MS Project Tips

MS Project Tips

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Five "IFs"

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

IF Number 1: You have no need for knowing anything about MS Project and its many versions. The following information will probably only be of minor interest (at best) to your curiosity.

IF Number 2: You are currently using MS Project v 2007, 2003, 2002 or 2000 and have no immediate prospects of migrating to v 2010. Read on, v2010 may suddenly appear on your monitor. Furthermore,I suggest you download a free copy of v2010 from Microsoft (IF company policy permits) and see what lies in your future.

IF Number 3: You are introduced to v2010 without every working with any previous version. This places you in a privileged group because you bring no habits ingrained by frequent/constant use from the past. You are learning from scratch and won't know any other way to proceed.

IF Number 4: You have extensive use with previous versions and now look at a screen that bears some resemblance to yesterday's version “things are where they used to be.” The changes are numerous and the enhancements even more so. Here are just a few, starting with a screen shot of a project in v2010.

  1. The Menu Bar is no longer present. In its place is Microsoft's Ribbon, introduced in Office 2010. If you think the Ribbon is great, then you are ahead of the game. If you find it disconcerting and/or confusing, then I suggest you minimize the bar (right-click on it and select, “Minimize the Ribbon.” Study the resulting Menu. Every tool is organized within one of the six categories. Left-click on a menu item (Resource, for example) and every tool you need for entering, modifying, assigning, etc. is at your fingertip. [a personal note: I keep the Ribbon minimized to provide more space for the plan.
  2. Right-click on the view title bar and you see that more Views are added to the menu, some that did not exist in previous versions.
  3. Additional options are available for Tables.
  4. Select the “Project” tab and notice there is a tool for comparing projects, totally new and readily available.
  5. The “File” tab now displays an image of your project, as well as listing project information such as start/finish date, project calendar, priority, etc.
  6. Beyond organization of tools are the enhancements: changes that you must understand and use properly. For example, when entering a task name, duration, etc., you have the choice of “manual” scheduling or “automatic” scheduling. Manual scheduling places the task on the Gantt Chart and it will not move from its start/finish dates. Automatic scheduling allows for flexibility, for dynamic movement of linked tasks. When entering a task name you can choose the method of scheduling the “I” column or you can select from the “Task” section of the Ribbon.

This is as far as I am taking the differences in this posting. I'll cover other similarities and changes in future months.

IF Number 5: If you have suggestions of topics/items you would like to see covered in the future, email me those suggestions at:

Customizing Your Lists of View and Tables

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

I continue to discover new features and complex uses of MS Project and I always enjoy sharing them. Today, however, I focus on one of the beginning steps, the introductory exercises I have seen PMO's employ to gauge the “preparedness” of beginners to read and understand the Gantt chart, assuming the “beginner” has never seen MS Project, reports from MS Project, or created a project utilizing MS Project.

In my classes I use an abbreviated sample project (screen shot below) to review the Gantt chart table, symbols, timelines, dependencies, etc. This is elemntary, it is essential, and it is a good test of learning from the beginning.

Following are the discussion questions with this screenshot showing on a projection screen:

  1. Why are some task bars red?
  2. Why are some task bars blue?
  3. What are the black diamonds?
  4. What do black diamonds represent?
  5. How do you create a black diamond?
  6. What are the green arrows?
  7. What do the green arrows represent?
  8. How do you create a green arrow?
  9. Define “predecessor.”
  10. Explain the difference between FS, SS, and FF.
  11. How do you create predecessors?
  12. How do you modify predecessors?
  13. What are the black bars?
  14. How do you create a black bar?
  15. Why would you create a Deadline Date?
  16. How do you create a Deadline Date?
  17. What pressure is the team under if four tasks must finish at the same time?
  18. What pressure is the team under if four tasks must finish at the same time and their finish is the end of the project?
  19. What does the project manager need to know about this project?
  20. What do team leads need to know about this project?
  21. Define Critial Path.
  22. Define Slack/Free Time.

