Using OnePager Pro Snapshots – The Not-So-Obvious Use

We’ve had a few blog posts recently on some of the more conventional uses of OnePager snapshot capabilities, but we hear of our users using snapshots for all kinds of other purposes. Although we all could come up with many, many of not-so-obvious uses, for simplicity’s sake, let’s just consider one here to stimulate our thinking.

I have in mind using snapshots to compare two projects on one page. Continue reading

Turning Critical Segments On After Creating Project View

Computing critical segments slows down OnePager performance because it requires looking at a the whole MS Project task hierarchy, which generally is a lot more MS Project data than the user has flagged. To avoid this performance cost, unless the user really wants it, we do not compute the critical segment data unless the checkbox “Critical Segments” is checked before we do the import of data from MS Project. The best way to do this is to turn on the feature in the template, before any import from MS Project happens.

Here is a first project view that was created with critical segments turned on in the template, so the data is imported and the computation is performed and displayed:


And here is a second project view created with critical segments turned off in the template. No critical segments are computed, and none are displayed:

Crit Initially Off-1

Now, I go into Project-View Properties of this second project view and turn on critical segments; the legend shows that they are on, but they do not show up on the Gantt bars. This is because the critical data can only be computed during an import operation, and just turning on the feature does not trigger an import operation.

Crit Initially Off-2

Now that the critical-segment feature is turned on in the second project view, any subsequent import of data from MS Project will compute the critical segments and display them. To illustrate this, I update the only snapshot in the second project view, using the standard ‘replace dates’ option:


As seen this causes the critical segments to be computed and displayed on the Gantt bars:

Crit Initially Off-3

This is a good tip for any users who need to retroactively add critical path data to a OnePager Pro project view without building a new report from scratch!

How is Critical Path Calculated? Diving into the Mystery

We users of Microsoft Project often take the calculation of Critical Path within the software for granted. Yes, we know what critical path means and we have a vague notion of how the definition is implemented with MS Project but do we really know the mechanics?

This blog post will answer the question of how Critical Path is calculated and will provide a simple example to illustrate how the calculations are made.

First, what does critical path mean? What is the critical path? Well, there are various available definitions such as the following:

  • The critical path consists of those tasks that cannot slip if the project is to complete on schedule.
  • A critical path is that sequence of tasks in a project that must be completed on schedule in order for the project to complete on schedule.
  • The critical path is the longest path through the network of tasks.
  • Tasks that are on the critical path have no slack.

Microsoft Project begins calculating the critical path by computing the total slack field as you enter each task and define its attributes (i.e., name, start date, finish date, duration, predecessor relationships, etc.). Additionally, throughout the project’s life, as you enter more task data such as Actual Start and Actual Finish dates, Microsoft Project updates things so the critical path may change.

Let’s look at a small six task project shown below in a Microsoft Project plan:

Critical Path Example-MPP-1

If we make the critical path visible, the Microsoft Project plan looks like this:

Critical Path Example-MPP-2

Those Gantt bars shown in red above are on the critical path because they represent the longest path though the networks and because they have zero (0) slack.

Taking a look at this project as a network diagram in Microsoft Project we see that there are three paths through this project network. Using Microsoft Project’s Network view we have something like this:

Critical Path Example-MPP-3

It may be a little hard to see but the path with the red highlighted tasks represents the critical path. Further we can see that there are three possible paths through this network which are:

  • Start, Task A, Task B, Task C, Finish
  • Start Task 1, Task C, Finish
  • Start Task 1, Task 2, Task 3, Finish

To find the critical path, the path with the longest duration, we can construct a table such as the one below consisting of the paths for the rows and the tasks on the path for the columns:

Path Table

Note: The yellow colored cells above represent tasks that are not members of that particular path.

From the table above, we can see from the simple calculations that the critical path is Path 3 consisting of Start, Task 1, Task 2, Task 3, and Finish for a duration of 17 days.

The real complications come in when:

  • There are a significant number of tasks.
  • The predecessor relationships are complex, consisting of more than “Finish-to-Start” relationships. Other, more complicating, relationship types include “Start-to-Start” and “Finish-to-Finish.”
  • Where there are delays appended to the predecessor relationships.

All these complications result usually in a large number of tasks that, of course, can have their path duration calculated by hand, but it’s simpler to let Microsoft Project perform this task as you are building your project plan, entering actual dates, changing predecessor relationships, or manually changing task durations.

We can see the critical path really clearly if we make a project view of the project using OnePager Pro. This can be done in a minute or two and results in the picture of the project shown below:

Critical Path Example

Everything appears to be clearly identified and you can see the tasks on the critical path, as they have red bars along their top border as indicated in the legend in the upper-right of the graph. A more complex project with critical path might look like this in OnePager Pro:


This graph of a multi-phase project not only shows the critical path, but also shows percent complete/progress bars in yellow. Additionally, below most of the tasks we see a narrow bar which represents the baseline dates. Unlike the previous graph of the simple six-task project, the one above is organized into swimlanes which groups the tasks into their respective phases.

Let us know if we’ve answered the frequently-asked question as to how critical path is calculated. Hopefully, these examples give a good feel for how critical path appears in both Microsoft Project and OnePager Pro.

The Art of Data Visualization (PBS Off Book)

Every so often, we run across a video that we believe will be of significant interest to our blog readers.  This video is one of those, and we invite you to take a few minutes and enjoy what it has to offer:

The Art of Data Visualization

Projects are just one of the many types of data that are easier to understand when we visualize!

