what you should see.

7. the range in the gadget should show the cells you have highlighted. Check to make sure the range here matches the range selected above. Change the title of the timeline if you wish. Adjust the upper and lower time intervals if you wish. You can choose week, month, or year. You can change the background colors too, if you wish.

8. click APPLY! Your timeline will show below the settings you've just checked.

9. your timeline is there! I like using the popout feature which opens in another tab in Firefox. Scroll sideways to see your timeline in all it's glory!

Thanks to Keldon Clegg for sharing a draft of his timeline on Federalism.