As I inidicated at the beginning, this is elementary, but keep in mind that the neophyte user must know how to create and how to interpret. First things first!

Customizing Your Lists of Views and Tables

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

During a recent class a participant asked about customizing her list of Tables. She had created three new tables in her template and wanted them to show when she navigates to View —> Table. Her query led another participant to ask about customizing his list of Views.

The directions for customizing the lists of Views and Tables are very similar. I have created a table named “New Table” as shown in the following screenshot. Navigate to View —> Table —> More Tables. Select New Table —> Edit. In the upper right corner place a check mark to designate “Show in Menu.”

Click on “OK,” then “Apply” and the New Table is displayed in the menu.

To display the “New View” you have created, navigate to View —> More Views, select the new view, click “Edit,” and place a check mark in the lower left corner to “Show in Menu.”

If there are Tables or Views you to remove from the menu, then navigate to the list, select the Table/View not for display, and remove the appropriate check mark.

Similar directions apply to the list of Filters as shown in the following screenshot.

The ability to customize is built into the project software. Use it to your advantage!

Project 2007 "Ribbons"

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Ready or not, it's on the market and deployed. If you love the “Ribbons” in Office 2007 you will be ecstatic with this project version. I suppose the opposite is also true. For those of you who find the “Ribbons” irritating, the final screenshot and comment is for you.

There are two versions, Standard and Professional. You must have the Professional version. You can download a 30-day trial copy at

The following screen shots display the detail of each “Ribbon,” moving from left to right.







I am impressed with the organization of previous and new tools and functions packed into each “Ribbon.” For example, in previous versions that I had to search for over-allocated resources. In v. 2010 a symbol appears in the Indicator Column, indicating where one or more resources are over-allocated on a specific task (see example below using the Microsoft template: “Project Plan for New Business”). Right-click on the icon and you are presented with a variety of options for resolving the over-allocation.

Finally, if you don't like the “Ribbons” you can collapse them by right-clicking on any “Ribbon” and selecting “Minimize the Ribbon.” Your screen will look like the following screen shot. It's not the same list, but it sure looks similar to the Menu bar.

Have a great time with the trial version. It is worth the look.

Reporting to the Finance Department on a Monthly Basis

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Scenario: I must send a monthly report to the finance department, exporting (converting) task cost information for all tasks into an Excel workbook. To accomplish this I need to create a “Map” that I can run each report day. The “Map” will contain all fields in the Variance Table. The project example I use in this illustration is one of the templates that come with MS Project and I have set the project start date as October 18, 2010.

All steps listed to create the “Map” are based on the follow assumptions:

  1. I am working with MS Project 2010.
  2. My project is open.
  3. The finance department does not want the Gantt Chart included.
  4. A baseline has been set for the project.
  5. The project has begun.
  6. I am tracking results.
  7. I will store the monthly reports in a file/folder of my designation.

Step 1: Display the Variance Table.

Step 2: Navigate to File | Save As and save the work as an Excel workbook. For this illustration I am naming the file “Monthly Financial Report November 1, 2010.” Click the “Save” command.

Step 3: I am now working with the first screen in the Export Wizard.

Click the “Next” command button.

Step 4: I am now in the second screen of the Export Wizard. Select the option command button for “Selected Data.”

Click the “Next” command button.

Step 5: I am now in the third screen. Select “New Map.”

Click the “Next” command button.

Step 6: I am now in the fourth screen. Place a check mar k in the square next to “Task” because I want to export Task cost data.

Click the “Next” command button.

Step 7: Since I want to export task cost data I can base the report on the cost table. To accomplish this, click on the “Base on Table” command button and select the “Cost” table. My screen now displays the entire cost table for this project. [Note—I can insert/delete data rows. If inserting, click in an empty row in the “From” column and select any additional data I want.

Click the “Next” command button.

