Working with the Gantt Chart View

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The previous chapters in this book discuss creating projects and establishing a task list. Most of these discussions are centered on the Gantt Chart view, which is probably the most widely used view in Microsoft Office Project. This chapter is devoted to expanding your knowledge of the Gantt Chart view (and several other views) to effectively work with a project schedule. You'll find a number of cross-references in this chapter, pointing you to other sections of the book that provide more detailed information on scheduling and customizing the views.

One of the reasons the Gantt Chart view is so widely used is the array of information that is readily available in this view. The Gantt Chart view is divided into two components : the task table and the timescale . The task table is similar to a spreadsheet. It displays task data in columns and rows. The default table is the Entry table, although other tables are available for you to view.

For a complete discussion of the task tables, see "The Task Tables," p. 757 .


Components of the Task Table

As you can see in Figure 7.1, each row in the task table represents a separate task. Each column in the table displays some information about that task. The columns are fields in the project database. Typically you enter new tasks and their durations. Then, based on the project start date and the links between the various tasks , Project calculates the start and finish dates for that task.

Figure 7.1. The Gantt Chart view is comprised of the task table and the timescale.

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Outlined Task Lists

As you build a project schedule, you typically have phases and specific tasks underneath each phase. These phases, or main tasks, are called summary tasks and are displayed in bold in the task table. Project indents the specific tasks, called subtasks , under the summary tasks. Any task that has subtasks displays an outline symbol in front of the task name . Collapsed summary tasks display a plus (+) sign; expanded summary tasks display a minus () sign (refer to Figure 7.1).

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Phases of a project are often dependent on the product, service, or system being developed. The breakdown of the project life cycle can be created based on deliverables, life cycle phases, product components, functional areas, geographical locations, cost accounting, or time phases. Because all projects are unique, the composition of projects varies from industry to industry.


To learn more about working with task lists, see "Outlining the Task List," p. 154 , and "Collapsing and Expanding the Outline," p. 157 .


Task Indicators
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Other visual cues you might see in the Indicators column of the Gantt Chart view include task note and constraint icons (refer to Figure 7.1). The note indicators look like yellow sticky notes and appear in the Indicators column. These notes are task-specific notes. You enter notes through the Task Information dialog box, which you can access via the Task Notes button on the Standard toolbar.

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Constraint indicators are symbols that alert you when a task has a date constraint associated with it. Constraints are either something you intentionally add for a particular purpose (such as a Finish No Later Than constraint to indicate a scheduling restriction) or appear as a result of some action you have taken (such as entering the start and/or finish date for a task). You set and modify task constraints through the Task Information dialog box, which you access by clicking the Task Information button on the Standard toolbar.

For more information on using the Task Information dialog box, see "Using the Task Information Dialog Box to Edit Tasks," p. 131 .


To learn more about task constraints and how to work with them, see "Working with Task Constraints," p. 201 .


In addition, there are other types of indicators that you might encounter. For instance, some indicators alert you when a task is complete, when the task has slipped past its assigned deadline, or when the task has been assigned to a resource but the resource has not yet confirmed the assignment.

Moving Around in the Task Table

As you enter tasks and work with a task list, it is useful to understand how to move from row to row and column to column. Likewise, in a large project, it is helpful to be able to locate tasks quickly. You can move around the task table by using some of the keyboard movement keys:

  • Arrow keys Pressing the arrow keys moves the active cell (indicated by the heavy, dark border) in the direction of the arrow you press: up, down, left, or right.

  • Page Up and Page Down keys These keys move you up or down one screen's worth of tasks. If you are viewing tasks 118, for example, Project displays tasks 1835 when you press the Page Down key. The last visible task (18, in this example) is displayed as the first task when you press Page Down.

  • Home and End keys Home moves the active cell to the first column in the current row, and End moves the active cell to the last column in the active row.

Other techniques for moving around include scrolling and using the Edit, Find command. These techniques are described in the next two sections.

Scrolling in the Task Table

The Gantt Chart view has three scrollbars : A vertical scrollbar on the far right of the view changes which tasks are shown onscreen, a horizontal scrollbar at the bottom of the task table changes which table columns are visible, and a second horizontal scrollbar at the bottom of the timescale moves the bar display along in time. When you drag the vertical scrollbar box, a pop-up appears to indicate what task will be listed at the top of the view when you release the mouse (see Figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2. You can drag the scrollbar box to quickly move down or up the task list.

