How to Use Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project is a popular software for project managers, especially those who work in large organizations. Unfortunately, Microsoft Project isn’t straightforward or intuitive to use. With a Microsoft Project class from ONLC, your team will not only understand what Microsoft Project is used for, but also how to maximize its potential and streamline their efficiency.
But what is Microsoft Project? Microsoft Project–also referred to as ‘MS Project’–is a project management software product from Microsoft. When your employees have mastered this software, they can develop schedules, assign resources to tasks, track progress on tasks and projects, manage budgets, and analyze workloads.
In this article, we walk you through a few key ways to use MS Project to get started.
How to Start a Project With Tasks and Durations
After MS Project has been downloaded and opened to your work desktop, you can immediately get started. Begin by entering data into the task plan of the Gantt chart, starting with the specific task name and its duration.
When you enter tasks and durations on the spreadsheet to the left, it becomes graphically represented on the right side in a blue bar over the timeline in your Gantt chart. This section is called the ‘taskbar,’ and it visually represents what tasks need to be completed by which deadline.
After you have entered all of your tasks (verify the tasks are listed on the left side of the spreadsheet and are reflected on the Gantt chart on the right side), it’s time to save your project. Give it a name that is easy to identify and place it in a folder, numbering the file so users can distinguish it from newer versions that will be created as the project progresses. Your file will be saved with the extension ‘MPP,’ a file format exclusive to MS Project.
Understanding Project Start Date and Task Dependencies
When you set tasks in MS Project, they default to start on the same date. This means you must tell the program when each individual task should start. Simply click on the project items on the top bar, then select ‘Project Information’ from the dropdown menu. This will cause a new window to pop up and you can adjust the start date.
Next, you can note task dependencies, such as when one task cannot start until another specified one is finished. MS Project gives you the ability to link task dependencies so they are easier to manage.
On the Gantt chart, hover your mouse in the center of the taskbar. Once there, your cursor should change into a four-way arrow. Then, hold down the left-click so you can drag one task over the other so they can link. Finally, save the file and notate it as ‘version two.’
How to Create Milestones
Milestones in MS Project mark the end of a phase of a project. Milestones allow you to track your progress and make sure your project is moving according to schedule, so add them to your Gantt chart.
Making a milestone is easy–start by clicking on the task, highlighting it, and rick-clicking it to bring up the task information window. Once there, click on the ‘Advanced’ tab and move your cursor to the checkbox at the bottom left. After you’ve checked this box, the task will now be designated as a milestone and will show up on your Gantt chart as a black diamond shape. You are now set to save and move on.
A Breakdown of the Toolbar and Icons
To access the toolbar option, move your cursor over to the ‘View’ menu. This will produce a dropdown menu that allows you to choose the view you want from these options:
- Gantt chart
- Task usage
Select the view that is relevant to you as you work on the task. You do not need to stay with the same view option, as it’s normal for them to change throughout the project’s duration.
Under ‘View,’ you will find the Toolbar option. Select this option and it will open another window to the right and provide you with more options. ‘Standard’ and ‘Formatting’ options are the defaults, but you can change them at any time.
You will see several icons on the toolbar. As you hover your mouse over them, a popup tip screen should appear and help familiarize you with the visual vocabulary unique to MS Project. These are all fairly standard icons and meanings, such as ‘New File,’ ‘Print Preview,’ ‘Spelling,’ etc.
Once you feel comfortable with the various functions and formatting options available, you can customize your toolbar to your liking.
The Bottom Line
This article is just the beginning of what is possible with MS Project. For detailed training and guidance from real experts, get in touch with ONLC today!