Outlining the Task List

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Outlining is Microsoft Project's method of organizing the details of a project into groups of activities that correspond to the major phases of a project, and it is the equivalent of the traditional WBS (refer to Figures 5.1 and 5.2). Each task has an outline number, which Project calculates by using the legal numbering system. For example, if a task has an outline number of 2, the subtasks that are indented under it would be 2.1, 2.2, and so on. The outline number serves to identify the group containing the task in the overall structure of the project.

Understanding Summary Tasks and Subtasks

Like WBS, outlining organizes tasks into functional groups. Outlining is usually thought of in terms of its visual effect: You indent detail topics under major topics, creating subtasks . Figure 5.23 shows an expanded task list. The major topics, called summary tasks , control and summarize the subordinate detail tasks, called subtasks . In project scheduling, indenting atask is called demoting the task, and the task you demote becomes a subtask. The task under which the task is indented automatically becomes a summary task that both controls and summarizes the subtasks.

Figure 5.23. Outlining helps you organize the details of a project.



What appears to be the first task in Figure 5.23 is actually a project summary task (notice that its ID number is 0). It is useful to summarize the entire project with one task. The section "Selecting the Display Options for Outlining," later in this chapter, lists instructions for displaying a project summary.

A summary task serves both to identify major groups of tasks and to summarize the duration, cost, and amount of work expended on its subtasks. When a task is transformed into a summary task, the task's start date is determined by the earliest start date of any of its subtasks, and the finish date is determined by the latest finish date of any of its subtasks. You cannot type a start date or finish date for a summary task. These dates can be calculated only from the related subtasks. The costs and amount of work associated with the subtasks are rolled up and summarized in the cost and work fields of the summary task.


Be careful when communicating task assignments based on task ID numbering. Any additions or deletions of tasks renumber the tasks that have been inserted below the new task. In other words, if the project manager comments on Task 9 and since that time another single task has been inserted before it, the ID changes to Task 10. You can easily overcome this problem by using custom WBS codes, described later in this chapter, along with renumbering the project after making significant changes.

Understanding Duration for Summary Tasks

Project calculates the duration for a summary task and does not let you modify it. The summary task start date is the earliest start date of any of its subtasks, and the summary task finish date is the latest finish date of any of its subtasks. The duration of the summary task is the amount of work time that is defined on the base calendar, between the earliest start date and the latest finish date. A summary task whose first subtask starts at 8:00 a.m. one day and whose last subtask finishes at noon the next day would have a duration of 1.5 days (that is, 12 working hours).

The duration for summary tasks is always displayed with the default setting for the Duration Is Entered In option on the Schedule tab of the Options dialog box. This is true even when the subtasks are expressed in other duration units. To change the duration units for summary tasks, you must change the Duration Is Entered In setting.

Indenting and Outdenting Tasks

There are several methods you can use to indent (that is, demote) or outdent (that is, promote) a task or group of selected tasks. They all produce equivalent results.


If you're new to outlining in Project, you should use the Project Guide (refer to Figure 5.23). Choose Tasks on the Project Guide toolbar, and choose Organize Tasks into Phases. Select one or more tasks to be indented or outdented and click the Indent tool or the Outdent tool in the sidepane.

If you're not using the Project Guide, you can use the Formatting toolbar, the mouse, the menu, or keyboard shortcuts to indent or outdent tasks. First, select the task or tasks you want to indent or outdent. Then do one of the following:

  • graphics/guidetoolbar_icon.gif Use the Indent or Outdent buttons on the Formatting toolbar to change the outline level of the selected tasks. The Indent button points to the right, and the Outdent button points to the left.

  • Use the mouse to drag the task name to the right or left. Place the mouse pointer over the first letters of the Task Name field until it becomes a double arrow, pointing left and right. Drag the pointer to the left or right to change the indent or outdent level of the task. If you select multiple tasks first, all of them are indented or outdented together.

  • Choose Project, Outline, and then choose Indent or Outdent.

  • Use the task shortcut menu to indent and outdent. Select the ID number for a task or group of tasks. Right-click the ID numbers and choose Indent or Outdent from the shortcut menu.

  • Use the shortcut key combination Alt+Shift+right arrow to indent and the combination Alt+Shift+left arrow to outdent a task or group of tasks.


If you demote a summary task, its subtasks are demoted even further. In fact, all actions you apply to a summary task also apply to its subtasks. If you delete, copy, move, promote, or demote a summary task, all the subtasksincluding subordinate summary tasks and their subtasksare deleted, copied , moved, promoted, or demoted along with the summary task.

