Professional Flowcharting
How to Draw a Timeline

If you have not downloaded the free trial version of RFFlow, you need to do that first.

Creating a Simple Timeline

1. Run Timeline
In RFFlow click Tools, Auto Charts, and Enter Timeline Data. The Timeline program will run.

Timeline Program Screen Shot

2. Add an Event
To add an event, click the Add Event Button Add Event button on the main screen of Timeline. If you want to edit an existing event, right-click on it in the main screen of Timeline and choose Edit Event.  The dialog box shown below will appear. Click on the Event tab if it is not currently selected.

Adding an event to the timeline program

In the box to the right of the word Event: enter "Clean the garage."  Next, select the date and time. I chose October 2, 2008 and 1:00 PM. Then click the OK button.

3. Add Another Event
This time click the Event button and enter "Wash the car" with a date and time of October 9th, 2008 at 1:00 PM.

4. Add a Title
Click Tools in the main menu of the Timeline program, and Add Title. The dialog box that appears allows you to enter a title for your timeline. Enter "My Tasks."

5. Saving Your Data
Click File in the main menu of the Timeline program and Save in the drop-down menu. The Save As dialog box will appear. You need to save your data so you can import it into RFFlow to create a timeline. You may also want to edit the data later. Remember where you saved the file so you can find it again. I named the file "MyTasks."

6. Drawing the Timeline in RFFlow
Run RFFlow if it is not already running and click Tools, Auto Charts, and Draw Timeline

7. Opening the Text File
The timeline data was saved in a .txt file. You have to be able to browse to the folder where you saved your file in step 5 and open it. The Open dialog box will appear. Once you are displaying the correct folder, simply click on the name of the file and click the Open button.

8. Style of Timeline
You next have to decide what style of timeline you want. I selected Rectangle and arrow timeline.

9. Unit of Time
For this timeline, I selected Days.

10. Options
Just use all the defaults and click the OK button.

11. Finished
RFFlow automatically draws the timeline shown below. This was just a simple timeline with two items, but the process is similar for large timelines having hundreds of events. Now you can save this file in RFFlow. Name it MyTasks. It should be noted that you have created two files. The first was the .txt file named MyTasks.txt. It contains the data you entered. The second file was the RFFlow file MyTasks.flo. It has the graphic display of the timeline. This is a little confusing to first time users. The data is in one file and the graphics is in another. The advantage is that you can now customize your timeline in RFFlow as you would any other chart drawn in RFFlow. 

Sample Timeline Chart

Creating a More Complicated Timeline

RFFlow can automatically draw a timeline based on your data. You can enter the data or have RFFlow read it from a .csv file. If the data you are using is already in a spreadsheet, then you should see the Web page How to Draw a Timeline From a CSV File. The following assumes you will be entering the data. You may want to print this Web page. If you have not downloaded the free trial version of RFFlow, you need to do that first.

1. Run Timeline
In RFFlow click Tools, Auto Charts, and Enter Timeline Data. The Timeline program will run. This feature is included in both the free trial version of RFFlow and the full version. If you are doing a lot of timelines, you will want to put the timeline buttons on your toolbar. Click View in the main menu of RFFlow, Toolbars, and customize the bottom row of buttons to add the timeline buttons Draw Timeline Button and Edit Timeline Button. The Edit Timeline button allows you to enter new timeline data or edit data you have already entered.

2. Adding or Removing People
If you want to associate a person or group with an event, then you need to first enter the names of these people. If you don't want people associated with an event, then you can skip this step. 

In a criminal analysis timeline, the people or gangs involved in an investigation are the entities of that investigation. An entity can also be an investigative subject, criminal associate, business, person, place, or thing. An entity can be anything important to an investigation.

For example, if the event is to "Write Financial Report" and Jens Jensen and Pete Petersen are responsible, you need to enter their names. The people or groups involved in an event are referred to collectively as entities.

To add entities click the Adding or Removing an Entity Button button.  The dialog box shown below will appear.

Adding or Removing an Entity Dialog Box

To add an entity, type the name of the entity in the box to the left of the button Add New Entity and then click the Add New Entity button. The entity will be added to the list at the top. The entities are arranged in the order they are added, but you can change the order or put them in alphabetical order. To move an entity up, click on it and click the Move Up button. If you want the names sorted by last name, type the last name first, e.g. Washington, George.

To remove an entity, click on the entity in the list of entities to select it. Then click the Delete Selected Entity button. You can only delete one entity at a time. The only way to edit an entity is to delete it and add it again. When you delete an entity, it will also be removed from any event to which it is connected.

In the sample above, we added the entities: Jens Jensen, Pete Petersen, and Simon Simonsen.  When you are done adding or removing entities, click the OK button.

3. Adding an Event
To add an event, click the Add Event Button Add Event button on the main screen of Timeline. If you want to edit an existing event, right-click on it in the main screen of Timeline and choose Edit Event.  The dialog box shown below will appear. Click on the Event tab if it is not currently selected.

Add Event Tab

In the box to the right of the word Event: enter the event. For example, type "Start writing the financial report." You do not need to number the events.

Next, select the year, month, and day for the event. To change the year, click on the year and then click the small triangle pointing up or down to increase or decrease the year. To change the month, click on the triangles pointing left or right to select earlier or later months. To select the day, click on the day. The current day will be highlighted.

