Introduction to Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project has a unique interface that will feel somewhat familiar to you from using Microsoft Office, but the task list and how Project uses panes on the left hand side is distinctly different. In this section of the Microsoft Project 2007 tutorial, we’re going to explore the Project 2007 interface, introduce the key areas you will work in, and the best ways for you to interact with Project to get the most accomplished. We’re going to explore the menu system, task list, Gantt chart, project views, reports, and how to setup some of the features for the most efficient use of Microsoft Project.
In this tutorial, you will learn:
- The Microsoft Project interface
- Project views including the calendar, Gantt chart, network diagram, task usage, and resources.
- Project reports
- Setting non-working days
- Project properties
The Microsoft Project Interface
Microsoft Project shares many of the common user interface feature as other Microsoft programs. Unlike Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Project 2007 did not inherit the new ribbon interface. This is scheduled to come in the Microsoft Project 2010 release. You will find many elements to Microsoft Project 2007 to be familiar if you use other Microsoft applications.
There are a few differences in the interface. One of the first you’ll notice is the task pane for many options opens to the left of the project plan instead of to the right, as in other Microsoft Office applications. However, most of these differences are small and you will likely pick up the interface quickly. In this section, we’re going to break down the Microsoft Project window so you understand all of the aspects of the interface.
The Menu Bar
At the top of the screen is the menu toolbar, one of the most frequently accessed areas of the Microsoft Project interface. The menus contain the commands, options, and functions you will access while using Project. It is a toolbar, so it could be hidden or reordered with other toolbars.
The toolbars contain icons and select menus to perform tasks in Microsoft Project. For example, the icon is used to create a new project plan and the icon is the format painter. There are more icons available on a toolbar than shown, click the icon on the right of the toolbar to see more options. The toolbars remember the frequency you use certain icons, so the more you use it, it will appear while less frequently used icons will be hidden.
If you right-click in a blank area on the toolbars, you can see all of the toolbars available and show or hide toolbars as you see fit.
Below the toolbars is the entry bar where you can enter or edit tasks in your project plan. It’s blank when you’re in a blank task, but your task appears when you click on a task name with data in it.
Microsoft Project contains several views available for you to manage, edit, analyze, and view your project plan. In this section, we’re going to look at the different project views available and when you might want to use them.
The project views portion of Microsoft Project 2007 contains a variety of different options for the user. As you will notice when you open the program, the default view is the Gantt chart.
This is the view you will most likely be using the most. The view lists each task that is present in your project and illustrates their relationship to one another. In addition, this view also illustrates the scheduling relationship of each of your tasks using Gantt bars. Simply put, Gantt bars are displayed on an area of the Gantt chart that represents the duration of a task.
The Calendar view is self-explanatory; in short, it is a calendar that tells you when certain tasks are due. This is a great way to keep track of all tasks inside Microsoft Project 2007 and will ensure you will have the opportunity to stay on track.
The Network diagram view displays dependencies between different project tasks (which are represented by boxes). In addition, the task dependencies are represented by lines that are connected to the boxes. This view is literally a diagram and makes is very easy for you to see which tasks are dependent on one another.In the event that you have to make a decision about a certain task (e.g. removing a task), you will know how that will affect your other tasks.
The Task Usage view is also self-explanatory as it allows you to see how often a certain task is used. This will make it helpful in the event you must analyze how often a certain task is used and which tasks are used more than others are.
The Tracking Gantt view is another self-explanatory view that allows you to analyze and discover the duration of a task. When using the following view, you will be shown a timeline of various tasks in your project.
The Resource Graph view displays how certain resources are being used on a project. This is perfect if you to balance the work your resources are performing. For example, if a resource if overworking while another resource is underworking you will quickly be able to notice this in the graph. As a result, you can then spread out your tasks to different resources how you see fit.
The Resource Sheet view displays the name of the resource, the type of work each resource performs, the material label, the initials of each resource, the group each resource belongs in, the maximum units, the standard rate for each resource, the overtime rate of each resource, the cost of using each resource, the accrue of each resource, the base calendar for each resource, and the code for each resource. As you can see, there is a lot of information displayed in this view. Every aspect of how a resource works and how much it is making as well as costing your project is here for you. There is also a lot of customization that can occur here as well. Simply put, you can name any resource what you want and can change how they operate.