Step 8: I am now in the fifth screen on the Export Wizard. Since I will run this report every month I will save the work thus avoiding the work to create the report each month. Click the “Save Map” command button. The Export Wizard closes and my Excel Workbook is saved to the designated file.

Step 9: It is next month and time for me to run a new report.

  1. I open my project.
  2. Select File | New. I will name this new Excel workbook “Monthly Financial” Report December 1, 2010. Select the “Next” command button.
  3. Select “Use Existing Map” and select the “Next” command button.
  4. Choose the Financial Report that I created. Select the “Next” command button.
  5. Select the “Finish” command button. I do not need to save it. This newly dated report will always show in the list of reports available to you in the fifth screen.

When I create such repetitive reports I also create a Macro to simplify creating the next monthly report. Finally, I create a command button on an existing toolbar. As a result all of the repetitive steps are removed. The next report is created at the click of a button.

More Regarding Task Types

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

A very interesting discussion occurred during a recent class. The discussion started between two “seasoned” project managers, but soon engaged all the students. I must admit, I set the stage for the ensuing debate. I asked, “If you were only going to use two task types, which two would you choose.”

Both sides agreed on Fixed Duration. They disagreed over choosing Fixed Work or Fixed Units. I asked each group to identify reasons for their choice and to then limit their presentation to the top three.

The Fixed Work folks discussed among themselves a while and presented the following rationale:

  1. Our estimates are given in labor or work hours. It will take X amount of effort to complete the task.
  2. If necessary we can shorten the duration of the task by adding additional resources.
  3. We can extend the task duration by increasing our estimated hours of effort.

The Fixed Unit folks, following their discussion, came up with these reasons:

  1. It makes sense to estimate task duration in calendar work days assuming a full-time resource assigned to the task.
  2. If necessary we can shorten the task duration by adding additional resources.
  3. We can maintain the original task duration AND (their emphasis) increase the labor or effort by adding additional resources.

I then asked if anyone had been persuaded to change groups. During a future class I intend to ask the students to group themselves according to either Fixed Work or Fixed Units. Their assignment will be to make the strongest case possible for changing to the other group, i.e. Fixed Work will argue for Fixed Units, etc.

Obviously the world continues and project success is not determined by my use of a particular Task Type. But, I am curious. Just how rigid are we (that includes me). Does that rigidity ever get in the way of successfully completing a project on time and on budget?

Working Through the Maze of Task Types

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Through Watermark I will spend a day at a company working one-on-one with project managers. Typically the employees can sign up for a 30 minute session during which I come to their work space and coach them on their use of MS Project. Let's take a look at a very typical concern. It goes something like this:

Project Manager: “Will you go over the three task types? I have read book descriptions, but they don't make sense, so just tell me, what is the difference?”

Discussion: First, let's assume a full time work day equals 8 hours. And, assume you have a resource that is available to you 33% of each day. Second, Let's assume you have inserted a new field (named “Work”) into your Entry Table. Third, you know how to quickly change the task type setting. If you don't know how directions are at the end of this discussion.

The default setting in MS Project is Fixed Units. Think of it this way—you estimate “Task A” will take six days if someone works on it full time. You enter the 6d in the Duration Field. I am going to assign a resource to this task and the resource is can work on it one-third of the time. The software applies the following formula to calculate how many hours the resource will work on the task:

Task Duration X Resource Availability = Work

For example, Jan Smith can work 33% of her time on a task you have estimate as 6 days in duration. Jan Smith will be scheduled to work 15.48 hours over the six days:

Six days X 33% = 15.83 hours

Now, let's look at Fixed work. Before you do anything else, you must change the task type to Fixed Work. You estimate a task will take 45 hours of labor (Microsoft calls this “Effort”) and you enter 45h into the work field. You will assign Jan Smith to this task. The software determines the task duration. The software applies this formula to calculate the duration:

Estimated Work X Resource Availability = Duration

The work is estimated at 45 hours. Jan Smith is available 33% of the time. The task will be scheduled to 17.05 days.

