View the Critical Path in Microsoft Project

This short video explains how you can view the Critical Path in your Microsoft Project Plan. The Critical Path is the path through the project that has zero float. You can also think of it as the longest path through the project.

Each task on the Critical Path must be completed on time for the whole project to be completed on time.

It is only by viewing the Critical Path that you can identify the best way to shorten the duration of a project. The only way to reduce the Project plan duration is to reduce the duration of a task or tasks on the critical path - for example, by adding resources. If the project manager doesn't know the critical path they could easily spend considerable time working to reduce the duration of tasks that will not impact the project end date.

More information on Critical Path Analysis

Video - How to show the path in the Gantt View

Viewing the Critical Path step-by-step written guide

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you view the critical path in your Gantt chart in Microsoft Project Standard:

1. Open Your Project Plan

Start by opening your project plan in Microsoft Project. Ensure you're in the Gantt chart view, which is the default view for most projects.

2. Navigate to Gantt Chart Format

Once you're in the Gantt chart view, look for the "Gantt Chart Format" option in the toolbar or ribbon.

3. Locate the Bar Styles Group

Within the Gantt Chart Format options, search for the "Bar Styles" group. This group contains various formatting options for the bars in your Gantt chart.

4. Highlight Critical Tasks

In the Bar Styles group, find and click on the "Critical Tasks" option. Once selected, all the critical tasks in your project will be highlighted in red. These red tasks represent the critical path in your project plan.

5. Understand the Significance of the Critical Path

Screenshot of a Microsoft Project Gantt Chart with the critical tasks shown in red and the non-critical tasks in blue.
The critical path represents the longest path through your project. Every task on this path directly influences the project's end date. If you wish to complete your project earlier, you'll need to focus on these critical tasks. Check if:
  • All dependencies are correct.
  • Task durations are accurate.
  • Additional resources can be added.
  • Non-working days can be adjusted.
By tweaking these elements, you can potentially shorten the project's duration.

6. Filter to View Only Critical Path Tasks

If you want a more streamlined view that displays only the tasks on the critical path:
  • Go to the "View" option in the toolbar.
  • Locate and select the "Filter" menu.
  • From the list of filters, choose the "Critical" filter. This will display only the tasks that are on the critical path.
Understanding the critical path in Microsoft Project is essential for effective project management. By following this guide, you can easily identify and manage the tasks that have the most significant impact on your project's end date. Whether you're a seasoned project manager or just getting started, these steps will ensure you're making informed decisions to keep your project on track.

Read more guides on using Microsoft Project