Friday, July 31, 2009

Creating Custom Project Toolbars is 4 Steps

Creating a custom toolbar in Microsoft Project 2007 is a great way to put all of your most frequently-used functions in one spot. As an example, Figure 1 shows a toolbar with functions that a project manager may use if he or she is updating a project plan using percent complete in a Project Server environment.

Figure 1. A toolbar of functions for updating a project plan with percent complete

This toolbar is actually a combination of commands from several toolbars and other commands that don't exist in any toolbar out of the box. Note how it provides a nice sequence of commands assembled in one neat package. The commands I've placed in this toolbar include:
  • Project Information: For modifying health indicators or the status date.
  • Build team from enterprise: Always a command that is used frequently.
  • Using Resource: For when you're discussing status with an individual team member.
  • % complete indicators: For quick setting of task completion status.
  • Reschedule work: Once you're done updating status to move all remaining work to the future.
  • Publish: Always publish your project as your last step before closing.
  • Close: Your last step.
How to Create This Custom Toolbar

So you think creating custom toolbars is hard? Think again.  Creating toolbars is as simple as following these four easy steps:
  1. Select the customize toolbar dialog box: Tools | Customize | Toolbars or right click anywhere on the toolbar area and select Customize.
  2. Select the Toolbar tab, then the New button, and create your new toolbar:
  3. At this point, the toolbar is placed in the middle of your schedule. I prefer to move it to the toolbar area by selecting and dragging it to the desired location, where it's easier to work with.
  4. Now go to the Commands tab and begin adding commands to your toolbar. This is also done by selecting and dragging the command to the particular toolbar location.
Commands are grouped by category. Categories tend to follow the menu commands, but this isn't always the case. The categories and commands I've used are as follows:
  • The File category contains the Project Information, Publish, and Close commands.
  • The Utility category contains the Build Team from Enterprise command.
  • The Tracking category contains the Using Resource , % complete indicators, and Reschedule Work commands.
Figure 3. Add commands by selecting and dragging to your new toolbar.

Note: The Reschedule Work command automatically reschedules work based on the Status Date in the Project Information dialog. Alternatively, you can use the Update Project command located in the All Commands category to display the update project dialog box.

Note also that all toolbars are open for adding, moving, and removing commands. These functions can be performed by selecting and dragging the command to and from the toolbars. For instance, you can replace the New command with the New... toolbar command that will automatically bring up the New Project information pane. This gets you one click closer to creating a project from a template.

My set-up -- shown in Figure 4 -- provides the tool commands that I use the most.

Figure 4. My toolbar reflects the commands I use most often.

 More Toolbar Goodies

From here, you could close the Customize dialog box and be done. However, before you do that, I'm going to share some other toolbar tips. You'll find all of the functions I reference here under the Options tab of this same dialog box.

I like the Show Standard and Formatting toolbars on two rows because it's easier to show all of the toolbar commands

I also like to choose to show full menus because it gives me immediate view of the commands I use but not very often -- which is a lot of them.

Figure 5. A couple of options you'll want to turn on.

If you think that’s cool, then you’ll love this part: The toolbar commands can be customized to appear however you want. Some of the things you can do include:
  • Showing the text or the image or both.
  • Changing the button image. (See Figure 6.)
  • Editing the image to make it look however you like.
  • Assigning a command to a macro.

Figure 6. Knock yourself out! Personalize those button images!

Figure 7 shows our updated toolbar with new images for Project Information and Publish commands.

Figure 7. The updated toolbar with different images for specific commands.

My last tip: You can do all of this to the Enterprise Global Template in Project Server so that a standard can be developed and used throughout your organization. You can contact me if you have questions on how to make this happen.

As a teacher and Microsoft Project advocate, I believe one of the biggest benefits of a custom toolbar is the ability to have the common functions you need in one convenient, accessible spot. Learning what you need to do when you're interacting with Microsoft Project just got a little easier. You and your mouse will work as a well-tuned engine when you've put your most needed functions "one click away."

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