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The task table is composed of a series of columns, or fields . Initially, just a few columns are visible when you display the Gantt Chart view: ID, Indicators, Task Name, and Duration. However, several other columns are hidden underneath the timescale. There are three ways to see the data in these columns: You can use the horizontal task table scrollbar, move the vertical divider bar out of the way, or use the Home, End command and arrow keys to scroll in the table columns.

When you drag the horizontal scrollbar in the task table, it does not display a pop-up or even move the display. You have to guess when to release the mouse. As a result, it can be a little tricky to figure out just how far to scroll to see additional columns. Clicking the arrows on the scrollbar gives you more control.

Using Find to Locate Tasks

When you have a long list of tasks and you want to search for all the tasks that contain a specific word or numbers in a task field, you can use the Find command. To find a task by searching for one or more words in the task name, follow these steps:

  1. Select any task. If you want to search from the beginning of the task list, press Ctrl+Home to scroll to the beginning of the project.

  2. Choose Edit, Find (or press Ctrl+F). The Find dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 7.3.

    Figure 7.3. You can use the Find command to search for a task by name or for any other field value.

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  3. In the Find What text box, type the characters you want to search for. You can enter whole words or phrases, or just parts of words. In Figure 7.3, the word Phase is being located.

  4. By default, the Name field is searched. However, you can select any task field to search. Select the Look in Field drop-down list box to choose the task field you want to search. Figure 7.3 has the Name field selected.

  5. The Test box provides the criteria for the search. The default is Contains. Other options include Equals, Is Greater Than, and Is Greater Than or Equal to.

  6. Choose the direction to be searched from the Search drop-down list box. The choices are Down and Up from the selected task.

  7. You can further tailor the search by making it case sensitive. Marking the Match Case option requires the results to match the text typed in the Find What text box.

  8. Click Find Next to locate the first task that matches your criteria. Each time you click Find Next, it will advance to the next task that matches your criteria.

You might have to move the dialog box to see the selected task. After you have located the task(s) you are looking for, click the Close button to close the Find dialog box.

TIP

If you've closed the dialog box, you can use your last Find criteria again by pressing Shift+F4 to continue searching through the task list in the same direction, or you can press Ctrl+Shift+F4 to search the task list in the opposite direction.


Altering the Task Table Display

As you work with projects in the Gantt Chart view, there will be times when you want to change the display of the task table to show more data or change the appearance of the data. One of the changes you might want to make is to the font and font attributes of the tasks. For example, although the default settings have summary tasks in bold, you can customize the appearance to display in other colors, in italic, or in a different font.

If you want to apply an entirely different table, you can choose a table by using the View, Table command.

Other display changes you might want to make include showing more of the built-in columns in the task table, adjusting the height of individual rows, using the rollup task feature, altering the date format, and inserting new columns in the task table. These display options are illustrated in the next few sections.

Viewing More Columns in the Table

When you want to see more of the task table columns that are hidden beneath the timescale, you have to move the vertical divider bar. When positioned over the vertical divider bar, the mouse pointer changes to the shape of two vertical parallel lines with arrows pointing left and right. Hold the mouse button down and drag it to the desired position. A thick gray line appears, indicating the bar's position (as shown in Figure 7.4).

Figure 7.4. You can drag the vertical divider bar to adjust the view of the task table columns.

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NOTE

If you position the vertical divider bar in the middle of a column, double-click to move it to the closest border of the column.


NOTE

You can adjust the widths of columns displayed in the task table. Position the mouse pointer on the right-column border, up next to the column name. The mouse pointer changes to a single vertical line with arrows pointing left and right. Click and drag it to make the column width wider or more narrow, or double-click to cause the column to adjust to the longest entry.


You can adjust the positions of individual columns displayed in the task table by simply highlighting and clicking and dragging the column to a new position.

Adjusting Row Height

You can adjust the height of each row independently. Position the mouse pointer on the bottom row border, beneath the row number. The mouse pointer changes to a plus sign with arrows pointing up and down. Click and drag to make the row height deeper or more shallow . Figure 7.4 shows a few rows that have been adjusted; the text automatically word-wraps in the cell to fit the new height.

To learn how to work with row size , see "Adjusting the Height of Task Rows," p. 126 .


