Time Bars

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Time Bars

Where data is represented against a time flow along one axis, representations summarise key information about that flow in a region I’ll call a “time bar”.

Multiscale Techniques

Time bars often contain several scales. Typically the outer band is at the largest scale – often year ranges – while the inner band(s) are more fine grained.

Multi-Scale Timeline Slider

Simile Timeline from MIT

The finer grained section is normally found nearest the main data window.


Time bar representations commonly include an element of summarisation of the data.

Google Finance

NYT Casualties of War

GE Innovation Timeline

This graphical elements help give context to the currently viewed time slot, as well as providing convenient interaction points for navigation. They follow best practice according to Ben Scheiderman’s information visualisation mantra “overview, zoom & filter, details on demand.”


Banding/shading of adjacent time periods is a common technique. This allows the eye to correlate the time bar against the main data area.

LastFM Listening Habits

Often bands mean something in context, e.g., weekends. These bands or faint lines are often are drawn on the main data area too.

24 O'Clocks

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