I have set up a trial version of Excel 2013 on my computer and as I was playing around with a Pivot Table I noticed something new: Insert Timeline.

Timeline

A timeline analyses a date section of a Pivot Table (PT) and creates a timeline like this:

timeline_1

All we can see is a sort of one bar bar chart that shows the years included in the PT. The functionality of the timeline is a bit more than that, however. For example, click on just one of the timeline year sections:

timeline_2

You can then use the handles on the left and right hand side of that section to expand it one more year, two years … as you wish:

timeline_3

I tried to click the Ctrl button to help me to select multiple years on the timeline but that didn’t work.If you click the start of a range of years you want to highlight and the Shift click the end of the range, you will select the whole range.

Is that it?

Erm, wow! That’s, erm, nice … but so what? Well, what the timeline is doing is filtering your PT, as below. Just look at the PT after we have prepared graphics two and three and we have grouped the 1,000 row database into months:

timeline_4

What has happened in the example above is that we have filtered out everything except all data for 2001.

timeline_5

In the above example, we have filtered out everything from the PT except all of the data for the years 2001 – 2003.

Do I like the timeline?

The good thing is that it took me just two minutes to learn how to do what I did above. I have to say, though, that the timeline is another form of slicer in a way, which I also like and that means we can filter a PT on the fly … there and then. This means we can play with What if … ? style PT analysis with ease. Consider the next section  as well.

Timeline and Slicer

Consider the following combination of timeline and slicer: I do like this as it is effective and took me just two minutes to set up too!

timeline_6

What we have done now is add a slicer that, together with the timeline, is showing all data for 2001 – 2003 on a monthly basis. Let’s see what we get when we slice, say, the first quarter of all three years:

timeline_7

These changes are taking just seconds to implement.

Conclusions

I am not entirely sure how the timeline can be considered to be such a major addition to PT functionality but they work and they provide at least one level of analysis providing your PT contains dates.

Download my specimen xlsx data file with the timeline and slicer already prepared.

timelines_xl2013

Duncan Williamson

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