You can help your students create visual timelines from unstructured text by introducing them to the TimeLineCreator web application created by InfoVis Group at University of British Columbia Computer Science.

Watch this video to have a look at how it works:

A quick summary of using the TimeLineCurator:

  • Write or locate an article or paper that contains date references
  • Launch the TimeLineCurator web application by visiting https://tl-generator/ 
  • Click + on the TimeLineCurator and paste the text in (or you can paste a web address and click “scrape” to pull in text from that page)
  • Repeat for up to six categories of information (for example, I used TimeLineCurator to visualize brief histories of personal computers, video games, and the Internet together on one timeline)
  • Review the extracted information and edit to resolve vague dates, irrelevancies or inaccuracies (for example, my video game timeline said Capcom released “Devil May Cry” for Nintendo in May 2017, when it should have dated it August 2001 – but the game title includes the name of a month, which confused the software)
  • Click on individual events to add media such as video, audio or images using their web address – TimeLineCurator will prompt you for a media credit and caption, and add these to the timeline along with the media
  • When satisfied, export your curated timeline in “TLC” format – which opens a new browser tab with a read-only copy of your timeline (make sure you allow pop-ups from
  • Copy the web address of your timeline to share it (for example, students could submit this URL in response to a Canvas assignment, or launch it to give a timeline presentation during a class meeting)

Full instructions for using TimeLineCurator are here:

Why use TimeLineCurator instead of other timeline tools? From a UBC InfoVis team write-up on the project (PDF), these are the benefits:

  • Since the software extracts dates from text data, there is no need to do this yourself and create a spreadsheet or enter information into a data table to generate a timeline
  • It resides on and interacts with the web – no installing software or browser add-ons, and it can read text you copy/paste, or (easier) from a URL you provide; when finished, you can export your timeline and get a unique web address to view and share it in read-only mode
  • The generated timeline is editable by you (not all automated) – it’s saved every minute as you work, and you can download the data to reload later and continue editing; you can also manually add and delete
  • You can use it to quickly explore long text articles to see if there is enough date-based information to pursue generating a timeline – speeds up research

By taking 10-15 minutes to learn how to use TimeLineCurator, your students will gain a research tool they can use again and again throughout their educational paths.

Shared by: