Creating a Custom View in MS Project 2010

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):

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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.

To create this custom filter, the first thing I did was to create a custom field that returns the date that is always 30 days from the current date.  We’ll use that field to create the 30 Day Look Ahead Filter.
  • 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.

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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Next, select View, Groups, More Groups.

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  • 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.
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Close the window without applying the group.
Now we’ll create the table that will define which columns are shown in our custom view.
  • Select View, Tables, More Tables.
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  • 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).

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Once the table is created, columns can be added and deleted from the view just by inserting and hiding columns working directly in the 30 Day Look Ahead custom view.
Now we’re ready to create our 30 Day Look Ahead Custom View:
  • Select View, More Views
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  • 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.
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This is what the view looks like – it shows only the tasks within the 30 day window:
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This view can be filtered to allow management by exception as shown below.  Filtering the graphical indicators column for tasks that start soon allows the PM to focus on tasks starting soon as one of the agenda items at the weekly status meeting.
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Next time we’ll take a look at how to create the graphical indicators column using formulas and graphical indicators in a custom field.  Leave comments or questions and let me know if there is a topic you’d like me to cover.

7 thoughts on “Creating a Custom View in MS Project 2010

  1. Tim Congratulations on this terrific blog post explaining how to create a custom view in MS Project 2010. Well written your article is also very useful to MS project Trainers like my self to pass along to PMs looking to have a better working relationship with Project. The step by step graphical description of building the “30 Day Look Ahead custom filter” well explained the concept and for status updates this would be quite useful for task owners to understand the current progress of the schedule. Again Great Post – Looking Forward to more – 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great feedback Edmonton PM! Will continue to use the graphics in future posts. Please leave comments or tweets on any subject you’d like to see covered on freeslack.com and I’ll do my best to cover them!
    Best regards,
    Tim Jones

  3. Hello,
    Question, I just tried your suggestion and it seems to be showing tasks outside the 30 day window. Even in your example it shows a date on 1/7/13 to 3/6/13 which is more than 30 days. I was under the impression that the formula would only show 30 days out. What am i missing?

    Thanks
    Bill

  4. Bill,

    Thanks for your comment – I checked the MS Project 2010 file that I used for this post – it looks like it is working OK, but you bring up a good point that needs to be better explained.

    The filter shows any task that starts earlier than 30 days from now – so tasks in the past are also shown in this filter. So the 3/6/13 date is within 30 days from the date when I took the screenshot, but I did not add an additional line to the filter to also drop off the tasks in the past.

    You could do that by adding a line using the same procedure as the Now+30 filter but by making it filter Scheduled Start that is greater than Now.

    Adding this additional line would create a true 30-day window, and would be a good addition to this filter for longer projects. Thanks again for your comment.

    Tim Jones

  5. Thanks Tim! Works great.

    Last question. How would I show all tasks that are not at 100% complete yet older than 30 days? Meaning that all tasks not 100% complete would remain visible in the 30 Day Look Ahead report regardless of the date. And, once the task achieve 100% completion it would fall off the list.

    Thanks so much
    Bill

  6. Bill,

    Sorry I took so long to respond – projects keeping me busy! Another great comment and I agree that the feature you mention – keeping older tasks that are still not completed – should be part of this filter. Check out my new post that addresses how to make a filter that does what you are asking. Thanks again for your comments.

    Tim Jones