Why use the Timeline Tool?Microsoft Project is a fantastic project scheduling tool and is deservedly the industry standard. As a user of Microsoft Project, you appreciate its intelligence and flexibility as much as I do. The problem is that only some feel the same.
I have encountered many senior managers, even program managers, who visibly pale when they see a Microsoft Project Gantt Chart. The most frequent request I hear from salespeople and managers is:
"The plan is too many pages; isn't there a way to see a one-pager?"And
"Can I get a snapshot to fit onto a PowerPoint slide?"Or
"Can you summarise or roll up the plan? And can't I see a timeline?"
Microsoft Project to the rescue!
Luckily, Microsoft Project includes a handy snapshot of the entire project timeline.
How to show the Timeline viewOpen up your project plan. Click the View Tab and look for Split View. Tick the Timeline check box.
The timeline will appear above the Gantt Chart view.
Using the Timeline Format menuWhen you click on the timeline the Timeline Format menu will appear. With the Timeline Format you can:
- Change Text styles
- Set font size, type, bold, underline color etc.
- Show and hide a more detailed view, dates and overlapped tasks
- Insert Existing Tasks and Create Timeline only Tasks and Milestones
- Change a task to display as a Bar or as a Callout
- Copy the timeline - for a presentation or to email, or you can copy and paste as an image
Pan and ZoomUnder the Show/Hide group of tools is a Pan & Zoom tick box. This is ticked by default and partly 'greys' out part of the timeline. You can reduce or expand the greyed out area by dragging with your mouse.
To remove the greyed out area untick Pan & Zoom.
How to add Existing Tasks to the TimelineMicrosoft Project allows you to add key tasks to the timeline, this makes the timeline a really versatile presentation tool which can be tweaked for different purposes.
There are a few ways that you can add tasks to the timeline.
1. Right click the task you want to addSelect the task that you want to add to the Timeline, then right click your mouse and click Add to Timeline –this will usually be near the bottom of the right click menu.
2. Click add to Timeline via the Task menuSelect the task that you want to add to the Timeline. Then in the task menu find the Properties group and click Add to Timeline.
3. Click Existing Tasks in Timeline Format menuSelect the timeline then find the Insert group of tools and click Existing Tasks. A dialog box will open which you can use to tick all of the tasks you want to include. This is great for adding multiple tasks at once.
Adding milestones to the timelineWhen you add a milestone to the timeline it will appear as a milestone in the typical "diamond" shape. In Microsoft Project milestones are tasks with a duration of zero days.
In the image below you can see the milestone task Authorisation to proceed into initiation shown on the timeline.
How to add Timeline only TasksYou can add tasks and milestones to the timeline that are not tasks on the project plan. This can be useful for showing external tasks or key dates, for example a key decision point, announcement or public holiday. It can also be useful for tasks that have long names which are cut off or lead to a 'messy' timeline. Example of a truncated task name on the project timeline:
To add a task select the timeline and click on the Timeline Format menu. Look for the Insert group of tools.
Tasks that you add to the timeline are shown at the bottom of your Gantt Chart. These can be separated from the rest of the plan by adding a few blank tasks.
Choosing the format of tasks on the Timeline
- Tasks appear as bars in the timeline
- Callout tasks appear above the timeline
- Milestones appear as diamond shapes on the edge of the timeline
TIP you can do drag some tasks to move them around the timeline.
An example of a finished timeline in Microsoft Project
How to share the TimelineProject offers a several ways to share the timeline. To share, select the timeline and right click Or select the Timeline Format menu and look for Copy Timeline on the right hand side of your screen.
You can copy the timeline for email or for a presentation e.g. PowerPoint, when you do this you might need to stretch the image to see all of the tasks. Alternatively, you can select copy 'Full Size' for an image of the whole timeline.