Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Project Options You Want to Know About

When I teach a Microsoft Project or Project Server class, it’s often the Project Options that gather audience interest early on.  Most of the Options below relate to simple user interface conveniences, but they can really improve usability to otherwise generic out-of-the-box configurations.

Please note this article focuses on Microsoft Project 2010 and will provide Microsoft Project 2010 solutions, but most of them are also available in Microsoft Project 2007.  Options unique to 2010 will be noted.
My first tip is for setting default options:  Close all open projects including Project 1 before going into the Options menu. 
By doing this, the sections that provide options to either specific projects or all new projects will already default to All New Projects.  Once all projects are closed, access Options from the backstage (File/Options).
Go to the General tab:
Project View options:

Default View:  Microsoft changed the default from Gantt Chart to Gantt with Timeline, which promotes the new Timeline view feature.  One behavior of the Timeline view is that it is an alternative to the split screen in a Gantt view:  Either the Timeline can be viewable, or the split screen, but not both together.  Because I use the split screen more often, especially when creating a new project, I change the Default view back to Gantt Chart.  I can then display the Timeline view when I’m ready.
Now go to the Display tab
Show these elements options:

Entry bar:  This is the entry bar at the top of the page.  It appears by default in Project 2007 but is unselected in 2010.  I like it because I use it like I do the entry bar in Excel.
Now go to the Schedule tab
Calendar options for this project options:

Week starts on:  Set it to what you are comfortable with, like you would for Outlook.  I prefer to set weeks to start on Mondays instead of the default of Sunday.

Scheduling options for this project options:

New tasks created:  As a new feature, Microsoft has set Manually Scheduled as the default, but because I most often manage enterprise projects, I prefer Auto Scheduled as my default.

New tasks are effort driven:  Microsoft has changed the default of this in Project 2010 to be unselected.  (In Project 2007, this is selected as the default to have new tasks effort driven.)  I like this option unselected, as I prefer task types to be Fixed Units, non-effort driven.

Autolink inserted or moved tasks:  Change this option to Unselected if you don’t want Microsoft Project linking tasks automatically just because they are neighbors.  My preference is to be able to control the linking of tasks where needed, so I de-select this option.

Show that scheduled tasks have estimated durations / New scheduled tasks have estimated durations:  If you prefer not to have those “?” marks in your duration entry fields, de-select these two options.

Now go to the Advanced tab

General options for this project options:

Automatically add new resources and tasks:  Be very aware of this option, as it has a direct impact on how you set up a resource team in your project.  De-selecting this option will allow Microsoft Project to warn you if you attempt to add, for example, a “Susan” when you already have a “Sue”.  This is a valuable prompt to avoid entering potentially duplicate resources, or to avoid adding local resources into a project that should only use enterprise resources.  If the option is left selected, Project will automatically add new resources to your project plan without warning, however they are entered.

Display options for this project options:

Display options:  The constant problem with real-estate.  The default display for work and duration is min, hour, day, week, month, and year.   A lot of space can be saved by minimizing these fields as shown above.

Show project summary task:  The project summary task is task line 0, and it always exists in every project.  Your only option is whether you want to display it or not.  This is a key task to include for viewing the total roll-up of your project fields.  You will have a lot more flexibility in your project if you display this summary task, rather than indenting every task behind task line number 1.

A note about the Customize Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar tabs:

Stay tuned for a separate article on how to customize the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar.  It will offer the option to be able to download a custom Home ribbon for your own use.

Options are there for people to choose what fits their projects best, and everyone has unique preferences.  This article is not intended to indicate best practice, but hopefully these suggestions will provide some ideas for ways you might like to use Microsoft Project.  If you have additional questions about any of the options within Microsoft Project, please send me an email and I’ll gladly help out.


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