Project Extras: Letting Project Calculate Duration

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If you have start and finish dates already estimated for tasks , and therefore you have implied durations, you can manually enter those dates and let Project calculate the Duration field for you. Even better, if the task names and dates are already in a file (such as an Excel or a Word file), you can paste the task values directly into Project to create the tasks and durations.

It's generally not a good idea to enter the dates for tasks; you should let Project schedule the task dates for you. However, in this case, you can more quickly calculate and transfer duration estimates into Project by entering dates. This produces constraints on the tasks, but you can remove the constraints after the duration estimates are in place and give Project the flexibility to create a new schedule of dates.

To manually enter predetermined task start and finish dates for tasks, follow these steps:

  1. Display the Task Entry view by first displaying the Gantt Chart view and then selecting Window, Split to display the task form in the bottom pane (see Figure 5.34).

    Figure 5.34. The Task Entry view consists of the Gantt Chart view in the top pane and the task form in the bottom pane. You can define tasks in the bottom pane as well as in the top pane.


  2. Select the first row in the top pane, and then click in the bottom pane to activate its fields. From this point on, you can use the Previous and Next buttons in the task form to move up and down the rows of the top pane without having to leave the bottom pane.

  3. If this is a new task, select the Name field and enter the first task name . Notice that the Previous and Next buttons have become OK and Cancel buttons. Don't click OK yet.

  4. Select the Start field and enter the start date.

  5. Select the Finish field and enter the finish date.

  6. Either press Enter or click OK to complete the task. Project posts your three entries in the Gantt Chart view at the top of the pane and calculates the duration as the difference between the dates you entered (see Figure 5.35). The OK and Cancel buttons revert to Previous and Next.

    Figure 5.35. After you enter both start and finish dates in the task form, the task has a calculated duration that is the difference between these dates.


  7. Press Enter again, or click the Next button to start the next task. Repeat steps 3 through 6 for all tasks.

Notice an indicator next to the task in the Gantt Chart view that reminds you that the task has a constraint. If you slide the mouse pointer over the indicator, you see that it is a Start No Earlier Than constraint, so Project does not schedule the task any earlier than the start date.

After all the tasks are entered, the schedule should match the schedule from which you copied the tasks. Chapter 6 describes how to give Project the instructions it needs to schedule tasks for you. At that point, you might want to remove the constraints from the list and start the more sophisticated and flexible scheduling process that Project makes possible.

You can remove all the constraints by clicking one of the column headings (such as Task Name) to select all tasks. Then click on the Task Information tool to display the Multiple Task Information dialog box and go to the Advanced tab. In the Constraint Task group of fields, select the constraint type As Soon As Possible (or, if the project is scheduled from a fixed finish date, select As Late As Possible).

If the task names and dates are already stored in another document, you can copy the data into Project instead of manually typing all the data. The source task list can be in Excel, Word, Access, or PowerPoint, and your first step is to modify the source data (if necessary) to meet the following requirements:

  • Each task must be on its own row.

  • If the source is Excel or Access, the task names and dates must be in separate columns or fields. If the list is in Word or PowerPoint, tabs must separate the entries in each row. You can use outlined text from Word or PowerPoint as the source, but if you do, the tasks are not indented in Project and you have to manually outline the task list after it's pasted.

  • The dates must be in one of the formats that Project recognizes (for example, 1/19/2004 or Mon 1/19/2004 4:00 PM). You can see the list of recognized formats by choosing Tools, Options and displaying the pull-down list of options in the Date Format box at the top of the View tab.

  • The task names and dates must be arranged in columns that are in the same order as the columns in the view you will be using when you paste them into Project. You can either adjust the source data or adjust the column order in Project. If you start with the standard Gantt Chart view and hide the Duration column, the order for those columns in Project is Task Name, Start, and Finish. Therefore, the order of the columns in the source document should be the same: Task Name, Start, and Finish. If the source data includes a fourth column for deadlines, you must insert the Deadline column to the right of the Finish field in Project.

Next, you must prepare the Project document to receive the list:

  • Using the standard Gantt Chart view as an example, hide the Duration column by right-clicking the Duration column heading and choosing Hide Column, and insert any additional fields being imported to the right of the Finish field. The Task Name, Start, and Finish columns should now be next to each other and in just that order. After copying in the tasks, you can insert the Duration column again.

  • If this is a new project document, you should establish the project start or finish date before you paste in the task list. This is especially important if the project has a fixed finish date. Choose Project, Project Information and set the start date; or choose Schedule from the Project Finish Date and set the finish date.

To copy data, select the data in the rows and columns to be copied in the data source and use the Copy command to place the selection in the Clipboard. Do not include column titles in the selection. In Project, select the single cell in the Task Name column on the row where you want the first imported task to appear, and choose the Paste command. You might receive an error message saying that the date for the first task can't be pasted. You can usually just ignore this message and select the No option in the error dialog box to continue pasting without displaying the error messages for each task. As long as your dates were properly formatted in the source list, they should paste correctly. If you did not include the time of day in the source dates, Project applies its default start time for all the start dates and the default end time for all the finish dates.

To display the Duration column again, you can right-click the Start column heading and choose Insert Column. In the Field Name box, display the drop-down list and scroll to Duration. Click Best Fit to display the Duration column with a width sufficient to show the title and all values.

After linking the tasks, you can remove the constraints as described earlier in this section for the manually entered tasks with dates.

To learn about more sophisticated importing of data from other applications, see Chapter 17, "Exporting and Importing Project Data with Other File Formats," p. 631 .

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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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