Next comes Fixed Duration. Change the task type to Fixed Duration. You are going to give Jan Smith a task that is estimated to take 15 hours, but you will give her 2 weeks to finish it. (Note: this task type is typical for creation of policies and use procedures.) Enter 15h into the Work field. The software calculates the work as follows: Work X Duration = % of Jan Smith's time required to complete the task on time. Jan will be scheduled to work two weeks at a 19% rate.

How do I change (select) the Task Type? There are many ways. I suggest you work in the Entry Table with a split screen. To split the screen move the Menu and select Window —> Split Screen.

Select the task on the Entry Table and set the Task Type at the arrow above. Make sure you have selected the correct task and have set the Task Type before you make assignments. Make all of your assignments to the task and then click the “Okay” command button.

Okay, now let's talk about the “Effort Driven” check mark just above the Task Type window.

  1. When you make an assignment(s) and click the “Okay” command button the software calculates as describe at the beginning to this article. However, if you return to a task at a later time and add more people:
    1. Effort Driven, Fixed Units — Leave the check mark and the task duration will be decreased because you have now added additional resource units.
    2. Effort Driven, Not Fixed Units — Remove the check mark and the task duration will remain steady and the work will be increased.
    3. Effort Driven, Fix Duration — Remove the check mark the work will be increased.
    4. Effort Driven Work — All Work is Effort Driven. Add more people, the work is shared and the duration decreases.

Finally, if you want to simplify your options, use only two of the three.

  1. Set the default task type to Fixed Work. Duration of these tasks always decreases as you add resources. Select from the Menu —> Tools —> Options —> Schedule and change to default setting to Fixed Work.
  2. Use Fixed Duration as needed. You have the option for Effort Driven or Not Effort Driven. Do you want to share the work or increase the work?

If you have a better way to describe the three task types I'd like to hear from you. Send me an email with your suggestions.

Microsoft's Certification for MS Project

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

In class I am frequently asked about Microsoft's certification program for MS Project. It usually comes in the form: “I support a project team and the manager said he/she heard there was a certification program for support staff and wants me to look into it. Do you know what I'm talking about, because I'm not sure.”

The first step in our discussion is to assure me that the questioner can distinguish between the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification and the MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist). Microsoft offers the MCTS for all Office products, including MS Project. Once this is confirmed our discussion takes the following form.

  1. Yes, Microsoft offers an exam that tests your knowledge of Project tools and capabilities as well as your ability to effectively employ these tools and capabilities.
  2. Use the “web.” Navigate to This site lays out the exam by number (70-632: TS: Microsoft Office Project 2007, Managing Projects. We discuss the topics included in the exam (the following list is copied from the Microsoft web page):
    1. Configuring Tools and Options
      1. Set up Schedule options
      2. Set up Calculation options
      3. Set up Interface options
      4. Set up View options
      5. Set up General options
      6. Set up Calendar options
      7. Set up Security options
    2. Setting Up a Project
      1. Create and modify a template
      2. Select a template
      3. Enter project information
      4. Manage calendars
      5. Import and export data
    3. Estimating, Scheduling, and Budgeting Tasks
      1. Create a WBS
      2. Create and modify tasks
      3. Estimate and budget tasks
      4. Sequence tasks
      5. Identify and analyze critical tasks and critical path
      6. Manage multiple projects
    4. Resourcing Project Plans
      1. Forecast time-phased generic skill or role requirements
      2. Create, modify, and use resource pools
      3. Add, change, substitute, or remove resource assignments
      4. Predict durations and work calculations
      5. Optimize resource utilization
    5. Updating and Reporting on Project Performance
      1. Save and modify baselines
      2. Enter task updates
      3. Reschedule incomplete work
      4. Track project progress
      5. Analyze variance
      6. Create, modify, and delete objects
      7. Create reports
  3. The site reference above provides links to practice tests and information regarding test companies and test sites.

