MS Project Tips and Tricks

If you have any tips and tricks you would like to share, remarks, improvements - please submit them through the contact page. Thanks on behalf of your colleagues !


Adding a column to a view
In MS project, many fields are not shown in the standard views. Select the column where you want to have the additional information you require (it will be put on the left side of the selected column, you can drag and drop it afterwards), right click, select ‘insert column’ and select the field you want to add.

Checking if your project is ‘on schedule’
First of all, save your MS-project plan as the changes you are about to make need to be discarded afterwards.
In the Gant chart view, add column “%work complete” (when not yet visible). Make sure you have all tasks under a single task summary (so you see the %work complete for the project). To check what the %complete should be at this point in time go to “tools >tracking>update project…>update work as complete through>set 0-100% complete (use the date for which you want to do the analysis – e.g. the last date that the plan was updated).” This will cause the % to change to what is expected. You can toggle between undo and redo to spot where the differences are.

Using MS Project for your ‘by month’ resource forecast
Go to the resource view, change the timescales on the left pane (right click on the headers, >change timescale, middle tier units = quarter, bottom tier=months). In the right pane, where the resources are, hide the subtasks (hide subtasks button). This gives you an overview of resource usage per month, which you can copy (first right pane, then left pane) to excel (use the search/replace function in excel to get rid of the ‘hrs’ or other descriptions that make it text instead of numbers)

About Summary tasks
Don't assign resources to Summary tasks, and don't link Summary tasks to anything. In stead link tasks, let tasks feed into Milestones and use Milestones as the "jump off" point to the next set of tasks. Linking Summary tasks to anything can cause huge errors, and makes your Gantt Chart View looks like spagetti, you can't follow the logical progression of tasks at all. So if you like spagetti - go ahead...

Earned Value based on hours
When you want to do EV calulations, but want to use hours in stead of cost, then put in the resource view a cost of $ 1 (or 1 Euro or 1 whatever) per resource. That way every calculation of cost will use the number of hours x 1
Different projects using the same resources
Don't put all your projects in 1 schedule, it becomes a mess. Instead, enter all your resources into 1 schedule without tasks, which is a socalled 'resource pool'. Give it a smart name like 'resource pool.mpp' for easy reference. Then create the tasks in other project files, 1 mpp per project. Link the project schedules to the resource pool by first opening the resource pool and the schedule which needs to use the pool, and then selecting tools>resource sharing> share resources...>use resources from> sellect the resource pool.mpp in the box. Pool takes precedence. To get an overview of all activities, you can look at the resource usage view in the resource pool. Alternatively create a master-schedule with links to the other projects, and look at the resource usage view from there.

Using Graphical Indicators (from Project 2003)
Assumption: the plan is baselined
Download the zip file with dummy project and smiley map.
Open 'dummy.mpp' as well as your own project plan. In your own plan (GANT view), add a column for field 'number1' (or another if you're already using this one). Give it a nice label like 'status'. Right click on the header (status) and choose 'customize fields'. Choose button 'import custom fields' and select as project 'dummy.mpp', and as field 'number1' .

When you hover with your pointer above one of the smilies, it gives you the field value. With the "Smiley Map" you can find what triggered this colr and what it means.

The simple version: If you don't baseline your project plans, you might want to consider just to add sthe field "status" (and "status indicator" for some grapics - not as nice ;-) ).

Stretching an activity’s duration in MSP ('hammock tasks' or 'span tasks')
|Act A ======|
........................|Act B ==========|
|Act C ======================|


What we want is for the duration of Act C to fluctuate as the other tasks (A and B) change (eg. a project management execution task).


1. right click start date of actA, then click "Copy cell"
2. right click start date of actC, then click "paste special...", then click "Paste link"
3. right click finish date of actB, then click "Copy cell"
4. right click finish date of actC, then click "paste special...", then click "Paste link"


Create 2 dummy milestones. Link the earliest date and latest date to each milestone. Indent the milestone to create summary bar. Highlight summary bar. Go to Format > Bar > Bar Shape. Remove start & end shapes. Change the middle bar to Task bar shape. Click OK and hide subtask. Now when the predecessors change the duration for the above bar will fluctuate. When you link the start of all the delivery tasks to the first milestone and the finish of all the delivery tasks to the second milestone it won’t matter which delivery is first or which delivery is last, the task will always show the duration over that whole period.

Baselining the project plan
Why ? Because you'd like to be able to look at what you've agreed with your customer at any given time.

Go to tools>tracking>save baseline...

you can save up till 10 baselines, which you can use to reflect your project change requests. In your gant view, you can add baseline columns (start, finish) to be able to compare with the current dates.


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