Facebook finally rolled out its much-anticipated Timeline feature today, which brings a snazzy new interface to your profile, not to mention the ability to see every post anyone's ever made back to their first day on Facebook. Here are the things you need to know about using it.
You can get the Timeline feature right now, but Facebook gives you seven days to adjust the look of your timeline before it goes public. Chances are, you'll want to tweak a few things before you publish it, so here are the things you'll want to look at during the next week before it goes live.
How To Browse The Timeline
When you first visit the new interface, you'll see that it is, in fact, a timeline of all your posts on Facebook, going from newest at the top to oldest at the bottom. By default, it shows all your posts from this month. If you scroll down to the bottom, it will automatically load all of your posts from last month. If you scroll to the bottom of that, it'll show the "highlights" from the rest of that year.
You'll also see on the right that you have a sidebar, from which you can jump to specific time periods. Click on a year and it will jump to the Highlights view for that year, and expand the sidebar to show every month from that year. Click on a month, and it will show you all the posts from that month. You can go to any time period you want, from now all the way back to your first day on Facebook.
Also note that you can jump to a specific time period using the dropdown menus at the top of the page, if you don't like the sidebar tree. If at any point, you want to see all posts instead of just Facebook's Highlights, you can choose "All Posts" from the dropdown menu as well.
You might also want to check out the top of your profile, from which you can access a list of your friends, a new view of all your photos (which is actually pretty great), your Likes, and so on. You can also click the tiny "About" link under your profile picture to view your basic info, About Me, work and education, and so on.
How To Add New Events To Your Timeline
While you can add a status or photo to the top of your timeline as normal, the new view also allows you to add blocks on earlier sections of the timeline as well. Say you have a baby picture you want to upload to Facebook. You could go back to the year you were born and add it there, so it appears in chronological order, rather than putting it at the top. To do this, just find the desired spot on the timeline, and hover over the blue line in the middle. Your cursor will turn into a plus sign. You can then click there to add any kind of post you want, be it a new status, photo, place, or other life event (such as a change in relationship status, change in city, or others).
If you want to move a post that already exists -- whether you posted it at the top or whether someone else posted an old picture of you -- you can move it to a different spot on the timeline as well. Just hover over the post and click the pencil icon that shows up. Hit "Change Date" to move it anywhere you want on your timeline, and it will show up there from now on.
How To Change The Look Of Your Timeline
You'll notice that while the interface is very different, Facebook doesn't work all that differently from the way it used to. At the top of your timeline, you can add a new status update, photo, or place, and you can read all your wall posts just by scrolling down the timeline. The only new features you really need to learn about are those that directly relate to how your timeline looks.
The first thing you'll want to check out is the cover. Essentially, you have two main photos on the front of your profile -- one is your profile picture, which you should already see. The other is a "cover", a large, high-res photo that will appear behind your profile picture, and you can make this whatever you want. To add one, click the "Add a Cover" button on the right side or your profile. You can choose one of your existing photos or upload one from your hard drive. You can change your cover photo at any time just by hovering over it and clicking the "Change Cover" button that appears.
The other new feature you'll want to try is starring a post. If there's a post you or someone else has made that you want to draw more attention to on your timeline, just hover over it and click the star button. This will make it wider, stretching across both columns of your timeline, to make it more noticeable. It will also help break up the two-column view and keep the whole thing more interesting, which is nice. To delete a post or hide it from your timeline, click the pencil icon next to the star.
How To Make Old Posts More Private
The one big downside to the Timeline layout is that you can easily see every post you've ever made or received on Facebook. All anyone needs to do is go to a certain year on your profile and click the "All Posts" button. For a lot of us, that means posts you made when you were in high school -- and I don't need to tell you how embarrassing it can be to look at some of the things you used to say in high school.
You have a few choices here, and unfortunately neither is ideal. You can go through your timeline and hide or delete individual posts by clicking the pencil icon, but depending on how long you've been on Facebook and how active you are, this could take forever.
Alternatively, if you have any old posts that are public or shared with friends of friends, you can change the privacy of all those posts to "Friends Only" with one click. It won't hide those posts from your friends, but it will at least keep everyone else on Facebook from being able to browse every post you've ever made public. Click the arrow next to the "Home" button in the upper right hand corner of Facebook. Head to Privacy Settings, then scroll down to "Limit the Audience for Past Posts". Click "Manage Past Post Visibility" and click the "Limit Old Posts" button. This will make all your past posts visible to Friends Only.
Going forward, all posts you make will be subject to the same privacy settings you had before -- so if it was set to Public, every post you make after hitting "Limit Old Posts" will still be public. Check out our guide to managing your Facebook privacy for more info.
Again, this feature isn't perfect, since those posts will still be visible to all your friends, but it's up to you how deeply you want to cultivate those old posts that everyone now has easy access to. Remember, though, you have 7 days before the Timeline goes public, so if you did want to dig in and go through every year, you could at least spread the work over a few days.
The new timeline feature is much more of a cosmetic update than a functional one, though it can be cool to go back and see all your old posts (as long as they aren't embarrassing), and being able to add posts anywhere on the timeline is a neat twist. If you haven't enabled it yet, head to Facebook's Timeline page to check it out, and let us know what you think of the new design in the comments.