The Microsoft certification in no way assures capability as a project manager, but it does provide the basis for determining how efficiently and accurately the support person can work within and maintain established projects.

Note: Watermark Learning's Microsoft Project public classes utilize “Microsoft Office Project 2007 Step by Step,”as the training curriculum/text. Each two-day class covers all topics included in the MCTS certification test.

MS Office 2007: Project and Outlook

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Many managers using MS Project do not have access to, nor do their companies utilize Enterprise Project Management. In these cases, managers can import/export tasks (start and finish dates) between Project and Outlook.

You can easily:

  1. Email a bitmap image of the entire projects or selected tasks to individuals and groups, e.g. you want to send an image of the project and the recipient does not have a license for Project. With your project file open, select File|Send To|Mail Recipient (as schedule note). A new email in Outlook is opened, with the image attached, ready for your selection of recipient(s).
  2. Send a copy of the project file if you had selected File|Send To|Mail Recipient (as attachment). This, of course, requires the recipient to have the MS Project license on his/her computer.
  3. Import tasks from your Outlook Tasks list. With your project file open, select Tools|Import Outlook Tasks. This opens your Outlook task list and you can select the task(s) to be imported. The tasks are appended to your project task list.
  4. Export project tasks to your Outlook Task list. Your project must be open and you must display the Tracking Toolbar. Select View|Toolbars|Tracking. The Tracking toolbar contains an icon of a yellow bell named “Set Reminder”. Click “Set Reminder” and the task(s) start date, reminder time, and finish date (or selected tasks) are added to your Outlook Task list.

General Resources useful to project managers:

  1. Microsoft Project Certification. Review the skills tested
  2. Microsoft Project Discussion Groups. Specifically, review Project General Questions
  3. Microsoft Project for Project Managers Course

Password Protect Your Files

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

As with all Microsoft Office applications you can:

  • Require a password to open the file, or
  • Require a password to modify the file, or
  • Require a password for both.

Step 1: Open your project file.

Step 2: Select “File ----> Save As”

Step 3: Select “Tools ----> General Options”

  • Version 2007—look in the lower left-corner for “Tools.”
  • In pervious versions—look in the upper right-corner for “Tools.”

Step 4: With “General Options” open,

  • Enter a password in the “Protection Password” window if you want to require a password to open the file. You will be asked to confirm the password by entering it a second time. Leave this window blank if you want other people to have the capability of opening your file without a password.
  • Enter a password in the “Write Reservation Password” window if you want to require a password to modify/change the plan in any way. You will be asked to confirm the password by entering it a second time. Leave this window blank if anyone opening the file can change/modify it.


Viewing the Critical Path with MS Project (all versions)

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

First, use the “Critical Path” filter: on the menu select Project --> Filtered For --> Critical Path. Or you could have used the filter menu located in the Formatting Toolbar.

Second, use the Gantt Chart Wizard to format the task bars RED if the task is critical, blue if the task is not critical: select the command for the Gantt Chart Wizard (the last tool on the right side of the Formatting Toolbar). Click the command for “Next” --> Select the “Critical Task” option --> Click the “Finish” command --> Click the “Format Command” --> Click the “Exit” command. All critical tasks now display a red bar on the Gantt Chart.

Third, since I use the entry table without the Gantt Chart much of the time (also called the Task Sheet view) I format the task name RED if it is critical: Select “Format” --> “Text Styles” --> Items to Change “Critical Path” --> Change the color from Automatic to Red --> select “OKAY” and all critical task names are now color coded to Red, non-critical tasks remain in black font.

Of course, there are other methods that you may prefer, and I wish you well with them.

Microsoft Office Project 2007—Standard vs. Professional

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

People frequently ask which version of Project 2007 to purchase, so let's look at the differences. First, there are two versions: Microsoft Office Project Standard and Microsoft Office Project Professional.

