Getting Started With Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project has become the industry standard application for project managers all over the World. It’s strength lies in the fact that MS Project makes it easy to modify a schedule and observe the effects that such changes may have on the overall project. In this article, I will take an easy step by step approach to show you how to quickly get started on your first project.

The Gantt Chart
The Gantt chart is the classic project manager’s tool and gives a useful overview of the entire project. You will notice that to the left of the Gantt Chart is a list of tasks. These tasks coincide with the bars on the Gantt chart. When bars on the chart are selected the corresponding task is highlighted in the task sheet.
Tasks are shown as a blue bar, critical tasks are red and milestones are depicted as a black diamond. The project’s phases can be seen as a black bar. We will discuss each of these attributes in the next section.

Creating a New Project
We first start with basic information which Microsoft Project will use to define the start and finish dates, working days and holidays. We will also need to list all the separate tasks and assign resources to them.
To begin, ensure that the project guide ‘tasks’ pane is visible on the left-hand side. This can be switched on by clicking ‘view’ on the main menu bar at the top, then selecting ‘turn on project guide’. This useful guide lists all the necessary steps to quickly define the project.

Defining the Project And General Working Times
First, we need to set the project start date: Begin by clicking ‘define the project’ in project manager tasks pane Next click the calendar date picker and choose an appropriate start date for the project. Click ‘continue to step 2’ at the bottom of the project guide If you are not using Project Server click ‘continue to step 3’ Finally click ‘save and finish’ Next we need to set the normal working hours and days which are available to the project. These hours will be defined in the main project calendar, however individual resources (or project workers) can have their own calendars which may have different times of availability (for instance holidays). Start by clicking ‘define general working times’ to see a preview of the default hours and days. Three default calendars are available: standard, 24 hours and night shift. Next click ‘continue to step 2’ where we can now edit the working days in the week if necessary. The default is Monday to Friday, 8am – 12pm and 1pm – 5pm. The days can be changed by clicking in the appropriate tick boxes. The working hours are modified by clicking ‘I want to adjust the working hours…’ and making appropriate selections. Now click ‘continue to step 3’ where we can set holidays and other days off. Click ‘change working time’ to launch a dialogue box. Here we can set further non-working time to allow for unavailability due to holidays or other commitments. Next click ‘continue to step 4’ and you will see that we can define other time units as hours per day, hours per week and days per month. Finally, click ‘continue to step 5 where we can now define additional calendars if necessary. The basic project information has now been defined and we are ready to start building the schedule. In the next article, I will discuss how to add resources and link them in such a way that we take full advantage of Microsoft Project’s powerful scheduling capabilities.

John Abrams a Microsoft Office expert has been working in the technology industry for the last 5 years. As a technical expert, he has written technical blogs, white papers, and reviews for many websites such as