Inserting and Changing Columns in the Task Table

Sometimes, you might want to change the column titles to match some more common names used within your organization, or you might want to change which field is displayed in a column. For example, you could change the title of the Task Name column to What Has to Be Done. To modify a column, simply double-click its column title, and Project displays the Column Definition dialog box (see Figure 7.5). The following list describes the options in the Column Definition dialog box:

  • If you want to replace one column with the contents of another Project database field, select a different field from the Field Name drop-down box.

  • Change the entry in the Title box to modify the column title. If you don't supply an entry in the Title box, Project displays the field name as the column name. Note in Figure 7.5 that the field name is Name and the title displayed onscreen is Task Name. Please note that changing the entry in the Title box only changes the title in the current table. If you want to permanently change the title (sometimes called the alias ) for a custom field so that the title automatically appears in every view where that column appears, you must use the Tools, Customize, Fields option. Or you can right-click on the column title and choose Customize Fields. The Customize Fields option only works for custom type fields.

  • You can select the alignment (left, center, right) for the title by using the Align Title drop-down box and for the data by using the Align Data drop-down box.

  • The Width box reflects the current width, which can be changed in this dialog box.

  • If the column title is long, you can check the Header Text Wrapping option to allow header text to display on more than one line, which allows a more narrow column width.

  • Clicking the OK button implements the changes you have selected.

  • Clicking the Best Fit button applies the changes like the OK button does, but it also adjusts the column width to the longest cell entry.

Figure 7.5. You access the Column Definition dialog box by double-clicking the column title in the task table.

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Instead of changing the contents and layout of a displayed column, you might want to add or remove table columns. There are two methods for showing and hiding columns:

  • Using the Hide and Insert commands To remove a column from a displayed table, right-click the column title and choose Hide Column from the shortcut menu. To add this or any other column to the table, select the title of the column that is in the position where you want the new column to be, right-click the mouse, and choose Insert Column from the shortcut menu. The Column Definition dialog box appears, and in it you can select the column options as described previously.

    You can also select a column title and press the Delete key to remove a column from view, or you can press the Insert key to add a column onscreen.

  • Using the mouse This method is similar to procedures you may already know from Microsoft Excel. To close a column onscreen, position the mouse on the right divider of the column title and drag it back to the left. For example, to close the Start column, drag the line that is between the words Start and Finish to the left until the Start column is hidden. To reopen the Start column, approach the divider by moving the mouse slowly from right to left. When the pointer changes shape, click and drag the column open .

NOTE

Double-clicking on a column title edge applies best-fit width formatting to the column.


NOTE

It's important to note that hiding or deleting a column from view does not delete the data stored in the cells of that column. The contents are still stored in the database and will be visible when the hidden column is reinserted into any table.


You cannot mix and match the two techniques for adding and hiding columns. Columns hidden by choosing Hide Column can't be reopened via the mouse dragging method. If you use the methods described here to delete (or hide) and insert columns in the task table, you are in fact customizing the table for the active project. When a modified table is applied to any other view, the revised layout, not the original table, is displayed.

For specific information about customizing tables and sharing those custom settings with other project files, see "Using and Creating Tables," p. 840 .


Changing the Date Format

The default date display format uses the mm/dd/yy pattern. This is the format that you see in the Start and Finish columns of the task table. You can add the time of day to the display, or you can switch to any one of a number of data format options. Be aware, however, that changes you make to the date format affect the date display in all your project filesnot just the active project. You can change the date display at any time.

To change the date display format, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Tools, Options, and the Options dialog box appears. (see Figure 7.6).

    Figure 7.6. You can change the date format in the Options dialog box.

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  2. On the View tab, select the format that you want in the Date Format drop-down box.

  3. Click the OK button to make the change effective.

Depending on the date format you select, you might see a series of # symbols displayed in the cells in the Start and Finish columns. This indicates that you need to widen the column to display the date in the new format.

NOTE

If you want to use an international date or time format, you must set this through the Regional Settings applet in the Microsoft Windows Control Panel.


Components of the Timescale

The timescale is the graphic portion on the right side of the Gantt Chart view. The timescale displays several items: a time line, taskbars, bar text, and linking lines. These items are identified in Figure 7.7.

Figure 7.7. The timescale is the right portion of the Gantt Chart view.

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In addition, you can add graphic drawing objects to the timescale, such as text boxes and arrows. Placing graphic objects on the timescale is discussed later in this chapter.

