The Gantt Chart view in Microsoft Project is great for many situations, but custom views in MS Project are often overlooked. Many MS Project users are not aware of the many different ways project data can be displayed and communicated to team members and other stakeholders through the creation of custom views.
In this first blog post, we’ll take a step-by-step walk-through of how to create a custom view. This view will be a “30 Day Look Ahead View.” It will display the status of open tasks and will provide a look-ahead for tasks that will be starting soon. The view will be organized by Integrated Product Team (IPT) and by Task Owner.
This view is useful for a weekly status update meeting where graphical status indicators are used to facilitate “management by exception,” focusing only on the tasks that need attention, instead of going through the entire schedule line-by-line.
Let’s get started, shall we? This is the Gantt Chart view of our current project (click on the pictures to see higher resolution images):
Now, imagine that this project was a large and complex project or program that had several thousand lines of schedule activities. It would be difficult to quickly extract relevant information if our only technique was to scroll endlessly through the Gantt Chart view. It would also be tedious if every time the team got together for a meeting, we, as schedulers, created filters from scratch as the glassy-eyed team members sat and watched us work our magic.
There’s a better way. We can create a custom view that is permanently displayed in the view menu. It will always be there just one click away.
A custom view consists of a Custom Group, a Custom Filter, and a Custom Table. The Gantt Chart can also be customized in a custom view without affecting the standard Gantt view, but more on that another time.
We’ll start by creating the 30 Day Look Ahead custom filter. Our goal is to capture all schedule activities that start 30 days from now or sooner. We want to create the filter so that as time moves forward, the filter will continue to show us schedule activities within that 30-day window.
- Insert an unused date field – I used Date2 and renamed it NOW+30.
- Click on the formula tab and enter the formula as shown, NOW()+30.
Now that we have the NOW+30 field, we can hide that column and create the 30 Day Look Ahead custom filter.
- Select view, filters, more filters.
- Select new and create a filter named 30 Day Look Ahead as shown below.
- Do not apply this filter yet; just close the window after the filter has been created.
- Note that for MS Project 2010, I used “Scheduled Start.” In MS Project 2007, I used “Start” for this filter, but the filter does not work in 2010 unless Scheduled Start is used.
- Now we need to create the custom group and the custom table.
- For this example, I will group the 30 Day Look Ahead custom group by Integrated Product Team (IPT) and Owner. I created these two custom fields using available text fields Text2 and Text4. These two columns are shown in the picture below.
- Once these two custom fields are created, the columns can be hidden.
- Next, select View, Groups, More Groups.
- Select new and create a group called 30 Day Look Ahead
- Group by IPT and then owner as shown.
- The format of each group can be edited here as well.
- Select View, Tables, More Tables.
- Select New and create a table called 30 Day Look Ahead with the columns shown (the graphical indicators column is a custom field that will be covered in a future blog post).
- Select View, More Views
- Select New and create a view titled 30 Day Look Ahead. Select the Custom Table, Group, and Filter that we just created as shown (all are titled 30 Day Look Ahead).
- Make sure the “show in menu” box is checked. This custom view will now appear in your view menu along with the Gantt Chart and other views.