Import Swimlanes or Sub-Swimlanes from Excel




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With Office Timeline, you can import your Excel data into PowerPoint straight as a Swimlane diagram. Additionally, the Pro+ add-in also lets you import Sub-swimlanes (or nested lanes), so you can easily show multiple projects inside a “parent” lane. This guide will show you:


I) How to import Swimlanes from Excel

II) How to import Sub-swimlanes from Excel (Pro+ Edition Feature)


Read the full guide or, if you have Office Timeline Pro+ and are already familiar with importing Swimlanes, click the link above to jump straight to the sub-lanes chapter.

Before getting started, you can also have a quick look at some key timeline elements that we’ll be mentioning here to get accustomed to their names:



I) How to import Swimlanes from Excel

Importing Swimlanes from Excel is fast and simple. Here’s how it works:


Before importing your data, you must first set up your Excel spreadsheet properly so you can bring it into Office Timeline directly as a Swimlane visual. Below you can see an example of how your data should be organized (Download the Excel sample here).


  1. While, for regular Gantt charts and timelines, all you need in Excel are the Title, Start Date and/or End Date, and Row ID for each item, for importing as a Swimlane, you will need to add an extra "Swimlane" column in your spreadsheet.


    IMPORTANT: Please make sure to name this column as "Swimlane" so that the add-in can detect and map it automatically when importing your data. 

  2. Now, for each of your milestones and tasks, type in the name of the lane you want them to belong to. Items that have the same text in the Swimlane column will be automatically placed in the same lane on import.


  3. If you also want to have some milestones or tasks linked directly to the timescale - not inside a lane - simply leave their Swimlane fields empty. leave-cells-empty-for-tasks-outside-swimlanes.png

  4. Once you've set up and saved your spreadsheet, click Import on the Office Timeline ribbon in PowerPoint and follow the simple steps Excel import steps.import-from-excel-into-office-timeline.png
    Note: You can also import your Excel data directly into a Swimlane template or a theme. To do so, go to New on the Office Timeline ribbon, select a template or a theme, and then click Import.

  5. Office Timeline will automatically turn your data into a PowerPoint Swimlane diagram that you can customize as you please. swimlane-slide-imported-from-excel.png
    Quick Tip: Whenever you edit your plan in Excel, you can click Refresh Data on the Office Timeline ribbon to quickly update your Swimlane slide as well.refresh-data-imported-from-excel.png



  • When setting up your spreadsheet, remember that Tasks have both a Start Date AND End Date, while Milestones, being a single moment in time, have only a Start OR End Date.

  • It's best to add a Row ID column to your spreadsheet and fill it out with a unique identifier (e.g. numbers from 1 to 20 in our case) for each task and milestone. This will help us recognize your data more easily and refresh your PowerPoint timeline accurately when your Excel plan changes.

  • Adding a % Complete column in your spreadsheet is optional

  • Your tasks and milestones in Excel don't necessarily have to be ordered by Swimlane title. You can order them however you wish - when importing the spreadsheet, all items that have the same text in the Swimlane field will be placed in the same lane, while those that have that field empty will be linked directly to the timescale. 



II) Import Sub-swimlanes from Excel (Pro+ Edition Feature)

Once you know how to import your Excel sheet as a Swimlane slide, you should have no trouble importing sub-swimlanes - the process is quite similar. Below you can see an example of how you can set up your spreadsheet to create nested lanes:



  1. After you’ve set up your Swimlane column in Excel, add an extra “Sub-swimlane” column next to it.


    Note: Naming this new column as “Sub-swimlane” will help the add-in detect and map it automatically when importing your data.

  2. Now, in this new column, type in the name of the sub-swimlane you’d like each of your tasks and milestones to belong to. Items that belong to the same Swimlane and have identical names in the Sub-swimlane column will be placed in the same sub-lane when importing.


  3. If you wish to keep some “classic” Swimlanes – without any “child” lanes inside them, simply leave the corresponding Sub-swimlane cells empty:leave-cells-empty-for-tasks-outside-sub-swimlanes.png

    Note: Inside the same swimlane, either all tasks/milestones must be grouped in sub-lanes or none at all. If some of the items inside a swimlane don’t belong to any sub-lane (while others do), we will automatically group them for you into a generic sub-swimlane.

  4. Once you’re done setting up your spreadsheet for nested swimlanes, follow the usual Excel import steps.import-from-excel-into-office-timeline.png

  5. Office Timeline Pro+ will instantly transform your sheet into a PowerPoint visual with Swimlanes and Sub-swimlanes, which you can then customize to

Quick tips:

  • Did you know you can import sub-swimlanes from Excel directly into a template? This can help you save time on customizations.
  • You can Refresh your Sub-swimlane slide just as you would any other timeline.