Header Image - Timesavers for working with the timeline

When I need to create richly interactive, custom learning experiences, my go-to Articulate 360 app is Storyline 360. With features like the timeline, Storyline 360 makes it simple to work with objects on my slides—making them appear and disappear in tandem with audio narration, for instance.

So let’s take a look at one of the most low-key, powerful features in Storyline 360—the timeline—and five overlooked timesavers for making the most of it.

Managing Objects with the Timeline

When you’re building highly interactive e-learning with lots of audio and animations, it’s not unusual to end up with a number of objects on a slide. And when you’re working with so many objects, it’s also easy to get confused. Here are some timeline features and tips that can help you avoid that confusion and stay organized!

Rename Objects

Every object on your slide also appears on the timeline. So when you’ve got, say, 12 rectangles on your slide, Storyline 360 will number each rectangle on the timeline as Rectangle 1, Rectangle 2, etc.

One of the fastest ways to confuse yourself is to leave these default labels in place. That’s because later on when you’re adding triggers to your project or building things like a drag-and-drop, you’ll waste precious time trying to figure out which of the many pictures on your slide is “Picture 27.”

Save yourself a lot of trigger troubleshooting time and headaches by simply renaming objects on the timeline. To do that, just double-click on the name to the left of each object and type in a more descriptive name then hit Enter on your keyboard. It looks like this:

Relabel objects on the timeline in Storyline 360

That’s all it takes. And while it might seem a bit tedious to name every object on your slides, I guarantee it will save you loads of frustration!

Undock the Timeline

When you’re working with a lot of objects, scrolling through the timeline to find the ones you need can get challenging. That’s why it’s so helpful that Storyline 360 lets you undock the timeline panel and even place it on another monitor. 

To undock the timeline panel and place it elsewhere, just click Timeline and drag it to a new spot. I like to drag mine over to my bigger monitor so I can expand it and see everything.

Ready to redock the timeline? Select Redock icon, in the upper right corner of the panel.

Here's a gif showing how to undock and redock the timeline:

Undocking and redocking the timeline panel

Working with Grouped Objects on the Timeline

One of my favorite timesaving tricks is to group objects on my slide so there are fewer individual items on my timeline. You can group objects by holding the CTRL key while you select the assets you want to include in the group. With all the items selected, simply right-click and choose Group.

Grouping objects on the timeline

Grouping objects is especially helpful when you have a lot of assets like textboxes and shapes. I find it makes it easier to adjust timing when I can grab and place the entire grouping rather than each individual object.

Expand an Object Grouping

Need to make a change to an object that’s part of a group? Just click the triangle next to the group name to expand it so you can see all of the individual objects nested beneath it. Then, make your changes and click the triangle again to collapse the grouping.

Expanding an object grouping on the timeline

In short, not only does grouping assets keep your timeline looking tidy, it also makes it easier to hide/show or lock a group of objects so you can remove distractions and focus on other objects on the slide. Let’s take a look at how hiding and locking objects works.

Hide and Lock Objects on the Timeline

Sometimes it’s helpful to temporarily hide some objects so you can focus on others. To hide an object, click the eye icon to the left of its name on the timeline. Click the eye icon again to unhide it.

There are also times when you want to see objects on your slide, but you’d rather not accidentally grab them when you’re working with other adjacent objects. To prevent one element from being moved or modified while you’re working with another, click the box before its name on the timeline. Clicking that will change it to a padlock icon. Simply click it again to unlock it. 

Here’s what hiding/unhiding and locking/unlocking looks like:

Hiding and Locking objects on the timeline

Pro Tip: If you’ve hidden objects on the timeline, they won’t appear in your published output, so remember to unhide them before you publish!

Syncing Objects on the Timeline

I like to think of the timeline as a director, the objects on my slide as actors, and the slide as my stage. Thinking in these terms helps you see how the function of the timeline is to orchestrate your entire slide. By positioning and dragging the “actors” (objects) on the timeline, I can control when they’ll appear on stage (my slide) and when they’ll exit the stage in concert with other actors or my narrator.

One way to orchestrate all of this activity is to use cue points. Let’s take a closer look at how cue points work.

Quickly Add Cue Points

To quickly add cue point markers, click Play, in the lower left corner of the timeline, then press C on your keyboard at any point where you want to insert a cue point, like this:

Adding Cue Points to the Timeline To remove a cue point, right-click the cue point marker you want to delete and select Delete Cue Point or right-click anywhere in the timeline and select Delete All Cue Points.

Deleting Cue Points on the Timeline

More Timeline Timesavers

As you’ve seen, the timeline in Storyline 360 is pretty awesome. It’s hard to believe that something this simple is so powerful!

In this article, I’ve covered five of my favorite overlooked timeline features, but there’s much more to learn! For more tips and tricks about using the timeline, don’t miss these articles:

What’s your favorite Storyline 360 timesaver? Do you have a best tip or trick for working smarter? Share them with us in a comment, below.

Want to try something you learned here, but don’t have Articulate 360? Start a free 30-day trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

Chris Roetzer