Next select the time. To change the time, click on the hour, minute, or click AM or PM. Then click the up or down triangle to increase or decrease the value. For example, if the hour is 10 and you want 11, click on the 10 and then click once on the triangle pointing up. If the time says AM and you want PM, click on AM and then click on the triangle pointing up.

Next click the Entities tab and select the entities that were involved in this event. Click on each one that took part in this event. You can click on more than one. To remove a selection, click on the entity again and it will be unselected. Make sure you have selected everyone associated with the event. If you need to add entities, you have to exit this dialog by clicking OK or Cancel and then click the Add Entity Button button.

Add Entity Tab

If you want to show an end date for the event, click the End Date tab. First put a check in the box next to the words Include End Date (The end date of an event is optional) and then you can select a date and time. Criminal analysis timelines do not use the end date information. 

Adding the end date

The Source tab and source information is only used for criminal analysis timelines. For each event you can list a source. For example, if the event is "Meeting of two gang members," the source information might be "Undercover agent verifies meeting in report 7332."  In the actual timeline, the event would be listed as "Meeting of two gang members (A3)" where the A3 is then connected to a list of all the sources. These sources are labeled as A1, A2, etc. and can be pasted into your word processor when the timeline is generated. You then will have a printed list of the sources which reference each event in the timeline. 

When you are done, click the OK button and this event will be added to the list on the main screen of the Timeline program. The events are listed chronologically. The list includes the event, date, time, and entities. To edit an event, right-click on it in the main screen and choose Edit Event. To delete an event, right-click on it and choose Delete Event.

4. Adding a Title
You can add a title and other information to your timeline by clicking Tools in the main menu of Timeline, and Add Title. The dialog box that appears allows you to enter a title for your timeline and to enter case information. Case information is only used in criminal analysis timelines. The title and case information will be added to the timeline when it is drawn in RFFlow.

5. Saving Your Data
After entering all the information, you need to save this data to a file on your hard drive. Click File in the main menu of Timeline and Save in the drop-down menu. The Save As dialog box will appear.

You need to save your data so you can import it into RFFlow to create a timeline. You may also want to edit the data later adding entities or events.

The folder where your data will be saved is shown to the right of the words Save in:.

To save in a different folder, click on the triangle pointing down to the right of the words Save in: and select a different folder. You can move up a folder by clicking Button to move up one folder. Remember where you saved the file so you can find it again in step 7 below.

Type the name of the file into the box near the words File name:. Just type the file name. The extension .txt will automatically be added. The files used by Timeline are text files like those created with Microsoft Notepad.

6. Drawing the Timeline in RFFlow
After saving the data in a text file, you then import the file into RFFlow. RFFlow creates the timeline. In RFFlow, click Tools, Auto Charts, and Draw Timeline, or click the Draw Timeline Draw Timeline Button button.

7. Opening the Text File
The timeline data was saved in a .txt file. You have to be able to browse to the folder where you saved your file in step 5 and open it. The Open dialog box will appear.

The folder whose contents are displayed is listed to the right of the words Look in:. To change folders, click on the triangle pointing down and choose a new folder. You can move up one level in the hierarchy of folders by clicking Button to move up one folder.

Once you are displaying the correct folder, simply click on the name of the file and click the Open button.

8. Selecting a Timeline Style
RFFlow has three different styles of timelines. You can always try one and if you don't like it, try another one. Larger samples of these timelines are shown below.

Selecting the style of the timeline

Rectangle and arrow timeline

A Rectangle and Arrow Timeline

Bar chart timeline

A Bar Chart Timeline

Criminal analysis timeline or event matrix

A Criminal Analysis Timeline

 

9. Selecting the Unit of Time
Next you select the unit of time you want displayed. This selection has a big effect on the size of the timeline. If your timeline is too large, select a larger unit of time.

Selecting the Unit of Time

Selecting Timeline Options

10. Selecting Timeline Options
The Options dialog box is shown above. There are a lot of ways to customize your timeline. If you are in a hurry, you can always just use the defaults and click the OK button.

Criminal Analysis Timeline Options
For a criminal analysis timeline the options are somewhat different and the dialog box is shown below. 

Options for a Criminal Analysis Timeline

11. Editing the Timeline in RFFlow
Once the timeline is generated, you can edit it like any other RFFlow chart.  If you want to make the title font larger, simply double-click the title and change the font size. You can add text and lines to highlight parts of your timeline and move events around. The full editing capability of RFFlow is available.

12. Finished
At the end of this process, you will have generated two files. One is the text file (.txt) where you saved the data. That file was generated by the Timeline program. The other file is the RFFlow file (.flo) which contains the actual timeline graphics. Both should be saved as you may want to edit the timeline data and generate another timeline.

13. Other Options of the Timeline Program
If you click on Tools, Options in the Timeline program, the dialog box shown below will be displayed.

Time and Date Options

See also:

Register | Documentation | Privacy and Security | Version Information | Free Additional Shapes | Software Resellers | Free Viewer | Contact
RFF Electronics
PO Box 1244 Loveland CO 80539-1244 USA Phone 970 663 5767 Fax 970 669 4889 www.rff.com flow@rff.com
Copyright © 1996-2010 RFF Electronics. All rights reserved.