Big Charts: How much is too much?

Photo Credit: Gabby K from Pexels

If you’ve taken a OnePager training class, you’ve probably heard us say “less is more” — which, despite sounding trite, really is true when it comes to building charts. A chart with only 50 tasks is many times more readable, and therefore more valuable, than a chart with 500 tasks, even when your manager thinks otherwise.

This article is dedicated to the people who’ve already told their manager that big charts are a bad idea and end up having to create one anyway.

When creating a large chart in OnePager, think of it like a balloon: you can keep filling it with air for a long time, but eventually, you’re going to exceed the physical limitations and pop that balloon. This begs the question: What is the size limit of a OnePager chart?

Count Your Tasks

The biggest limiting factor when building a OnePager chart is the number of tasks that you choose to import. A single OnePager chart is going to work best when you import fewer than 1,000 tasks. In fact, if you can keep it under 500 tasks, you’ll be in even better shape, and if you can keep it under 100, then you’ll really be flying.

The 1,000 task limit isn’t a hard and fast rule. OnePager doesn’t put an official physical limit on the number of tasks you can import. For practical purposes, though, this is the point after which most people start to experience issues with performance, running out of memory, and the like. In fact, you’ll probably start to see signs of performance problems before you hit the 1,000 task mark, especially if you’re on an older computer without much RAM or if you’re running an outdated 32-bit version of Office or Project that doesn’t have much computing power.

It’s important to keep in mind that OnePager doesn’t care too much about the number of tasks in your project plan or the size of your project file. While it does take OnePager a little longer to import tasks from a larger project file, the factor that really drives the performance of your chart up or down is the number of tasks actually in your chart once that import is complete. So, even if your underlying project plan is really big, you can still create a small and nimble OnePager chart.

OnePager also doesn’t particularly care whether you import tasks from one or several project files. For all intents and purposes, a 100-task chart that pulls 10 tasks from 10 files is going to be just as fast as a chart of the same size that pulls all 100 tasks from the same file. Again, it may take slightly longer for OnePager to complete the initial import into your chart, but once the tasks have been read in, it’s the total task count in OnePager that matters.

Pushing the Limit

Photo Credit: Caltrans

So what happens if you have a chart that you know is going to need a lot of tasks and you want to reduce your chances of slow performance? Anyone who drove an old car in high school or college knows what to do when you’re going uphill or trying to get down a freeway onramp: drop it into low gear, turn off the A/C if you’ve got it, and jam on the gas.

You can do the same with OnePager, though we’d like to think that it’s nicer-looking and more reliable than that clunker you had as a kid. If you need to import a lot of tasks into a chart, you can save on system resources by turning off unneeded features. Specifically:

  • Critical Path: Calculation of Microsoft Project’s critical path in OnePager is very CPU-intensive. Turning this off can save considerably on system resources.
  • Task Links: Don’t show every dependency in your project. Routing these connector lines from the predecessor to the successor takes a lot of bandwidth as well.
  • Borders: The lines around your tasks and between your rows look nice, but if you have thousands of them, that is a lot of extra drawing. Turning borders off won’t detract from your chart, but it can definitely speed things up.
  • Gradients: Like borders, gradients look nice but take a lot of horsepower to draw. Consider flat color fills instead of fancy bevels to keep performance in check.
  • Snapshots: Charts with multiple snapshots on different dates are a great way to track changes to your project over time, but they can significantly decrease the performance of your chart, especially when compounded with lots of tasks. Consider keeping your chart to just one snapshot. You can do this by replacing your current snapshot when you perform an update instead of adding a new snapshot each time. You can also cull unneeded snapshots from your chart later on, but it’s best not to create them in the first place.

You can also opt to run OnePager as a standalone application instead of as an add-in to Project or Excel. This usually gives OnePager access to more system resources and allows it to push the envelope a bit more.

This entry was posted in OnePager Pro Tips by Safford. Bookmark the permalink.

About Safford

Safford is a versatile technology professional with a solid history of empowering emerging growth companies in a broad array of industries. His employment history includes energy industry consulting at Quorum Software, Senior Manager of Client Services and Technical Sales at telecom service aggregator GetConnected, and Vice President of Strategic Partner Management at electronic payment processor IP Commerce. Prior to his tenure as OnePager's COO, Safford was the company's Vice President of Marketing and Alliances. Safford holds a BA in Psychology and management from Rice University.

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