Taskbars

There are three types of taskbars in Project : Summary, Normal, and Milestone. The default display of these bars is shown in Figure 7.7. However, by using the Gantt Chart Wizard, you can significantly alter the display of the taskbars, as shown in Figure 7.8.

Figure 7.8. You can significantly alter the display of the timescale by using a number of tools, the easiest of which is the Gantt Chart Wizard.

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You access the Gantt Chart Wizard by clicking the button on the Formatting toolbar, by choosing Format, Gantt Chart Wizard, or by right-clicking in the display area of the timescale and choosing Gantt Chart Wizard.

To learn more about using the Gantt Chart Wizard and other options for formatting the timescale, see "Using the Gantt Chart Wizard," p. 801 .


Bar Text

The default settings for the taskbars display the name of the resource at the end of Normal tasks and the start date next to Milestones. You can designate the data and placement that appear with a taskbar in the Bar Styles dialog box. Choose Format, Bar Styles, and select the bar type at the top of the dialog box. Two tabs at the bottom of the dialog box display the Text and Bars settings for the selected bar type.

For more information on working with timescale taskbars, see "Using the Bar Styles Dialog Box," p. 824 .


Linking Lines

The lines that connect the taskbars represent links between tasks, and they define the order in which the tasks must be done. The position of a linking line indicates the type of link. If the linking line extends from the end of one task to the beginning of another, there is a Finish-to-Start link between the tasks. There are four different link types. In addition, you can build in lead time and lag time between linked tasks.

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Historically, a Gantt chart did not display linking lines. Instead, the positioning of the tasks on the bar chart indicated when things were scheduled to occur, not which tasks were dependent on one another. Regardless, it's fair to say that the popularity of Microsoft Project has redefined the expected appearance of a Gantt chart. In large projects, however, it's often necessary to remove the linking lines from the view to reduce the cluttered appearance. You can turn off the linking lines in the Layout dialog box.


CAUTION

Linking lines may sometimes be drawn on top of each other, making it difficult to tell which tasks they are connecting. Also, two similar, but different, relationships can result in identical linking lines being drawn. You can verify the link types by reviewing the Predecessors column on the Entry table or the Predecessors tab in the Task Information dialog box.


For more information about the link types, as well as lead and lag time, see "Understanding Dependency Links," p. 177 .


Moving Around in the Timescale

After you have created a project schedule, it is useful to understand how to quickly move around the timescale. This is especially true when you have a large, extensive project. With a few keystrokes or mouse clicks, you can move from the beginning to the end of the timescale, move incrementally through the timescale, or scroll to a specific task. The following are some of the techniques you can use:

  • Alt+right-arrow key or Alt+left-arrow key Holding down the Alt key and pressing the right-arrow key scrolls the timescale to the right one unit of the smallest timescale tier displayed. No matter how many of the three timescale tiers are displayed, Project uses the bottom, smallest time increment for moving the timescale with the arrow keys. Using the left-arrow key with the Alt key scrolls the timescale one unit back in time.

  • Alt+Page Up key or Alt+Page Down key Using Alt+Page Down scrolls you to the right one screen's worth on the timescale. So, if you are viewing the weeks of January 7 through January 21, using Alt+Page Down displays the weeks of January 28 through February 10. Using Alt+Page Up scrolls you to the left one screen's worth on the timescale.

  • Alt+Home key or Alt+End key Using Alt+Home scrolls the timescale to the beginning of the project, the time frame that shows the first project tasks. Using Alt+End scrolls the timescale to the end of the project.

CAUTION

Pressing Alt+up-arrow key or Alt+down-arrow key might appear to have no effect. These combinations do not scroll the timescale horizontally, but they do have effects on the table. If the active cell is in a date column, pressing Alt+up-arrow key or Alt+down-arrow key displays a calendar object in the cell and scrolls through the calendar, selecting a different date for the cell unless you press Esc to turn off the object. Similarly, if the active cell is in the Duration column, pressing Alt+up-arrow key or Alt+down-arrow key activates the spinner in the cell, and a new duration value is chosen unless you press Esc to leave the cell-edit mode.


Scrolling in the Timescale

The timescale uses two scrollbars : the vertical scrollbar on the far right of the view and a horizontal scrollbar at the bottom of the timescale portion of the Gantt Chart view. The vertical scrollbar is used primarily to scroll through the task list.