Microsoft Office Project Standard is ideal for the individual user. This version allows the user to:

  • Create the project WBS
  • Manage resources
  • Set and modify baseline(s)
  • Track actual experience
  • Report pre- and post-baseline data, and
  • Customize views, tables, reports, etc.

Microsoft Office Project Professional offers all of the features of the Standard version plus allows the user to work with Office Project Server 2007 and Office Project Web Access, which provides system-wide project management.

If you are a one-person operation, then Microsoft Office Project Standard should be adqueate for your needs. If you work in an organization where you'll potentially want share project management information, then the Professional version is the right one for you.

Building Your Resource List in MS Project

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

When developing a project plan, it's important to carefully define the available resources. In this tip, I outline the steps to define your roject's resources and describe the basic fields involved.

You can import names from your Outlook Contact Directory into your Project file Resource Sheet.

  • Open your Project file
  • Display the Resource Sheet
  • Select a Resource Name or row to indicate you want the name(s) inserted.
  • From the Menu, select: Insert --> New Resource From --> Adress Book
  • Select the names to be added into your Project.
  • Click the “Add” button.
  • Click the “Okay” button. The name(s) is/are added to your Resource Sheet.

This avoids typing names. You do need to complete the Resource Information, such as Initials, Max Units, etc.

Changing Deadline Dates in MS Project the Right Way

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Many of my students have used Excel spreadsheets to track projects. Consequently, most feel right at home in the MS Project application, especially when they see familiar column headings such as Task Name, Duration, Start, and Finish. The impulse is strong to populate these columns in the same manner they would in their spreadsheets.

But, before you manually change the Start and Finish dates in the columns of an MS Project document, you need to understand how MS Project uses this data. Task Start and FInish dates are determined by the linkage (the dependencies) between tasks (FS, FF, SS, SF). Therefore, if the 'finish date' and 'projected end dates' on a given task are different from each other, then you need to adjust the dependencies between these tasks.

For example, let's assume I have several tasks that have due dates.I indicate this information on my plan by inserting a “deadline date” as follows:

  1. Double-click on the Task Name.
  2. Select the Advanted tab.
  3. Enter the new date in the Deadline Window or select the date from the Drop-down Menu.
  4. A green outlined arrow will appear on the Gantt Chart indicating a deadline for the specific fask. (In order to see this arrow, you must be in “Daily View” in the Gantt Chart.)

An advantage to using this method is that it will not cause problems if you choose to modify the task relationships.

Creating a Hammock Task

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

During class the other day, a student asked what would be the best way to create a task for her management activities. She wants to set up the task so that it starts on the first day of the project and finishes when the project is complete. She wants to ability to track time associated with the task so if the project runs late or finishes early, the end date can be adjusted accordingly. In other words, the duration will either increase or decrease as the total project duration increases or decreases.

I suggested setting up the project as a “hammock task.” You won't find “hammock” in the help menu, but here is how you build it:

  1. Create a new task and leave the duration as 1d.
  2. “Select” and “Copy” the start date cell of the first task (the “start driver”) in your project that will drive the start of your administrative task.
  3. “Right-click” in the start date for your administrative task.
  4. From the Menu, select “Paste Special” and paste a link. Your administrative task start date will now be driven by the start date of your first task (or the task you selected as the “driver.”
  5. Select and copy the finish date cell of the project's final task.
  6. “Right-click” in the finish date cell of your administration task.
  7. Select “Paste-Special” and then click “Paste Link.”
  8. You have created your Hammock Task.

MS-Project FAQs

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Q. Is it worth seeking advanced Microsoft Certification in managing projects using MS Project 2007, even if your company (or its clients) doesn't currently use Project Server?

