Displaying Critical Path in Your Excel Gantt Chart

We get asked by our OnePager Express (for Excel) users every so often how they can display critical path.

OnePager Pro inherently uses the Critical column from Microsoft Project, which calculates the critical path, to visualize those values.

Excel doesn’t calculate critical path without some intensive programming on your part, and OnePager Express isn’t set up to display critical path like OnePager Pro does (a colored bar at the top of the task bar). But, it is possible. We’ve summarized how it can be quickly done below. For more detail, you can also read our step-by-step instructions on how to build Excel Gantt charts with critical path.

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Display Certainty In Your Plan by Using Conditional Formatting

I often have users ask me how I would display a level of certainty around a particular milestone or task.

The need exists because the initiative spans many years, and therefore, items in the plan set to begin, or complete, in the near future are fairly certain in terms of their target dates.  However, items further out on the timeline need to be interpreted as loose estimates.

This is actually very easily accomplished in OnePager, as long as you have a column with a value that indicates the various levels of certainty you want to communicate.

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OnePager Tip: Shorten Task Names for Clarity

Prior to using OnePager, you didn’t have to consider how much space your project plan’s task or milestone labels would consume in a chart. Regardless of how long they were, you always had to re-type them anyway into whatever other application you were using to create your reports — and most people shortened labels while retyping.  But now that you’re using your actual plan data to drive your visuals, label length is a major consideration.

Take a look at the examples below.  The first has very long labels, while the second uses only what is necessary for the audience to understand what the activity or milestone is.  (Double-click to enlarge each image.)

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When to use Microsoft Project instead of Excel

Should you keep managing your projects in Excel, or make the switch to Microsoft Project?

Should you keep managing your projects in Excel, or make the switch to Microsoft Project?

As a company that helps people build project reports no matter what the data source, our users often come to us with questions about which tools they should use to actually manage their projects to begin with. The most common flavor of this question is:

“Should I use Microsoft Project to manage projects, or just stick with Excel”?

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Automated WBS in Excel

When you’re building a plan in Excel, especially with OnePager, automated population of data can be critical to gaining efficiency in the long-run.

Organizing, updating, visualizing, and generally making sense of your plan will all be much faster and easier if you have the data there from the beginning to leverage sorting and filtering capabilities built into Excel and OnePager.

Adding a WBS is another value that can be added to your Excel plan to help in this regard, however, having to do that manually may seem daunting.  Luckily, the internet provides when it comes to Excel knowledge and we found a very nice article and template previously posted online that can might provide you an excellent start!

WBS Excel
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Resources and Cost – A Community Garden

We get asked a LOT what OnePager can provide in terms of displaying resource and cost data.  The question doesn’t come in a specific way.  It really is this generic: “Can you display resource and cost data?”

First, let’s answer the question:  YES.
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Phase Gate Timelines from Microsoft Project or Excel

Many of our OnePager users are now building what they call “Phase Gate Timelines,” where they take key milestones from their plans and line them up left-to-right in sequence for an abbreviated, but informative look at multiple projects:

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OnePager can build a phase gate timeline from either Microsoft Project or Excel, as the data you need is pretty similar:

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