You can promote tasks that are already indented by outdenting themthat is, shifting them to the left. When you promote an indented task, the tasks immediately beneath the promoted task are affected in one of the following ways:

  • If the tasks below are at the same level of indentation as the new promoted task, the tasks become subordinate to the new summary task. To keep them at the same level as the task you are promoting, select all the tasks and promote them together.

  • If the tasks below are subordinates of the promoted task, these tasks remain subordinates but shift to the left, to follow the summary task.

  • If the tasks below are at a higher outline level (that is, already further to the left than the promoted task), these tasks are unaffected by the promotion.

If you want to introduce a new task into the task list and make the new task a summary task, you must insert the task just above the task(s) you plan to have it summarize. You can then indent the subtasks. Or, if the new summary task is not at the first outline level, you can outdent the summary task rather than indent its subordinates.

Collapsing and Expanding the Outline

A major advantage of outlining is that you can collapse the outline by hiding subtasks to view only the major components of the project (see Figure 5.24). Collapsing an outline merely suppresses the display of the subtasks; it does not delete the subtasks.

Figure 5.24. You can look at the ID numbers to see which tasks are hidden; they are missing row numbers.


You can also collapse an entire outline and then expand just one part to focus on the details of that part and see how they fit into the overall picture (see Figure 5.25).

Figure 5.25. You can show the subtasks in one section of the plan but hide all other subtasks to highlight how those tasks fit into the overall project.



You can display all tasks or only selected levels of the outline by using the Show command. Click the Show button on the Formatting toolbar, or choose Project, Outline, Show to display the Show submenu. Select the outline level you want to be exposed: Select All Subtasks to display all levels; select Outline Level 1 to display only the top-level tasks (whether they have subtasks or not); select Outline Level 2 to display the top-level tasks plus the first level of subtasks; and so forth. The maximum number of levels you can control with this tool is nine.

You can hide or display subtasks for a selected summary task in a variety of ways. The simplest technique is to double-click the task ID to toggle between hidden and displayed subtasks.


If you select a summary task, you can hide its subtasks by clicking the Hide Subtasks tool, or (if the subtasks are already hidden) you can click the Show Subtasks tool to display them again. You can also use the menu to hide and show subtasks for individual tasks, by following these steps:

  1. Select the summary task or tasks whose subtasks you want to hide.

  2. Choose Project, Outline to display the Outlining submenu.

  3. Choose Hide Subtasks to collapse that part of the outline or choose Show Subtasks to expand that part of the outline.


If outline symbols are displayed (see "Selecting the Display Options for Outlining," later in this chapter), you see a small plus or minus to the left of each summary task. These outline symbols are miniature Hide Subtask and Show Subtask buttons that you can click to hide or display the subtasks. If the subtasks are currently displayed, a minus sign appears to the left of the summary task name, and clicking it hides the subtasks. If the subtasks are currently hidden, a plus sign appears to the left of the summary task name, and clicking it displays the subtasks.


In general, it is a good practice to have a minimum of three levels within a project: project level (that is, a summary task over the entire project), phase level (that is, summary tasks outlining the required project components), and work level (that is, where the work package, or lowest level of the WBS, is located). Of course, it is possible to have more than three levels in a complex project. No matter how many levels you have, the lowest indented level is always where the work package is located. It is at this level that the tasks should be linked and the resources assigned to do the work.

Editing Outlined Projects

If you select a summary task and click the Task Information tool, Project displays the Summary Task Information dialog box (see Figure 5.26). Some fields (such as Duration) are grayed out because they can't be edited for summary tasks, but you can edit all the other fields. Summary tasks have their own Notes field, and you should make free use of notes to document important assumptions and background for summary tasks, just as you do for other tasks.

Figure 5.26. You can control some features of summary tasks in the Summary Task Information dialog box.


When you delete, copy, cut, paste, promote, or demote a summary task, all its subtasks are included in the same operation. For example, if you delete a summary task, you also delete all its subtasks. If you demote a summary task, you further demote its subtasks.


To learn how to delete, copy, cut, paste, promote, or demote a summary task without also affecting its subtasks, see "Moving Summary Tasks" in the Troubleshooting section near the end of this chapter.

Selecting the Display Options for Outlining

Project provides several display options for emphasizing the outline organization of a task list. Some of these are turned on by default. For example, by default Project displays summary tasks along with normal tasks and milestones, and it indents subtasks under their summary tasks.

The formatting options for displaying the outline structure of your project are as follows :

  • Normally subtasks are indented to emphasize the organization of the outline. You can choose to display all tasks left-justified, just like the top-level tasks. This might be useful to avoid taking up a lot of room on the screen or in a printed report.