A. Microsoft offers two certificate programs for MS Project: (1) #70-632:TS—Microsoft Office Project 2007, Managing Projects and (2) #70-633:TS—Microsoft Office Project Server 2007, Managing Projects. Receiving certification in both demonstrates your ability to effectively manipulate the software (client and server) and reflects your project management style and decision-making ability. You should seek both levels of certification if you intend to remain active in project management. First, you will prove to yourself that you know how to employ the software to your advantage in planning, developing, tracking, and reporting. And second, it will give you a needed edge for career advancement.

Q. The Duration field contains mixed value, e.g. some tasks in hours, days, and weeks. How can I easily convert them to one value, such as days?

A. All versions of MS Project contain a macro to change all duration values to a constant of your choice. Access this macro through the Menu Bar, navigate to Tools > Macros > Macros... > Format_Duration > Run. Select your preferred duration unit from the drop-down menu provided (Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months).

Q. How can I change the date format in the Start and Finish fields?

A. Using the Menu Bar, navigate to Tools > Options > View > Date Format.

Q. I am not connected to Project Server. Using the client version on my computer, can I share project information with my Outlook calendar?

A. Not directly, but you can export task and schedule information into Excel and then import the data into your version of Outlook. Using the Menu Bar, select “Save As.” Save as an Excel file in your desired location and with your desired name. Create a new map selecting task name as the data for exporting. Open Outlook and import your newly created Excel file into your calendar. Project task names will appear on your calendar.

Q. How do I know what time of day a resource is scheduled to work on a task

A. Using the Menu bar, navigate to “Tools | Options| View” and select a date format displaying date and time.

Q. How can I display only incomplete tasks on Gantt chart?

A. Utilize the “Incomplete Tasks” filter. From the Menu bar select “Project | Filtered For | Incomplete Tasks.”

Q. Is there a way I can compare versions of the same project without printing and visually inspecting them?

A. Insert the “Compare Project Versions” toolbar. Click on the left-most command button of the newly inserted toolbar and following the instructions on the opened dialogue box.

Q. Is there a way to convert entered durations into a common value, e.g. hours, days, weeks, etc?

A. Run an existing macro. Using the Menu bar, navigate to “Tools | Macro | Macros” and select your preferred value in the prompt.

Using Excel Formulas or Functions

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

MS Project users can utilize any Excel formula or function in MS Project tables. For example, you can employ the “IF Statement” to identify/indicate task duration variance between base-lined duration and actual duration.

To utilize an Excel formula or function you must utilize a “Number” field (there are 20 in versions 2003 & 2007).After inserting the field, right-click on it and select “Customize Fields.” Select the “rename” command and give the field a permanent name. Then select the “formula” command and build your function/formula. If functions and formulas are not easy for you, Project Help is helpful in determining the proper syntax. Depress the F1 key and search for “Project functions for custom fields.”

Using the Task Driver

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

New to Project 2007 is the “Task Driver” tool. When activated, the Task Driver displays all tasks and constraints driving the beginning of any task you select. This is very useful in large projects when you need a quick review of tasks/constraints impacting the scheduled start date of a task.

To activate the Task Driver:

  1. Select the task about which you want this information
  2. Click (select) the Task Driver tool on the Standard Toolbar.The icon represents a blue task bar with a dependency arrow and question mark (?) above it.

Selecting that command icon inserts a column to the left of the task sheet and displays all factors impacting the selected task.

Working With Tasks in MS Project

by Jim Clayton, Microsoft Certified for Office Suite and MS Project

Have you ever had this problem:

Say you create two tasks – Task 1.2 with a Start Date of January 17, and its duration is 2 days. Task 1.3 is linked to Task 1.2 as “finish-to-start” and has a duration of 1 day. Even though they are linked (FS), Task 1.3 has an incorrect start date of January 17. It should have a start date of January 19. Why doesn’t the (FS) dependency automatically move the second task so it begins on January 19?


The quick way to solve this problem is to press the (F9) key. This automatically recalculates the project duration. The problem arises because calculations are set to “manual,” and they should be set the “automatic.” Navigate to Tools | Options | Calculation and set the calculation mode to “automatic”.