Saturday, April 21, 2012

Making the Project 2010 Ribbon Work For You

If you have made the move to Microsoft Project 2010, congratulations! In my opinion, the 2010 version of Project is truly the biggest change since the initial Windows product back in the early 1990s.

For long-time Project users, the first step into the 2010 version is mastering the new ribbon user interface. That can be a huge adjustment, but the key to making life easy and saving keystrokes is embedded in this ribbon and in the Quick Access toolbar.
Unlike other Office products, the ribbon in Microsoft Project 2010 does not have a ‘Home’ tab. Why might that be?

Perhaps the reason is because the way we use the features and functions within Microsoft Project is as unique as how we manage our projects. How difficult would the challenge be for Microsoft to create a single Home tab that contains all of the most common functions for all of the unique ways people manage projects?

The good news is that you can create your own Home tab customized with functions that match how you use the tool. The first step is to identify which commands you use most frequently. Most of these commands will come from the standard four tabs of Task, View, Resource, and Project.

Customizing the Ribbon

Customizing the ribbon is reasonably easy. While this article will not describe all of the options that are possible, the Microsoft Project Help icon can lead you to more information. (Find Project Help by selecting the '?' on the top of any page or window and search on Customize Ribbon, then
select the Customize the Ribbon link.) The key to making a Home tab work is knowing that where you position the features and functions makes a big difference in how it behaves.

The screenshot above is what I included on my Home tab. The commands are what I use the most, given the way that I manage projects. I grouped commands by how often I use the other tabs; in the order of Task, View, Resource, and Project.

Unfortunately, attempting to describe how the ribbon behaves behind the scenes to expand and contract all of the available function options would likely take a small book. To keep this within the length of an article, I’ll suggest that your best approach to positioning features on your Home tab may be trial and error. However, for those interested in the Home tab that I use, information on how to receive a copy of it is included at the end of this article.

One more note on ribbons: If you noticed in the screenshot above, I also have a ribbon tab named ‘Project Server’ that I gained from my friends at MS Project Experts. This ribbon saved me from having to add a lot of rarely used, but very important Project Server functions on my Home tab. I will also include where you can get this tab later in the article.

Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar

Once you have a Home tab that contains everything you need to cover 90% of your working functions, the next step is to do the same with the Quick Access Toolbar. The primary goal of the Quick Access Toolbar is to make sure certain functions are always available and always a one-click solution. My toolbar focuses primarily on the functions that are part of the Backstage. I also like to make my Quick Access Toolbars look the same across all Office applications, with only minor differences where needed.

Above are the functions that I include in my Quick Access Toolbar. The functions are as follows: New, Open, Save, Publish (for Project Server), Undo, Redo, Print Preview and Print, and Close.

I realize that the Close function is already a one-step action by choosing the 'X', but I prefer to locate all of my file functions in one place on the toolbar. It has also been best practice not to use the 'X'. You may also notice that for Project Server, I included the Publish button right next to the Save button. It’s a good reminder for those of us managing projects with Project Server.

Your own customized Home tab

As promised, if you would like a copy of my ribbon customizations, please send an email to Please note, importing customizations is an all or nothing affair, so you will get everything that I’ve included in my Home tab customization, including the MS Project Experts’ Project Server tab and the Quick Access Toolbar setup. The good news is that it is easy to remove tabs and/or functions if you want to add your own changes back in. If you like the Project Server tab on its own, you can use this direct link to MS Project Experts’ helpful Project Server tab: MS Project Expert's Project Server Ribbon Tab

Have fun making your life a bit easier using Microsoft Project 2010.

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