February 12, 2021, Brazil. In this photo illustration the Smartsheet logo seen displayed on a smartphone screen.
Image: Rafael Henrique/Adobe Stock

Gantt charts are a great way to visualize the progress of your projects in a way that helps spot any bottlenecks, but setting up a Gantt chart can often be difficult and time consuming. With Smartsheet, you can quickly and easily build a Gantt chart from scratch. Below, we’ll take you through all the steps to build your first Gantt chart in Smartsheet.

How to create a Gantt chart in Smartsheet

From the main screen in Smartsheet, you will want to click on the + sign from the left-hand menu (Figure A). This will bring up the project selection page.

Figure A

Click the + icon.

From here, you will want to select a Gantt chart (Figure B). This will automatically create a sheet with all the dependencies pre-made.

Figure B

Select Gantt chart from the options.

Name your sheet and click continue (Figure C).

Figure C

Name your sheet.

At this point you will now have the full layout needed to start creating your Gantt chart. To begin, start filling in fields related to your tasks.

In this case, we will set up the parent rows as Phase 1 through Phase 3. Click on a row to start adding these (Figure D).

Figure D

Start entering your parent rows.

Next, right click on a parent row and select Insert row below (Figure E). This is where you can start to enter tasks or child rows related to the parent row.

Figure E

Select Insert row below.

After you enter text into a child row, click on the Indent icon (Figure F) to finalize this entry as a child row.

Figure F

Click the Indent icon.

You can do this for as many tasks as you have. Just right click on the child row and select Insert Row Below to keep adding more if needed.

Now you will want to color code your rows to make your Gantt chart easier to read. Highlight a parent row and then select a color from the header menu color tool (Figure G).

Figure G

Color code your rows.

 

Generally, you want your parent rows to be a darker shade, then the child rows are a lighter shade of that same color. This makes the workflow of your Gantt chart easy to understand with just a glance.

Entering dates and dependencies into your Smartsheet Gantt chart

Now we will begin entering the data that will make your Gantt chart start to come to life.

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Select a task and then under the Duration tab for that row, enter a number of days needed to complete that task (Figure H).

Figure H

Enter the days needed for that task.

Next, select the Start Date tab and enter when this task is to be started. Clicking on the small calendar icon will bring up a calendar dialogue to make things easier (Figure I). Notice that the chart will automatically fill in the end date based on your previous entries.

Figure I

Use the calendar to choose a date.

If you now look at the right hand panel, you will see the Gantt chart start to take form. Your tasks are now being shown on a timeline and display their lengths and time to completion (Figure J).

Figure J

Tasks automatically added to Gantt chart.

To start to create dependencies, choose a task. Then, under the Predecessor tab, enter the row number of the task you want this dependent on (Figure K).

Figure K

Create a dependency.

This will make that task dependent on the row you have previously chosen. If you look at your Gantt chart on the right, you will see an arrow now showing that dependency (Figure L).

Figure L

Dependency is automatically shown on the Gantt chart.

The default setting for these dependencies is a Finished-Start relationship. There is also a default lag time of one work day between the finish of one task to the start of the other.

Once you have entered your dates, dependencies and completion times, you can further customize those with simple drag and drop movements.

From the right panel showing the Gantt chart timeline, you can drag any bar to change the dates or length instead of inputting them manually in the individual cells as we did before. Smartsheet will automatically adjust the rest of the entries to fit the new changes.

You can also adjust dependencies this way as well. Click on the line already connecting two tasks (Figure L) and simply drag it to another task. This action can be a little finicky as you have to click directly on the line.

You can further edit dependencies by clicking on the small pencil icon in the cells under the predecessor tab.

Click on this pencil and a new dialogue will open (Figure M). Here you can choose to change dependency settings for each element. For example, you can change from Finished-Start to Start-Start.

Figure M

Click to edit dependency settings.

You can also change the default lag time in that same dialogue.

Smartsheet Critical Path view

As your Gantt chart grows and becomes more complex, Smartsheet offers a Critical Path view to help you spot important crossroads and other issues with your project.

To access this, go to the top-right corner and click the Critical Path view icon (Figure N).

Figure N

Activate Critical Path view.

With this button activated you can now right-click on any task bar in your Gantt chart then select to see the Driving path, which will show what affects a row start date.

You can also right click on a parent task and choose the Summary path. This will show all child tasks that affect the parent task. This is a handy tool to keep an eye out for possible problems that may keep your project from  staying on schedule.

With that final step, you should now have all the knowledge you need to create your first Gantt chart within Smartsheet. Using the steps above, you can create a chart of any complexity to fit your next project.

For more ways to increase your project management skills, take advantage of these courses from TechRepublic Academy.