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As the saying goes: a picture often tells more than a thousand words. This is certainly true for graphical timelines. A detailed listing of events and dates in tabular form may offer the reader a lot of specifics, but may fail to provide an overview, a grand perspective.

From June 1, 2004 there is a wiki way to compose graphical time charts offline.

Syntax description at Help:EasyTimeline syntax.

You can also use this tool outside Wikipedia, see the EasyTimeline project site, or activate it on other MediaWiki installations, see EasyTimeline activation.

For an overview of all charts prepared with EasyTimeline on all wikipedias (images and code) see EasyTimeline Index, refreshed weekly as part of the statistics job. (May be down, try the archive.)


Be sure that the text of the article also conveys all the relevant information, or links to an article which does, so that it is available to people who cannot see the image. See WP:ACCESS for more.

Charts examples[edit]

Two simple examples of what is possible. For more extensive examples see Template:Timeline WW II - Pacific Theatre, Template:Timeline_History_of_Computing, de:Template:Zeitleiste Tour-de-France-Sieger.

A nice example of a diagram that is not a timeline at all is Vocal and instrumental pitch ranges.


Code example[edit]

Just to show you that the script syntax is reasonably intuitive: here is the script for the image to the left: Soviet Leaders.

# All measures are in pixels

ImageSize  = width:160 height:550
PlotArea   = left:50 right:0 bottom:10 top:10
AlignBars  = justify

DateFormat = yyyy
Period     = from:1919 till:1991
TimeAxis   = orientation:vertical
ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:5 start:1920

# there is no automatic collision detection,
# so shift texts up or down manually to avoid overlap

Define $dx = 25 # shift text to right side of bar

  bar:Leaders color:red width:25 mark:(line,white) align:left fontsize:S

  from:start till:1922 shift:($dx,15)   text:Vladimir~Ilyich~[[Lenin]]
  from:1922  till:1953 shift:($dx,5)    text:[[Stalin|Josef~Stalin]]
  from:1953  till:1964 shift:($dx,5)    text:Nikita~[[Khrushchev]]
  from:1964  till:1982 shift:($dx,5)    text:Leonid~[[Brezhnev]]
  from:1982  till:1984 shift:($dx,-12)  text:Yuri~[[Andropov]]
  from:1984  till:1985 shift:($dx,4)    text:Konstantin~[[Chernenko]] fontsize:XS
  from:1985  till:end  shift:($dx,10)   text:Mikhail~[[Gorbachev]]

Double and single brackets can be used like on wikipedia, language prefix is possible, e.g. [[de:foo|more about foo]]. Single brackets for external links are also supported.

Great Timelines Elsewhere[edit]

Here are two great sites that may serve as inspiration, it would be very easy to recreate most of those timelines verbatim and with roughly similar layout with EasyTimeline (not yet with images but that may change), but I'm afraid that would be 'not done'.

  • Hyperhistory (e.g. click on button 'people' left, then on 'special lifelines', right.
  • I hope we will have a set like [1] in a years time (click on full size image for any map), possibly even with images. The main effort will be to gather all info without snatching everything from here (most of these maps are based exclusively on data from Brittanica).


EasyTimeline does not yet support Unicode. This will be added later. So better not use it on Unicode enabled Wikipedias yet.

Aug 2004: Minimal UTF-8 support has been added, meaning that EasyTimeline now recognizes UTF-8 encoded characters. However only extended ASCII accented characters can be shown and not even all of them (rendering package Ploticus has an incomplete ASCII set in its internal font). So full Unicode support will have to wait until external font support has been added (planned late in 2004, other Wikipedia projects take priority right now).


For first time users EasyTimeline may not seem that easy at all. As with all script languages it takes some getting used to. Also the syntax description may be a bit bewildering due to its sheer size. Fortunately many elements of the script language are optional.

The 'Easy' in EasyTimeline conveys the message that once a timeline exists it is not so hard to understand, enhance or correct. Also translating for use on another wikipedia it is pretty straightforward.


  • What most editors did so far: find a timeline that is similar to what you want to accomplish and use this as a model. This will get you started.
  • Put each timeline on a separate Template page: this makes it easier to edit, faster to preview, possible to include it in several pages
  • Feel free to ask Erik Zachte (the author of EasyTime) for help or advice.

See also[edit]