In Microsoft Project, the Gantt chart is the central tool you need to manage your project. Taking full advantage of the visual tools the chart offers can be a very powerful step in communicating complex information to your staff. The more accessible you can make the pertinent data on your chart, the better you’ll keep everyone informed.

In this article, we will cover bar style text and how inserting text into your Gantt chart can communicate more information than you may have thought possible.

Concatenated text fields
One way to put more task or resource data on the Gantt chart is to use the Bar Styles text fields.

When reading large or complex Gantt charts it can be distracting to move your eyes back and forth from the Gantt bars to the table. By moving the data out onto the chart with the bars, users will be able to get value from the chart more quickly.

Figure A

Figure B

Unfortunately, the Bar Styles feature allows only one text field to be placed in each position, limiting the data you can place on the chart. In Project 2000, however, there is a new feature called Custom Field Formulas that can be used to combine several fields into one.

Using this feature, we can display that one custom field in the bar style, which will effectively let us display many fields in the bar style text location, as shown in Figure B.

How it works
To display many fields in the bar style text location, first select Tools | Customize | Fields to open the Customize Fields dialog box shown below.

Figure C

Then, follow these steps:

  1. Select Text from the Type combo box.
  2. Choose the desired option from the list of 30 custom text fields.
  3. Click on the Formula button to open the Formula dialog box.
  4. Define the formula that will determine the value of this text field. As an example, create this formula:
    “Group: ” & [Resource Group] & ” Dates: ” & format([Start],”m/dd”) & ” – ” & format([Finish],”m/dd”)
  5. Once you define the formula, insert it into the text position you want. Figure D shows our sample field inserted into the “bottom” position of a Gantt bar.

Figure D

Normally, we would have to use three positions to show the Resource Group, Start date, and Finish date. With this customized text field inserted into the bar style, we can put all that information in one position. Use this sample to build your own custom text fields.
To connect “strings” (text elements) in the formula, use the “&” symbol: For example, to show both the Text 2 field and the Text 3 field, the formula would read “[text2] & [text3].”
Use the Fields and Function buttons in the Formula dialog box: From these buttons you can pick from all the fields in Project and dozens of functions that can help you build all kinds of formulas.
Remember that the goal is to have the chart give as much info as possible while not making it too complex. Play around some with this new tool to find the way it will best work for your projects.
Post a comment to this article or, if you have a question for Brian, send him an e-mail. We can’t guarantee that every letter will be answered, but Brian will read them all and then write articles based on the most common questions.