Project Management

Build a customized Gantt chart view in Microsoft Project

Dr. Andrew Makar shares the step-by-step process of configuring a custom Gantt chart view, a customization trick that may save you time when you're switching between views in Microsoft Project.

The number of views into Microsoft Project's scheduling data can be overwhelming. The delivered views on the Microsoft Project view bar include the Gantt chart, resource usage, task usage, and resource graph views. When you combine these views with the entry, cost, tracking, and variance tables, it can get confusing.

Novice project managers remedy this problem by adding every column of data that they'll ever need into the Gantt chart view. The end result is there are too many columns in one view, and it creates information overload. It quickly becomes difficult to navigate, print, and manage the project data (Figure A). (I've inherited project schedules that had more than 20 columns in a single Gantt chart view.) Figure A

This Gantt Chart view has too many columns. (Click the image to enlarge.)
One solution is to create a custom view that provides the core schedule data needed to define, track, and update your project schedule. For the past few years, I've been using a custom view called myGantt that provides all the data I need to update project progress and track the project schedule (Figure B). Figure B

A look at myGantt view. (Click the image to enlarge.)

You can create your own myGantt view by following these steps.

Create a set of custom tables and views based on the delivered entry and tracking tables

By creating custom tables and views, you'll import the same data and still be able to switch back to the delivered Gantt chart and standard tables. If you don't create a separate set of tables and views, any changes you make to the underlying tables will affect the standard views in Microsoft Project.

  1. Go to View | Tables | More Tables and select the Entry table.
  2. Click Copy and rename the table to myEntry (Figure C).
  3. Click the OK button.
Figure C

This is the myEntry table.
Create a custom myTracking table

  1. Repeat steps 1-3 from the previous section and use the Tracking table.
  2. Edit the table to include these fields: Name, Actual Start, Actual Finish, Baseline Start, Baseline Finish, % Complete, Actual Duration, Remaining Duration, Baseline Duration. If you're tracking effort-driven tasks, you should include Actual Work and Baseline Work fields.
  3. Click the OK button.
Create a custom myEntry view

  1. Go to View | More Views.
  2. In the View Definition dialog box, enter myEntry for the Name, select the myEntry Table, set the Group to No Group, and set the Filter to All Tasks. Click the OK button. (Figure D)
Figure D

myGantt View Definition dialog box.
Create a custom myTracking view

  1. Repeat the steps above and use the myTracking view.
Create a myGantt combination view

The combination view splits the Microsoft Project workspace into two panels; this allows you to see the entry and the tracking data all in one view.

  1. Go to View | More Views | New.
  2. Enter myGantt for the Name and select myEntry for the Top view and myTracking for the Bottom Views Displayed (Figure E).
Figure E

myGantt View Definition dialog box.

  1. Click the Show In Menu checkbox.
  2. Click the OK button.
Test your view

By clicking the Show In Menu checkbox, you should see the myGantt view in your View Bar and in your View menu.

  1. Go to Click On View | myGantt. The myGantt view from Figure B will be displayed.

With this view, you can click on one task in the upper window pane and view all the relevant tracking data in the lower pane. By highlighting multiple tasks, you'll receive all the key information you need to track your schedule.

Primary benefit

The key benefit of this myGantt view is the amount of time you'll save switching between different views and inserting or hiding different columns. With one combination view, the project manager is able to view the baseline dates, the actual dates, and the impact of those dates to the forecasted schedule. Using this single combination view, you can record the actual duration and the remaining duration to generate an objective percent complete. The supporting Gantt chart can still be formatted to view the critical path or other Gantt chart wizard graph charts. You can also change the upper and lower window panes based on the tracking or the resource utilization needs. Since you created custom objects, you can easily revert to the original views by clicking the Gantt chart icon and removing the split view.

You can change the upper and lower window panes based on the tracking or the resource utilization needs. Since you created custom objects, you can easily revert to the original views by clicking the Gantt chart icon and removing the split view.

Innovate

Now that you understand how to customize Microsoft Project, I encourage you to discover new ways to view project data. If you have developed innovative views that you'd like to share with the community, please detail them in the discussion.

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About Andrew Makar

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

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