The Resource Usage view will allow you to view how each resource is used (obviously). While none of the drivers in our project are working yet, when you would normally create a work schedule for each resource you would see the literal work schedule of every resource. This would again give you the opportunity to see which resource are overworked as well and underworked and spread the work out as you saw fit.
These are the default views you will find in Microsoft Project 2007. You can also add more views as well. Click “View” as you normally would to see the default views and click “More Views.” It is here that you will find an array of different views for you to use, such as the bar rollup view, the leveling gantt view, and the relationship diagram view.
If you want to have an idea as to how your project is performing, click “Reports” and select the “Reports” option.
The Overview option gives you a selection overview reports you can view.
It is here that you can choose from a few different overview reports. These are all self-explanatory (with project summary telling you the summary of your project, critical tasks explaining which tasks are currently critical, milestones which tell you about the achievements of your project, and so on). Highlight a report and click “Select” to view to look at the report.
As an example in navigating through the reports for each category in the “Reports” window, we will look at the Project Summary. Once you are done viewing the page, click the “Close” button on the top of the page to go back to the “Overview Reports” page. Once you are finished looking at different reports on the “Overview Reports” page, select “Close” to go back to the “Reports” window.
The Current Activity option allows you to analyze the activity of different tasks. It is here that you may see which tasks have been completed, tasks that should have started, tasks that are falling behind (slipping tasks), and so on.
The Cost Reports option allows you to view different aspects based on your costs. It is here that you may analyze your cash flow, your overall budget, which tasks are over budget, and so on.
The Assignment Reports option is a report on different activities occurring in your project. This option is not as self-explanatory as the previous options in the “Report” category but it is just as simple to navigate. It is here that you may analyze which resource performs what task (Who Does What), the moment a resource performs a task (Who Does What When), the tasks that must be accomplished (To-do List), and which resources are currently overworked (Over allocated Resources).
The Workload Reports option is very simple. In short, it allows you to see the usage of each task and resource.
The Custom Reports option allows you to do as the name implies; create custom reports based on your needs. To show you how the custom reports option works, I am going to create a custom report based on my base calendar.
Click “New” to bring up this window. I will highlight “Task” and select “OK.”
You will see that our custom report is currently titled “Report 1.” You may change the period of the report to how you see fit (i.e. a report on the entire project, throughout the months, and so on). Additionally, you may also change the “Details” and “Sort” order by the appropriate tabs. This is designated for advanced users you know exactly what they want to see. As a result, if you are a beginning or intermediate user you probably will be suffice with the other reports.
Setting Non-Working Days
In order to properly define which days your resources will not be working (e.g. holidays and vacation time) you will need to set non-working days for each of your resources.
To achieve this, select “Tools” and select “Change Working Time.” Select which date you want to change to “Non-Working Time” (in this case we will choose September 9).
Click on the field under “Name” and enter the name of the non-work day (this can be anything you want. For this I named this day “Local Holiday – Bumblebee Festival” to give an excuse why certain resources will be not be working that day. Click “Details” to display the details about the non-working day.
You will now see the details about this non-working day. For this day, I set it to “Nonworking” to dictate no one will work on this day. In addition, I set the “Recurrence pattern” to “Yearly” to dictate this is an annual holiday. Obviously, it begins and starts on September 9 of every year and ends on the same day. If I were to create a non-working day that does not have a set date (such as Thanksgiving), I could set the date to begin on a certain week of a certain month every year. Click “OK” to exit out of the screen.
The Properties option can be used to analyze certain statistics and information about your project. To access the properties, select “File” and select “Properties” to bring up the “Properties” window. I am currently on the “Summary” tab where you can clearly see the name of my project is the name of my company: the completely made up “The Freight Hauling Company.” In addition, you will see the author of this project is “The Boss.” Clearly, I could have entered the name of the manager or entered the name of my company into the “Company” field as opposed to the “Title” field, but I chose not to as an example to tell you this: you may enter anything you want to in these fields. Want to enter keywords about this project? Do so. What to enter a comment about this project? Go ahead. The properties option is completely customizable and I urge you to customize it as you see fit.
Additionally, you can view several aspects of the properties window by clicking on the following tabs: “General,” “Statistics,” “Contents,” and “Custom.” Each of these tabs is self-explanatory and will allow you to customize the information about your project however you see fit. Again, I urge you to customize the properties window and enter as much information as you see fit. By doing so, someone else who is viewing your project (who knows nothing about it) will be able to view a lot of general information about your project.