Using Custom WBS Codes

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Project automatically creates a default WBS code in the WBS field for each task. (See the beginning of this chapter for a description of WBS and the WBS codes.) The default WBS codes are identical to the outline numbers that Project generates (and that are stored in the Outline Number field).

You can display the WBS field in a table by inserting the WBS column. You can also view the WBS field on the Advanced tab of the Task Information dialog box. If your organization, or a client, requires a specific format for WBS codes, you can edit the codes in either of these places, replacing the Project outline number with your own WBS codes.


Editing the WBS field does not change the entry in the Outline Number field.

You can define a customized format that matches a particular WBS code scheme. Project uses the custom format to generate default codes for the WBS field (instead of using the value in the Outline Number field). The custom format can include numbers, letters , and symbols (including ASCII characters ). An added advantage of using the custom format is that it enforces consistency and uniformity .


Don't take the time to re-create a custom WBS format if you've already defined one in another Project file. Use the Fields tab of the Organizer to copy a custom WBS format from one project file to another. Also, if you have a standard format you want to use in all projects, copy the definition to the Global template. See "Working with the Organizer," in Chapter 3.

Creating Custom WBS Codes

To customize the WBS code format, you create a WBS code mask that Project can use to generate the custom codes. The mask contains numbers or characters for each outline level, starting with level one, with separator characters in between each level. You can define code segments for as many levels as you want, but the total length of the WBS code can't be greater than 255 characters.

For example, if you created the code mask AAA-111.aa.** for the first four levels of the outline, it would mean the following:

  • AAA- Use three uppercase letters for top-level tasks (that is, those with no summary task above them). Also use these codes as a prefix for all subtasks under the top-level task and follow them with a hyphen as a separator. You can edit and replace the letters Project initially supplies , but the mask requires that you use three uppercase letters. If you edit these characters in the top-level task, the edited version is used as a prefix for all the task's subtasks.

  • 111. Use three numbers for second-level subtasks, followed by a period separator if there are subtasks. Project automatically numbers subtasks at this level 001, 002, and so forth, but you can edit those numbers at will.

  • aa. Use two lowercase letters for third-level subtasks, followed by a period separator if needed.

  • ** Use any mixture of characters on the keyboard for fourth-level subtasks. Project places the default characters ** in the code it generates, but you can change them to any characters you choose.

You can also include a project-level code to be used as a prefix for all tasks. This would be especially helpful to distinguish tasks that are from different subprojects in a consolidated (master) project.

You should display the WBS field as a column in the task table before creating the WBS mask. (Choose Insert, Column and select WBS in the Field Name box.) That way, you can see the effects of creating a WBS code mask immediately.

To create the custom WBS code mask, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Project, WBS, Define Code to display the WBS Code Definition dialog box (see Figure 5.30).

    Figure 5.30. You define a format mask so that Project can create custom WBS codes.


  2. Enter a code prefix for the project, if you like, in the Project Code Prefix box. It's best to include a colon or another separator to show where the project prefix ends and the task code starts. The prefix appears in the sample display in the Code Preview box at the top of the dialog box.

  3. In the Code Mask table, click the first blank row under the Sequence column to define the code format for top-level tasks. Use the pull-down arrow to display the options, which are as follows :

    • Choose Numbers (Ordered) to have Project insert sequential numbers in this part of the code. Remember that you can edit the numbers.

    • Choose Uppercase Letters (Ordered) to use sequential uppercase letters.

    • Choose Lowercase Letters (Ordered) to use sequential lowercase letters.

    • Choose Characters (Unordered) to have Project insert the * character, which you can then change to any character on the keyboard.

  4. In the Length column, use the pull-down arrow to display the options for the number of characters to be used for this part of the format:

    • Choose Any if you want to be able to edit this part of the code and use a varying number of characters.

    • Choose 1 through 10 to set a fixed number of characters for this section of the format.

  5. In the Separator column, enter the symbol to use following the sequence code for subtasks. You can use the pull-down arrow to display the most common separators (the period, hyphen, plus sign, or forward slash) or you can type other symbols from the keyboard. You can use up to three symbols as the separator (for example, three asterisks ). If you don't want a separator, click the Edit bar just above the Sequence column and delete the default symbol. Note that you must have a separator if you have chosen Any as the code length.

  6. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for all outline levels that you want to define in the mask.

  7. Check the check box Generate WBS Code for New Task if you want Project to calculate the WBS code for new tasks. If you leave it unchecked, you must type in WBS codes for new tasks, but you must honor the format of the mask.

  8. Check the check box Verify Uniqueness of New WBS Codes if you want Project to warn you if a new code is not unique. This happens only when you edit the codes; you then need to modify the code to achieve uniqueness. If you leave this check box unchecked, Project does not detect duplication of codes. You should generally check this check box.

