Google Docs Overview

We are going to host the data that will populate your timeline within Google Docs. Why this particular application? One reason to use Google is that it is free. Second, it provides a more convenient way to update your data than through a standard javascript file. Third, once you have "published" the spreadsheet, it will provide a constantly updating feed to your timeline. This means that when you make a change to the spreadsheet, your timeline will instantly reflect this change. A fourth reason is that you can share your spreadsheet with others, allowing them to edit the events on the timeline. As such, you will be able to build a timeline collaboratively with as many people as you'd like—all you have to do is give them access to your spreadsheet.

If you have not previously used Google Docs, these four steps will get you started.

1. Creating a Google Account

The first thing you need is a Google Account. This includes a Gmail account. If you don't have a Google Account already, click here to get one now.

2. Creating a new spreadsheet in Google Docs

Go to Google Docs and create a new spreadsheet.

Shows how to create a new Google Spreadsheet

3. Saving Your Spreadsheet Automatically

You'll notice that your new spreadsheet is currently "unsaved."

Shows Spreadsheet isn't saved

To make sure you don't lose any data as you're working, start by saving the spreadsheet. Do this by clicking on "Save" in Google Doc's upper right corner.

Google docs save button

You will be given a pop-up box for titling your spreadsheet. While it doesn't matter for your timeline what you name your spreadsheet, you will probably want to name it something descriptive, like "William Gibson Timeline." If you change your mind, you can always rename the spreadsheet later. Now that you've saved your spreadsheet once, it will automatically save your data as you enter it from here on out.

4. Inviting Others to Contribute to Your Spreadsheet

One of the best reasons for using Google Docs to host your timeline's data is that you can invite others to contribute to the timeline. To do this, you must share your spreadsheet with others. Click on the "Share" tab in the upper right corner of your spreadsheet (see previous image). A new menu will open.

shows how to invite people to collaborate on spreadsheet

In the text box, simply add the email addresses of those you would like to edit the spreadsheet. Make sure they are invited "as collaborators," so they will be able to add and edit information on the spreadsheet. Then click the "Invite" button. You will be given an email which you can edit to have the text you want, and it will then be sent to the email addresses you have designated.

Under the advanced options, you may want to uncheck the first box. Leaving it checked (which is the default) will mean that those you invite to collaborate will be able to invite others to edit your spreadsheet. The second check box should be kept checked if you plan on emailing your invitation to a listserv.

5. Start Building Your Timeline's Spreadsheet

And that's all there is to it! Now you can start building your spreadsheet for timeline functionality.

Creative Commons License
Timeline Tutorial by Brian Croxall
Exhibit and Timeline Scripts by MIT's Simile Project