OnePager 6.1: Custom Date Formats

This week, we’ll continue our review of the time axis upgrades now available in OnePager 6.1 with a look at custom date formats.

A OnePager chart can have dates displayed in a number of different places: along the time axis, in text columns, and even on tasks themselves. One of the more common enhancement requests we get from our customers is to add a new date format that we don’t currently support. While OnePager supports scores of date formats in lots of different languages and cultures, there is no way for us to anticipate all the date formats our customers might want to display in their reports.

With that in mind, OnePager 6.1 now gives users the ability to define their own date formats, similar to the way cells in Excel can be formatted with any number of user-defined syntaxes. Selfishly, we think that this will eliminate or at least substantially reduce the number of requests that we get for new date formats. Less selfishly, we hope that users will be able to get their dates to display the way that they want with a lot less effort.

The best way to define a custom date format is to go to Home > Project View Properties > Time Axis > Calendar, and click the Manage Custom Date Formats button:

If you’re already in the middle of setting up your report and don’t want to jump out of what you’re doing, you’ll also notice that all of OnePager’s date format dropdowns also sport an option to Add Custom Format…

Whether you get there one way or the other, you’ll end up in a special screen that lets you define the format that you want:

We’ve developed a special syntax for users to define custom date formats. The syntax is similar to what you might see in Excel or in Project, but is actually quite a bit richer, as it allows you to display dates in ways that Microsoft Office does not.

Notice that there is a button to See the format, which will allow you to double-check that everything looks good before you finalize everything and click the Add Format button.

Once you’ve added a custom date format, it will appear in your date choosers, just like any of our standard date formats.

Next week we’ll round out our overview of 6.1 by looking at some of the other new features, beyond the ones that we’ve been covering that pertain to the time axis.

OnePager 6.1: Floating Time Axis

This week, as we look at what’s new in OnePager 6.1, we’ll continue our focus on the time axis. OnePager 6.1 now supports a floating time axis, meaning that you can insert one or several time axes anywhere in your chart, instead of just at the top or bottom:

Floating time axes are especially useful for large project reports or “wall charts” where everything fits on one large page, but there is so much detail going on that an additional time axis or two serves as a good point of reference.

To create a floating time axis, right-click anywhere in empty space. When the context menu pops up, choose Insert Floating Time Axis Level:

You’ll then get a sub-menu that asks you:

  1. Which units you want to insert (year, quarter, month, etc.)
  2. Whether you want to insert the floating time axis above where your cursor is, or below.

Notice that the floating time axis is tied to a “parent” time axis level at the top, middle, or bottom of the main time axis. You can review these by going to Home > Project View Properties > Time Axis:

In this example, the Bottom Level of the main time axis is set to monthly units, so inserting a floating time axis that replicates that same bottom level would also be monthly units.

An added convenience is that the formatting of the floating time axis will always match the main time axis. So, if you change the formatting of the months on your main time axis, any floating time axes also displaying months will automatically exhibit that same formatting. This way, if you have lots of floating time axes scattered throughout your chart, you only have to adjust your formatting in one place.

One final tip is that you can show a floating time axis with certain units even if those same units are NOT displayed in the main time axis. If you scroll up to the example at the top of this article, you’ll notice that the main time axis has years and quarters, but the floating time axis is set to months.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Go to Home > Project View Properties > Time Axis
  2. Set the Top Level, Middle Level, and Bottom Levels of the main time axis to years, quarters, and months, respectively.
  3. Turn the Bottom Level off, by unchecking the box to Show this level. This will allow years and quarters to show, but will hide months from the main time axis:
  4. Now, right-click in whitespace to add a floating time axis, and add it for Month (Bottom Level).

Even though the bottom level of the time axis is turned off on the main time axis, you can still insert it anywhere else in your chart as a floating time axis!

OnePager 6.1: Percent Complete Based on Working Time

In our last post, we discussed OnePager’s new working time calendar. Defining working time is useful if you want to format working and non-working hours differently, but it’s also required if you want more precise reporting on percent complete.

Most project managers update percent complete in Microsoft Project on a task-by-task basis as work is completed. However, others like to “force fit” percent complete to a certain status date, essentially stating that their projects are current through a certain date, and asking Microsoft Project to back into whatever percent complete calculation makes that status date line up:

For now, I’ll refrain from getting on my soapbox about how inaccurate it is to declare that a project is current through a certain date when the numbers don’t back that up.

