Using Timeline with MS Project

I have been using MS Project for quite long time. To be honest, I have been pushing myself to use this tool for the last 10 years or so. MS Project is full of features but, If you normally run medium to small projects and you are not in the engineering, construction or other “traditional” industries, at the end of the day you just use a very short number of its features.

Why people stop using or even never start using MS Project? In my opinion there are mainly a couple of reasons:

  • Sometimes it seems not to follow your wishes. You want to move or delay a task and it denies to do so. Even worse, it places the task at another different date. Why is it so? Because there are other things like dependencies, automatic vs. manual planning, calendars, etc. and most of the people do not have the patience or time to find out what is happening and correct what is wrong.
  • While it is very easy to start putting together a bunch of tasks, when you have, let’s say more than 20 or 30 tasks, you find yourself wasting time looking for the correct place to touch or to insert something. Besides, in today’s uncertainty context, it is very easy you have to change the plan of a project almost every day.

Some people can argue that there are other drawbacks like its lack of teamwork capabilities (for that you have Project Server), its price, complexity, etc., but I still keep the previous 2 at the top.

Why do I use MS Project yet? Again, mainly due to 2 reasons:

  • In front of the customer (or the management) it keeps looking a more professional way of showing the plan of a project and its advances. You look like you are controlling the project in a more detailed and convincing way. And, to be honest, drawing plans with MS PowerPoint does not differentiate you from other colleagues or companies… Everybody does. Also, sometimes it is a convincing tool to demonstrate a project cannot be delivered in less than a minimum time; you have things like “critical path”, working days and holidays, dependencies, etc.
  • Its timeline functionality. Having said nobody (specially managers) has the patience to investigate and deal with its complexities, there is a feature that is specially nice to avoid the cumbersome Gantt chart with tens or hundreds of tasks and focus just on milestones, summary or main tasks and it is the timeline.

How to create a Timeline.

Just as simple as right-clicking and selecting the tasks you want to add.

Adding Tasks to Timeline

How to customize a Timeline.

Very simple again. The same as previous, you have just to right-click the task and change the filling and letter color.

Customizing Timeline

How to copy the Timeline.

Finally, you can copy the timeline to paste it to other application.

Exporting Timeline

Sample Project with Timeline

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