  • If you disable indenting, you should probably display the task outline number next to the task name as a substitute for the visual reminder of the structure. Outline numbers are stored in the Outline Number field and cannot be edited. See the section "Using Custom Outline Numbers," later in this chapter, for other outlining options.

  • Normally Project displays outline symbols to the left of the summary tasks. These symbols are the minus sign (such as the Hide Subtask tool) and the plus sign (such as the Show Subtask tool). If the symbols are present, you can click them to hide and show subtasks for the summary task. They also serve as an indicator that a task is a summary task and, if a plus is showing, as a reminder that there are hidden subtasks. You can choose to hide these outline symbols.

  • You can hide the summary tasks themselves , leaving only the milestones and normal (working) tasks in the display. This option is especially useful when you want to sort normal tasks and milestones by start date, duration, or alphabetically by task name for a special report. You would probably also disable indenting subtasks in that case.

  • Project can display an overall summary task for the entire project. Project displays it with the ID number 0 at the top of the task list. Note that all tasks are indented one level when the Project Summary task is displayed. The task name for the Project Summary task is taken from the project title that is entered on the Summary tab of the File Properties dialog box. Editing the Project Summary task name also changes the entry in the Properties dialog box. You enter notes for the project summary task note in the Comments field in the Properties dialog box.

If you want to change the outline formatting features, the active view must be a task view that must be the only pane or the top pane in the window. Follow these steps to select the outline options:

  1. Choose Tools, Options to display the Options dialog box, and select the View tab (see Figure 5.27).

    Figure 5.27. The Options dialog box regulates the display of outlined projects.


  2. Uncheck the Indent Name check box if you prefer to left-justify all task names .

  3. Check the Show Outline Number check box to display outline numbers to the left of task names.

  4. Uncheck the Show Outline Symbol check box if you want to hide the plus and minus symbols next to summary task names.

  5. Uncheck the Show Summary Tasks check box if you want to hide the display of summary tasks. Unchecking this check box makes the Show Project Summary Tasks check box unavailable.

  6. If the Show Summary Tasks check box is checked, you can check the Show Project Summary Task check box to display a summary task for the overall project.

  7. Click OK to display the new settings.

Using Rollup Taskbars

The taskbar for the summary task spans the bars for all its subtasks and is usually a solid bar. However, you can choose to roll up the subtask taskbars to the summary taskbar. When you choose this option, each subtask's taskbar start and finish are marked on the summary taskbar. Together, the rolled-up bars produce a segmented bar that shows how long each of the subtasks lasts (see Figure 5.28).

Figure 5.28. When you roll up taskbars to the summary task, you see how the summary task is divided among the subtasks.


To roll up all taskbars to their summary taskbars, choose Format, Layout to display the Layout dialog box, and fill the Always Roll Up Gantt Bars check box (see Figure 5.29). The rollup bars appear in front of the standard summary taskbar. You can choose to display the rollup bars only when their subtasks are hidden. Fill the Hide Rollup Bars When Summary Expanded check box to suppress their display when the outline is expanded.

Figure 5.29. The Layout command controls aspects of how the Gantt Chart view is displayed.



You can display the Layout dialog box by right-clicking in the bar chart area to display the shortcut menu and selecting Layout.

If you just want to roll up particular taskbars and leave others alone, you have to mark each subtask you want to be rolled up and you have to mark its summary task to display the rollup. Also, you must clear the Always Roll Up Gantt Bars check box.

To mark a subtask for rollup, follow these steps:

  1. graphics/dialogbox_icon.gif

    Select the subtask you want to roll up and click the Task Information tool.

  2. On the General tab, select Roll Up Gantt Bar to Summary and click OK.

  3. Select the summary task you want to show the rollup. If the subtask's summary task is itself a subtask, the higher-level summary task can display the rollup also (even if the lower-level summary task is not marked to display it). Each has to be selected separately to control the display of rollup bars.

  4. Click the Task Information tool to display the Summary Task Information dialog box.

  5. Fill the check box next to Show Rolled Up Gantt Bars if you want the summary task to display rolled-up taskbars.

  6. Click OK to save the settings.

  7. Repeat this process for each summary task above the subtask that you want to display the rollup bar.


You can change the display of rolled-up bars to show milestone markers at their finish date instead of showing the whole bar. If you want this format, choose Tools, Macro, Macros, select Rollup_Formatting, and click Run. Run the macro again to reverse the changes. Be warned , however, that this macro discards any custom bar styles you have created. If you have custom bar styles, you should edit the bar styles directly to change the display of rolled-up tasks. See "Formatting the Gantt Chart," in Chapter 20.

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Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Project 2003
Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Project 2003
ISBN: 0789730723
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 283
Authors: Tim Pyron

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