If you’ve already made that declaration, you want your progress bars in OnePager to match the percent complete values that you’ve asked Project to calculate. Most of the time they do, but if you are displaying your OnePager chart based on a 24-hour clock and are asking Project to calculate percent complete based on an 8-hour working day, there are going to be cases where the numeric percent complete that Project has calculated won’t perfectly line up with the status date of your project:

OnePager 6.1 enables you to address this by giving you the option to display progress based on working time instead of the standard 24-hour clock. This doesn’t change the numeric percent complete values that Project has calculated; rather, it asks OnePager to display those same values based on a working time. Here’s how to turn it on:

  1. Go to Home > Project View Properties > Task Bars > Percent Complete Properties
  2. Check the box to Honor Non-Working Time, and then click OK

OnePager will take a second look at all of the percent complete values from Microsoft Project and will nudge them so that they align with the beginning of the next working day, like this:

To make sure that your progress bars in OnePager precisely match what you’ve computed in Microsoft Project, you may need to go to Data > Replace Snapshot to ensure that your percent complete values are completely up-to-date. You’ll also want to make sure that the working calendar in Microsoft Project matches the working calendar in OnePager. If you missed last week’s blog post on how to define working time, it will tell you how to make any necessary adjustments.

OnePager 6.1: Hide or Shade Weekends, Weekdays, and Non-Working Hours

In our previous post, we discussed how to stretch and hide specific date ranges on the time axis. In OnePager 6.1, we also let you apply special formatting to repeated timespans in your schedule, namely days of the week and working/non-working time.

Days of the Week

When you create a project plan, it’s common for your tasks to span weekends. For tasks that are months or years in duration, weekends become roundoff error, but if you have a two-day task with a weekend in the middle, the task can look a lot bigger than it actually is.

With that in mind, OnePager 6.1 now supports special formatting for different days of the week. The most common way that people use this feature is to distinguish weeks from weekends.

To get started, go to Home > Project View Properties > Time Axis > Format. There are settings for each day of the week. If you want to make weekends more obvious, you can start by shading them in a different color:

After applying the change, Saturday and Sunday will still be on the time axis, but they’ll be highlighted in gray to make them stand out better:

Highlighting weekends is a good choice when you have a relatively short-term project without too many weekends. If you’re running a multi-year project, highlighting every weekend is going to make for a chart that is very busy and hard to read, since the background will keep alternating between white and gray in rapid succession.

For these longer project plans, it’s best to simply remove weekends from the time axis. You can do this by unchecking the corresponding box, as we’ve done here with Saturday and Sunday:

Once applied, OnePager will hide all Saturdays and Sundays from the time axis so that only Monday through Friday remain:

Working & Non-Working Time

We’ve found that most users are pretty happy with the ability to format weekends separately and leave it at that. But if you want to get technical, merely addressing Saturday and Sunday doesn’t give you a completely accurate view of when work is taking place, unless you plan on working 24-hours a day during the week.

For a more precise display of when work is taking place and when it isn’t, OnePager 6.1 lets you take things a step further and look at working time. By default, OnePager defines working time as Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If that’s close enough, you don’t need to change it. But you could make the argument that lunch is not working time, so you might want to divide each day into a morning work schedule and an afternoon work schedule.

To re-define working hours, go to Home > Project View Properties > Time Axis > Format and then click the Define Working Hours button:

To add a lunch hour, change the first working time block to end at 12:00 noon instead of 5:00 p.m., and then click the Add button to add a second working time block in the afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The hour in the middle becomes lunch, and is now considered non-working. You can add a lunch hour for all five workdays at once, assuming Monday through Friday are all highlighted on the left-hand side of the screen before you start changing the hours on the right.

Click OK to update your working hours. If you then want to hide non-working time, uncheck the box to Show Non-Working Hours, and OnePager will compress the time axis down so that only working hours remain:

Keep in mind that there are 24 hours in a day, and typically only eight working hours, so if you choose to hide non-working time, you can expect your OnePager chart to shrink in width by about 2/3.

Your other option is to shade non-working time, just like OnePager does with days of the week. Again, this can get a bit busy if you’re showing a long-range plan, but it does give you a good level of precision as to when work is scheduled to occur:

If you shrink the overall duration of your OnePager chart down to a single week with an hourly breakdown, you can see how it’s a useful way to get an in-depth view of your work week: