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A timeline is a way of displaying a list of events in chronological order, sometimes described as a project artifact. It is typically a graphic design showing a long bar labeled with dates alongside itself and (usually) events labeled on points where they would have happened.
Timelines are often used in education to help students and researchers with understanding events and trends for a particular subject. They are mostly used to show periods of time between two events.
Timelines are particularly useful for studying history, as they convey a sense of change over time. Wars and social movements are often shown as timelines. Timelines are also useful for biographies. Examples include:
Another type of timeline is used for project management. In these cases, timelines are used to help team members to know what milestones need to be achieved and under what time schedule. For example: in the case of establishing a project timeline in the implementation phase of the life cycle of a computer system.
Timelines can take use any time scale, depending on the subject and data. Most timelines use a linear scale, where a unit of distance is equal to a set amount of time. This time scale is dependent on the events in the timeline. A timeline of evolution can be over millions of years, whereas a timeline about the September 11, 2001 can take place over minutes. While most timelines use a linear timescale, for very large or small timespans, logarithmic timelines use a logarithmic scale to depict time.
There are many methods of visualizations for timelines. Historically, timelines were static images, and generally drawn or printed on paper. Timelines relied heavily on graphic design, and the ability of the artist to visualize the data. Minard's map (1861) of Napoleon's invasion of Russia is an example of a non-standard timeline that also uses geography as part of the visualization.
Timelines, no longer constrained by previous space and functional limitations, are now digital and interactive, generally created with computer software.
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