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Microsoft Project Tips

First, a little background. I have been instructing Project for quite a while now. Probably since around Project 2003 just before Project 2007 was released. On top of that I have used it quite a bit for projects that I have been a part of as well as helping others in scheduling their own. Over the years, I have found certain things that make the schedules easier to manage. Hopefully I can help save you some headaches by passing along some of the things I have struggled with. Maybe it will help. Maybe it won’t. Maybe you won’t like any of my suggestions at all and you’ll leave comments saying I’m an idiot. That’s fine too!

The Order Of Setup

When setting up projects in the application I tend to follow a certain order. This is a recommendation and you don’t have to do it this way if you don’t want to. I’m not saying this is THE right way and you’re doing it the wrong way. There are many different ways to accomplish the same things, but I have found this to be one of the easier ways taking into consideration each step and how they influence the others.

  1. Set Enter Task To Automatic
  2. Set Project Start Date
  3. Create A Calendar (Non-Working Days/Default Work Weeks)
  4. Set The Project To Use New Calendar
  5. Set The Timescale In The Gantt Chart To Reflect New Calendar
  6. Set Options For Hours Per Day/Week/Month
  7. Enter Tasks (Subtasks/Milestones)
  8. Link Tasks (Only Milestones/Subtasks)
  9. Group Tasks (Summary Tasks)
  10. Turn On Project Summary Task
  11. Turn On Outline Numbers
  12. Enter Resources (Names/Cost Rate Tables/Resource Calendars/etc.)
  13. Assign Resources To Tasks
  14. Set A Baseline

There is a bunch more that you can do in between each of these and the amount of work on each of them can vary. One thing I have learned through all the companies I have encountered using Project is that everyone has a different way to do things. At the very basic level, this is the way I always start. Once all of this is in place, you could move forward updating the project as it progresses. That… is a whole other monster.

Durations And Start/Finish Dates

Should you change the durations or the start and finish dates? I always say DO NOT change the start and finish dates directly. Only use them for reference to figure out when tasks are starting and ending. I teach to change the durations or use constraints to position tasks at certain dates. If you change the start and finish dates directly more often than not they will be locked to those dates. If you are using automatic scheduling as opposed to manual you probably already know that once a task’s duration is altered the tasks that follow will be repositioned according to the new dates. Changing the start and finish dates directly can keep the following tasks at the dates you set them instead of moving them down the line. If you use constraints instead to lock tasks to dates you can just as easy turn off the constraint and have everything back to automatic repositioning when durations are changed.

This has been addressed within the software. If you do end up changing the Start and Finish dates it should add a constraint instead of causing the tasks to lock to those specific dates. I would still recommend using the constraint section specifically since it does give you more control.

Linking Tasks

When linking tasks together it used to be limited to something like 14 tasks at a time. In the newer versions you can do a bunch more. That alone isn’t the tip. When you are holding down CTRL to select multiple tasks at once, in and out of Summary Tasks, they will link in the exact order you select them in. So, take your time when selecting. If you miss a task during the initial selection and try to select it when you realized you missed it, it will link in that order. You will have linking arrows jumping all over the place.

Removing The Legend From A Print

When you print from Project by default the legend shows up at the bottom of the print. I have been asked countless times on how to remove it.

  1. Navigate to the print options
  2. Go into Page Setup
  3. In the page set up dialog box, click the Legend tab
  4. Change “Legend on:” to “None”
  5. Click Ok

Quickly Remove A Filter

This one is easy. All you have to do is press F3 on the keyboard.

Using Elapsed Duration

If you need something to run on non-working days instead of skipping over them, use the elapsed duration option. For example, entering 20d will enter in a duration as 20 days and skip the non-working days. Entering it as 20ed will enter it as elapsed duration will will still include non-working days as part of those 20 days.

Using Effort Driven

Effort driven should be used when the more people you add to a task the less time it will take. If you are painting a room and it takes 3 hours with 1 person doing the work, it would make sense that if another person would added it would take half of the time. When this is the case, turn on the Effort Driven option.

Excel Project Import Templates

In the previous versions of Excel, a template was supplied that you could fill in for Project imports. In the new versions, it seems to have went missing. So, for your convenience. Voila!

Microsoft Excel Project Import Templates

There are a lot more little tips and tricks that could be shared. If you have any, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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