Contributor Brian Kennemer often writes about Microsoft Project for TechRepublic’s IT communities. Here are two tips to help you make the most of Microsoft Project.

The Update Project dialog box
Some organizations have sophisticated time sheet applications that allow team members to report their status directly to the project manager. This makes updating the Microsoft Project plan easy. But most project managers—to know how far along each task is on their project—collect their status information in status meetings, e-mails, or conversations with staff members. Project provides a helpful way to update multiple tasks at once with this collected status information. Click on the Tools | Tracking | Update Project menu item to bring up the Update Project dialog box, which allows you to:

  1. Update the selected tasks (or whole project) to show work that was completed up to a specified date.
  2. Reschedule any incomplete work to begin after a specified date.

For example, if you know—through meetings or communications with your resources—that all the scheduled work for your project has been completed through April 1, you can enter this dialog box and, in the first date picker control, select the date and then select either Entire Project or Selected Tasks and click OK.

Project will then mark the selected tasks as having the scheduled work completed for each task up to April 1 (see Figure A).

Figure A
Update Project dialog box

Likewise, if some tasks were not completed as scheduled, you could perform the previous steps with only the on-schedule tasks selected. Then, you could select the other tasks and again enter the dialog box, this time picking the option to reschedule unfinished work.

For example, if you choose April 1 and the Selected Tasks radio button, Project will move all the work that should have been done on the selected tasks out to start after April 1.

Adding the drop-down menus to your toolbars
If you find yourself constantly switching between views or between different tables, filters, or groups within your views, you can add some very useful items to your toolbars that can make switching from various screens much faster than going through the View | Table menu item or the Project | Filter menu to make your selections.

Microsoft Project has four drop-down lists that you can add to your toolbars: View, Table, Filter, and Group. From these lists, you can access all your views, tables, filters, or groups much more quickly than you would by going through the menus and submenus to switch between the various items.

To add these drop-down lists, right-click on any toolbar and select Customize. To add the drop-down lists for views or tables, on the Commands tab, click on the View item in the Categories list box and scroll down in the adjacent Commands list box until you find the View and Table entries (see Figure B).

Figure B
Selecting drop-down lists

Drag the drop-down menus onto the toolbar of your choice. To add the Filter or Group drop-down lists, select the Project entry in the Categories list box and scroll to the Filter or Group selection in the Commands list box and drag the drop-down lists out.

Share your Microsoft Project tips with us

Do you have suggestions for getting the most from Microsoft Project that have worked well for you or your clients? Tell us about them in your comments below.