I hope those of you who are following these beginner's hints and tips have
tried out my introductory guide to network analysis at: http://www.mvps.org/project/networkanalysis.htm.
As a result, I hope you've been playing with Microsoft Project and maybe started
on the Tutorial contained within Project. This month I will concentrate on entering
the basic task data into Project.
Firstly, let's look at the opening screen so that we can become familiar with
its layout and terminology. Although there will be some detailed differences
depending on your version of Project (this picture is from Project 2000), the
basics are identical with the exception of the View bar which was introduced
into Project 2000, and a Project Guide which appears down the left side of the
Table in Project 2002.
The Project Opening Screen
Working Area of the Screen
The main working area of the screen is in two main parts: the Entry table
on the left and the Gantt chart [named after the U.S. engineer H. L.
Gantt (1861-1919)] on the right, separated by a divider bar.
The entry table will hold a listing of every task required by the project
and will show calculated details for each task.
The Gantt chart will show bars drawn to represent the time span of each task
against a calendar timescale.
The vertical parallel lines forming the divider bar can be moved to the right
to show more columns in the table or to the left to show more of the Gantt
chart. Hovering the mouse over the bar will invoke a left-right arrow:
click and drag to move the bar, and double-click to dock
the divider bar neatly to the nearest column edge.
Enter a task and the text also appears in the entry bar. Click on the
tick or press enter to accept, or click the X
to cancel. Edit by selecting a field and clicking the text that appears
in the entry box, or by pressing F2 and it will be available for editing.
Data can also be edited within the cell. Project will give the task an identification
number (ID) of 1, fill in a default duration of 1 day?,
show a 1-day bar on the Gantt chart and move the cursor down to highlight
the next task cell. Data can also be edited within the cell.
Project assumes the duration is 1 day? The question mark (introduced
in Project 2000) indicates that this is an estimated or uncertain duration,
and clicking on the duration cell can alter this. Enter the duration required
as a number followed by a letter code and ? if you wish to retain the uncertainty
indication. [Note: Months were introduced in Project 2000.]
||= elapsed minute
||= elapsed hour
||= elapsed day
A question mark can also be entered to indicate the duration is estimated
or tentative Alternatively, use the Spin Control
by clicking on the up arrow to increase the duration and the down
arrow to reduce. Elapsed duration is the amount of time a task
will take to finish, based on a 24-hour day and a 7-day week, including holidays
and other nonworking days. [Note that elapsed times should only be used for
inanimate (material) resources or for tasks that are independent of resources,
eg., concrete curing or paint drying.] Any changes will appear in the entry
barclick the Tick to stay in that cell, press the Enter
key or press the down arrow key to accept and move the cursor down
to the next field. The duration of a month defaults to mean 20 working days,
but this can be changed in Tools/Options/Calendar tab.
To create a milestone, enter zero duration.
Project allows representation of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in
that it allows outlining. When outlining the tasks in a project schedule,
it is organised so the structure of the project can be seen, making the schedule
easier to manage. Outlining can:
- Arrange tasks in a hierarchical structure so it can be seen how subtasks
fit within broader groups of tasks called summary tasks.
- Identify the major phases of the project with summary tasks.
- Use either a top-down (enter summary tasks first) or bottom-up (enter
subtasks first) approach to building the schedule.
- Display only the summary tasks for the project.
- Create reports that include subtasks, summary tasks, or both.
- Display the project using a task numbering system called a Work Breakdown
A task is moved to a lower level by indenting or demoting it. A summary task
is created by demoting the task directly following it (in the order of task
ID numbers). A task can be moved to a higher level by outdenting or promoting
it, unless it is already at the highest level.
or click on the appropriate
tool button to indent or outdent. A Summary task will then appear bold
(black) and have outline symbols beside the task name. A - (minus sign)
indicates that the summary is expanded, i.e., all the subtasks are showing
at the next level. Clicking on the - sign will close down the summary
so that only the summary bar is showing (note the missing task ID numbers).
It will then sport a + sign, that can be clicked to reverse the process. Similar
+ and - signs are available in the Formatting toolbar. Greater
choice of the levels to be revealed can be selected from the pick list invoked
from the Show tool button, introduced with Project 2000earlier
versions have a double-plus button to show them all.
Manipulating Gantt Bars
In the Gantt chart, move the mouse pointer over the centre of a Gantt bar,
and the pointer will turn into a 4-way arrow. An information box will
appear to aid selection of the correct task.
Changing the Start Date
When the 4-way arrow appears, click and hold down the left mouse
button and drag left or right and an information box will show the
Start and Finish dates. These dates will change as the bar is dragged, leaving
the duration the samerelease the button when satisfied. A constraint
indicator will appear in the Indicator column: hover the mouse pointer
over the indicator to read constraint details.
Note! Resist changing start or finish dates by typing in
the data or by manipulating the bars with the mouse, as this will cause a
constraint date to be imposed thus losing flexibility. Make sure that was
what was intended.
If the new start date coincides with a non-working day, a Planning
Wizard will allow the option to Move the task to the next working
day or Make the non-working day into a working day. As with
most Wizards, there is an option to prevent further activation of this Wizard
by clicking the box Don't tell me about this again. In doing so Project
will assume the first (default) setting will apply to any subsequent occasions.
If, however, the new start date is near to the end of an adjacent
Gantt bar, another Wizard will allow the option to Link them or to
Move the task without adding a link. If linking is allowed,
then no constraint will be set, as the predecessor will drive its start date.
Changing the Duration
To change the duration of a task, move the mouse pointer the right end of
a Gantt bar and the pointer will turn into a right-pointing arrow.
Click and drag to the right and an information box will show
the Finish date and Duration that will change to reflect the
lengthening of the bar.
To Indicate Progress
Move the mouse pointer the left end of a Gantt bar and the pointer will change
into a % right-pointing arrow. Click and drag to the
right and an information box will show the Complete Through date.
The Complete Through date will change to reflect the
percentage duration completed and will show as a black bar within the task
Click and drag from the right end of the progress
mark will allow editing. When progress or actual data has been entered, moving
the pointer to the left end of the bar will turn the pointer to a left-pointing
arrow, allowing the start date to be changed to reflect reality.
Tasks can be split to show breaks in the schedule. Click on the Split
Task tool button in the Standard toolbar, then click on the appropriate
part of the Gantt bar and drag to the right. Tasks can be split many
times. To remove the split, click on a split section to the right of
the first section and drag to the left until the gap closes.
Next month we will have a look at the logic linking and manipulating data. Have