As discussed earlier in the chapter, the horizontal scrollbar at the bottom of the table changes which columns are visible. However, when you drag the horizontal scrollbar in the timescale, it displays a pop-up to indicate the date you will be scrolling to when you release the mouse button (see Figure 7.9).

Figure 7.9. You can drag the horizontal scrollbar box on the timescale to quickly move to a specific date.

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Locating a Taskbar or Specific Date in the Gantt Chart

Often when you are working in the Gantt Chart view, you have a task selected but the corresponding taskbar is not visible on the screen. This is especially true when you zoom in to see minutes, hours, or days in the timescale.

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To have the timescale scroll to show the taskbar associated with a specific task, select the task in the table and click the Go To Selected Task button on the Standard toolbar. Project scrolls to show the beginning of the taskbar.

You can also use the Edit, Go To command (or press Ctrl+G) to display the Go To dialog box (see Figure 7.10) if you want to jump to a specific date in the timescale. You can enter a date in the Date box or click the drop-down calendar object to select a date.

Figure 7.10. You can type in a task ID to go to a specific task.

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NOTE

You can use today or tomorrow in the Date box to jump to the corresponding dates.


Altering the Timescale Display

The timescale in the right side of the Gantt Chart view is made up of the rows at the top of the view. A maximum of three rows, or tiers , can be displayed: a top tier, middle tier, and bottom tier. At least one tier must be visible onscreen at any time. Gray dotted lines extend down the screen to mark the division between units on the middle tier only, if the tier is turned on. You can customize the amount of time encompassed by the units on each of the scales and you can change the labels that appear in the units.

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The quickest way to adjust the timescale units is to zoom in or zoom out, using the appropriate buttons on the Standard toolbar. You can also control the chart scaling by using the Format, Zoom dialog box.

Another way to adjust the timescale is to choose Format, Timescale to access the Timescale dialog box (shown in Figure 7.11). You use the Timescale tab to establish the settings for each of the three tiers. You use the Non-working Time tab to set the display options for non-working days, such as weekends.

Figure 7.11. Individual adjustments to the timescale can be set by using the Timescale dialog box.

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To learn how to effectively use the settings in the Timescale dialog box, see "Formatting Timescales," p. 785 .


Viewing More Task Details

Although the Gantt Chart view contains a lot of information, you can see even more details about individual tasks either with the Task Information dialog box or by splitting the screen and viewing the Task Form view.

Using the Task Information Dialog Box
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You can click the Task Information button on the Standard toolbar to display a pop-up dialog box that displays many details about the selected task. The six tabs in the dialog box provide access to many additional fields. If you have a summary task selected, the Summary Task dialog box appears. Similarly, if you have more than one task selected, the dialog box becomes the Multiple Task Information box. Some fields are unavailable on the Summary Task and Multiple Task dialog boxes, usually because those fields are calculated by Project.

Using Combination Views

One of the most useful and powerful display techniques that Microsoft Project provides is the capability to split the screen in half (top and bottom) to see two different views of the project simultaneously . Choose Window, Split to create a combination view screen (see Figure 7.12).

Figure 7.12. You can remove the bottom pane from a combination view by choosing Window, Remove Split.

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The window splits into two panes : The top pane shows the view you were working in before splitting the screen, and the bottom pane shows either the Task Form view (if you started with a task view) or the Resource Form view (if you started with a resource view). Figure 7.12 shows the Gantt Chart view in the top pane and the Task Form view in the bottom pane.

Task 3, "Prototype Design," is selected in the top pane in Figure 7.12. The bottom pane shows detailed information about Task 3. The bottom pane displays all the fields that are in the columns in the Gantt Chart view, including the ones that are hidden beneath the standard timescale. This screen arrangement enables you to see the values in those fields, eliminating the need to display a large number of columns in the task table. With a split screen, you can see how the task fits into the overall scheme of things in the top pane, and view many significant details in the bottom pane.

You can enter task information in either pane, but you must activate the pane before you can use it. To activate the bottom pane, simply click anywhere in the bottom pane. You can also use the F6 function key to toggle back and forth between panes. The pane that is active displays a dark blue color on its half of the Active View bar (refer to Figure 7.12).

The two minitables at the bottom of the Task Form view initially display resource and predecessor details. You can select different details to display in these areas. First, activate the bottom pane. Then choose Format, Details. A submenu appears, with alternative data you can display.

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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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