Save Time by Using Project Templates in MS Project

If you find yourself creating projects on a regular basis, you should consider creating your own project template, or customising the default MS Project template. It is easy to do and will save you loads of time in the long run.

This tutorial will begin by showing you what a template consists of, and how to save one. This approach is best if you require multiple templates. For example, specific templates for specific clients or specific templates for specific types of job.

This tutorial will then show you how you can customise the default MS Project template. This will be the best option if you just need one template for all your projects.
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5 Reasons for Using Custom Fields in Microsoft Project

Custom Fields in Microsoft Project allow you to define your own fields (columns) for data that meets your organisation needs.

By creating your own custom fields you can display information on the project plan that is tailored to your requirements.

This tutorial looks at 5 reasons you may want to set up custom fields in Microsoft Project including creating drop down lists and using formulas in fields.

  1. Create a drop down list
  2. Display multiple fields next to task bars in Gantt Chart
  3. Sum the total duration of tasks
  4. Change colour of task bars dependent upon conditions
  5. Using graphical indicators in custom fields

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5 MS Project Settings You Need to Know

Microsoft Project has many settings that control the behaviour of the application, and of your projects.

These settings can be accessed by clicking the File tab on the Ribbon and then Options. There are many useful options in here, but this blog post focuses on 5 MS Project settings you need to know.

Calculate Multiple Critical Paths in  a Project

Although a project can only have one true critical path (the tasks that directly affect the finish date of the project). You may wish to view the critical path for each independent series of tasks.

This can be done to view the critical path for each subproject for a large master project, or maybe you have different independent series of tasks that are performed by different departments or regions in the project.

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MS Project: Display Multiple Fields Next to Task Bars in Gantt Chart

In Microsoft Project you can display different project information next to the task bars in a Gantt Chart. This ensures that you can see the information you need to see about a task without having to keep looking over to the table.

You can display the information in different positions in relation to the bars such as to the left, right, above, below or in the middle. However, Project only allows one piece of information per position.

Gantt Chart showing resource names by task bars

This can limit the feature somewhat so we will look at how to add multiple fields next to the task bars in a Gantt Chart.

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MS Project: Specify the Working Days for a Project

For Microsoft Project to accurately calculate your project schedule, you will need to specify the working days for the project.

Part of this will include adding recurring holidays and any ad-hoc non-working days to the calendar. These ad-hoc nonworking days could for instance be caused by bad weather, a national celebration day, or another project taking priority.

Specify the Working Days for the Project

The default base calendar of MS Project, the Standard calendar, assumes a Monday to Friday working week. However your project working days may differ from this.

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Automatically Format the Colour of Task Bars in Gantt Chart

I am often asked in Microsoft Project courses how to automatically change the colour of the task bars in a Gantt Chart dependent upon the tasks resource, or location.

The truth is that this can be a complicated process, but once it is set up it is good to go. Save your view and you will never have to worry about it again.

In this example I plan to format the colour of the task bars by the resource group. I want the colour of the bars to indicate the team that are working on that task. When someone assigns a resource to a task, Project will automatically format the task bar colour in the Gantt Chart.

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Create a Drop Down List Field in Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project contains many fields for storing information about the tasks and resources of your project. So much so that it can be hard to imagine what else you would want to know.

However there is usually a desire to create your own custom fields to display other information in your different views and reports. You can create your own fields to store text, dates, cost and other types of data.

To assist data entry, a field can be created with a drop down list. You can look up the value that you need in a list making data entry easier and more accurate.

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Sum the Total Duration for Tasks in MS Project

Microsoft Project uses the duration field to calculate the difference between the start and finish dates of a task. But what if you want to view the sum of all durations for a set of tasks?

Microsoft Project does not have a field to calculate the total durations for a set of tasks. However this can be easily accomplished by creating a custom field.

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Using Change Highlighting in Project 2010

When a change is made to a tasks schedule in Microsoft Project 2010, such as to it’s duration or start date, all the cells in the table that are affected by that change are highlighted with a blue background.

This highlighting of the changed cells brings your attention to what task dates and durations were affected by that scheduling change.

This is a really useful tool, but what if it’s not working? Or maybe you would prefer a different colour to the standard pale blue background?

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MS Project: View Resource Workload using the Team Planner

The team planner view was introduced in MS Project 2010. The view makes it easier to see your resources workload over time and to make changes.

Resources are shown in rows across a timescale just like in the Gantt Chart. You can see which team member does what and when at a quick glance. The task names are displayed inside the task bars.

Problems such as overallocations can be quickly identified. These problems can then be rectified usually by just clicking and dragging the task to a different resource, or to a different start date.

The fact that the team planner looks like a Gantt Chart for resources, and it allows you to make changes in the same way that you may already do so in MS Outlook, helps make this view easy to relate to.

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