  9. Click OK to save the mask. Project automatically replaces the outline number codes that are displayed by default in the WBS field with sequential codes that match the new mask.

  10. You might need to widen the WBS column to see the new codes. To do so, double-click the WBS column heading and choose Best Fit in the Column Definition dialog box.


If a project has more outline levels than you have provided for in the mask, Project uses the conventional outline numbering system for the lower-level tasks that the mask doesn't define.

Checking the check box to verify the uniqueness of new codes only makes Project check the code when it is created or edited. If you have a project file with custom WBS codes that have this feature disabled and then you decide to enable unique codes, Project does not check all the existing codes for uniqueness. You can force Project to renumber all the codes (that is, generate new codes from the mask) to correct nonunique codes. This also causes you to lose any codes you manually retyped. (See the section " Renumbering the Custom WBS Codes," later in this chapter.)


You can edit every task's code to force Project to check for each task's uniqueness. The simplest way to do this is to select the WBS column (so that all cells are selected), press F2 to edit the first cell , and then press Enter to force the uniqueness check. If the code is unique, Project moves to the next cell in the selection, and you press F2 and Enter again. You can move down the column quite rapidly this way, as long as the codes are unique. If a code is not unique, you are forced to change the code before continuing.


You can delete only the bottom-most level in the Sequence table. If you want to reduce the number of defined levels in the mask, click the bottom-most level and use the Delete key; then work your way up the list, deleting from the bottom.

Inserting, Deleting, and Moving Tasks with Custom WBS Codes

When you insert a new task into a project, it is automatically given the next highest code for its level in the outline. If you delete a task, tasks below it at the same level are renumbered automatically, unless you tell Project to renumber the project (see the section "Renumbering the Custom WBS Codes," later in this chapter).

If you move a task to another row within its current summary task, it keeps its custom WBS code, even if it's not now in sequence. If you move a task from under one summary task to a different summary task, it automatically acquires the correct prefix codes for its new summary task. If the final part of its code would create a duplicate in its new subtask group, it is changed to one number or letter higher than the highest existing number or letter in that subtask group . If no duplicate would be created, the final part of the code remains the same as it was before the move.

Editing Custom WBS Codes

After the custom code mask is defined and Project has provided default codes based on the mask, you can edit the last segment of any default code. Everything prior to the last segment is derived from higher-level summary tasks and can't be changed except by editing the code for the summary task itself. If you edit the final segment for a summary task, its subtasks automatically acquire the new segment as the prefix for their code. For example, in Figure 5.31 the major phases have been edited to be abbreviations or acronyms for the name of the phase. The default WBS code for the Finance phase had been AAD, but it has been changed to FIN for easier identification. This makes recognizing a task's place in the WBS much easier and is much closer to conventional practice.

Figure 5.31. You can edit the default letters assigned by Project in the custom WBS codes to describe the task's place in the structure.



To display tasks in WBS code order, choose Project, Sort, Sort By and select the WBS field in the Sort By box.


If you edit custom codes for summary tasks and then tell Project to renumber the tasks, your edited codes will be lost. Read the troubleshooting note "Preserving Edited Custom WBS Codes" at the end of this chapter for a workaround.

If the WBS column is not displayed in the table, you can edit the code in the Summary Task Information dialog box. Project 2003 displays custom fields on the Custom Fields tab (see Figure 5.32). Select the Value cell for the field you want to change and enter the change in the Entry bar, above the list of fields.

Figure 5.32. You can edit the custom WBS code on the Custom Fields tab of the Summary Task Information dialog box.


Renumbering the Custom WBS Codes

When you are designing a project, you usually have to revise the task list. If you defined custom WBS codes, they might not be in sequence after all the editing. You can have Project recalculate the WBS codes for the whole project, to put them in sequence. If you've only rearranged a small segment of the project, you can select those tasks and have Project recalculate the codes just for the selected tasks. To renumber the WBS codes, follow these steps:

  1. If you want to renumber just a selected set of tasks, select those tasks first. The tasks must be adjacent to one another. The first of the selected tasks is not renumbered, but it serves as the starting point for renumbering the rest of the selection.

  2. Choose Project, WBS, Renumber from the menu to display the WBS Renumber dialog box (see Figure 5.33).

    Figure 5.33. You can have Project recalculate the WBS codes for the entire project or for just a set of selected tasks.


  3. Choose Selected Tasks or Entire Project, according to your needs.

  4. Click OK to start renumbering.

  5. If you chose to renumber the entire project, Microsoft Project asks you to confirm your intent. Click Yes, and the renumbering takes place.


Renumbering an entire project can change a lot of codes, and you can use Undo to restore the original codes. As always, however, you must use Undo before you make any other changes.


If you edit customized WBS codes and then ask Project to renumber all tasks, Project overwrites your editing and reverts to sequential numbers and letters. See "Preserving Edited Custom WBS Codes" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.

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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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