Project Management

Communicate task status instantly with Project's custom bar styles

One of the best ways to ensure that the information in your Gantt charts is clear and easy to interpret is to create custom bar styles. Project expert Brian Kennemer explains how these bar styles can help you keep your project team on track.

Gantt bar styles provide an effective way to quickly communicate task status information. If your staff is aware of your customized bar style choices, a glance at your Gantt chart will tell them right away which tasks are late, not started, or already finished.

Microsoft Project 98 and 2000 both come with several predefined criteria that automatically determine which tasks a certain bar will be drawn for. You may already be familiar with the Summary criterion, which displays summary tasks in a different style of bar from regular tasks.

Another example is the Critical criterion. In the Tracking Gantt view, tasks on the critical path display with a red bar instead of the default blue bar. Figure A shows this effect.

Figure A

Figure B shows the selection criteria that Microsoft Project gives you for defining conditional Gantt bars. It can make a handy reference when building your bars.

Figure b

Using these “Show for…” criteria, you can design special bars that display only items you select. For example, you might want to display just Late Tasks, which have not yet started but are on the critical path. Or you could have a special color for bars that have the Flag2 field set to Yes and that aren’t finished. Figure C shows the Bar Styles dialog box for setting up this bar style.

Figure C

Figure D shows how this style looks in the chart. Notice that the pink tasks are both Not Finished and have the Flag2 field set to Yes. In contrast, you’ll notice that some other tasks are Not Finished, but they’re still blue because their Flag2 field is set to No.

Figure D

Experiment and learn
The best thing to do is to play around with bar styles and these different criteria. I am a big fan of experimenting with an application. Books and articles are great for getting started, but for you to really know what is going on you have to get in there and work with it. So dig in and see what works for you.
Do you have questions about Microsoft Project? Post a comment to this article or send a letter to Brian. He can’t answer every letter, but he will write articles about the topics and questions that readers ask about most frequently.

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