Making Multi-Project Graphs from Separate Microsoft Project Plans

OnePager Pro has always been able to build multi-project graphs from Microsoft Project integrated master schedules. Now, OnePager Pro 5.0 can make multi-project graphs from separate Microsoft Project plans, even if you haven’t linked them together in an IMS.

We’ll show you how to do this in this short article. Just follow these steps:

Load the first Microsoft Project plan, “Project A”, which is shown below:

Go to the Microsoft Project Add-ins tab, and click on the OnePager Pro button. When the start screen appears, choose the NEW option.

On the import wizard, click the Change button in the upper-right to change your template to “Multi-Project Gantt Chart – Detailed”. This is an important step to combine multiple MS Project plans into a single report:


Click the Create new project view button and OnePager will create a graphic that looks like this:

All four of the tasks are grouped into one large swimlane labeled “Project A”. Note that the Project Name in the graph is the label (name) of the project-summary task and not the name of the Microsoft Project plan.

Now, go back to Microsoft Project and open Project B:

Launch OnePager Pro from this second Microsoft Project plan. Now instead of creating a new project view, tell OnePager that you want to UPDATE:


On the import wizard, make sure you are updating the project view that you created just a minute ago. You want to ensure that you are going to REPLACE existing snapshot:


Click the yellow Replace dates button, and OnePager Pro will import the second project, placing it in a swimlane below the first:

It’s that easy. You can now merge other projects into the “Multi-Project-Example” view to summarize as many subprojects as you need.

Using Microsoft Project Flag Fields with OnePager Pro’s Conditional Formatting Rules

Conditional formatting was introduced in OnePager Pro version 5.0. This feature lets you tailor your project views and snapshots based on rules that control the shape, color, borders, fonts, and height of tasks and milestones. OnePager Pro’s conditional formatting rules work with Microsoft Project text, number, and date fields, in addition to flag fields (Yes/No).

As an example, suppose we have the Microsoft Project plan shown below which consists of three phases and four teams.

In the example, Flag1 is “Team Available” and will eventually be used to distinguish tasks in the OnePager Pro chart. For starters, though, we’ll create a view without conditional formatting to produce something like this:

Now, suppose you want to change the color of tasks to green when a team is available. You can create this conditional formatting rule by going to Project View Properties->Task Bars->Manage Rules:

When the conditional formatting rules are in place and the project view is created, it will look like this:

Notice that the legend now shows a green entry, indicating that Flag 1 is true. We’ve adjusted the verbiage to make it more meaningful.

That’s it! No more changing colors by hand to show something that you’re already tracking in Microsoft Project. OnePager Pro’s conditional formatting rules are the most powerful way to build meaningful project reports and timelines without the fuss.

Transparent Fills and Borders in OnePager Pro

We’ve added a couple of new transparent color options to OnePager Pro – the no-fill and the no-borders options. The no-fill option is available for task/milestone markers, comment boxes, text boxes, curtains, and links. The no-borders option is available for task/milestone markers.

Let’s talk about the no-fill option in the context of task/milestone markers first. This option makes the task/milestone marker colorless, instead taking on the color of the chart background while retaining the task/milestone marker’s border. The example below shows the “Project A” task with no fill and a blue border, making the task itself transparent:

It’s easy to set this up. Just select the desired task/milestone marker and click the Format button on the Home tab. Click on the color drop down to see the color chooser, and check the No Fill check box shown here:

The same technique applies to the other objects in a project view that have color options (e.g. comment boxes, text boxes, curtains, etc.).

Making the border of a task/milestone marker disappear follows the same techniques as the fill, but uses the Border Color control as shown here:

When you make the border transparent, the marker will look like this:

The no-borders option only applies to task/milestone markers. You may want to apply no-fill and no-borders at the same time in the case where you only want the task name to appear, or when you want the other marker decorations like baselines or percent complete to appear without the task/milestone itself.

The no-fill and no-border features are another great OnePager Pro tool in the Gantt Artist’s kit to offer you the most flexibility as you are creating dynamic, easy-to-understand project presentations.

Horizontal (Zebra) Stripes in OnePager Pro

Did you know that OnePager Pro can put horizontal (zebra) stripes in the background of your project view? With OnePager Pro 5.0, you can further decorate your project view with horizontal stripes for rows or for swimlanes.

Get started by going to Home->Project View Properties->Advanced. Look for the Chart Background section in the upper right. Notice the two color choosers, Color 1 and Color 2 and the two radio buttons marked Row stripes and Swimlane stripes.

There are just two things to do: (1) decide whether you are doing row stripes or swimlane stripes, and (2) selecting the two alternating colors for your stripes from the color choosers. That’s all there is to it.

Let’s do an example, taking this boring project view and spicing it up with swimlane stripes:

Now go to Project View Properties as described above and set it up for swimlane stripes by setting the controls shown in the Chart Background section shown below:

When you click the OK button, your project view will look like this:

If you want to put stripes on rows just click the Row stripes radio button instead of the Swimlane stripes button and your view will look like this:

Using zebra stripes for either rows or swimlanes is a way to separate out views that may have a lot of information in rows or swimlanes. It’s a great way to help your audience’s eyes focus on what is taking place in a particular section of your project plan. And, it’s Gantt Art.

A few items you should keep in mind:

  • Zebra stripes include the swimlane or row label areas. Of course, with swimlane striping, the row label is also included in the background stripes.
  • OnePager builds the row or swimlanes stripes from the bottom of the view up starting with Color 2, then Color 1 and back to Color 2 until it reaches the top row or swimlane depending on the striping mode.
  • OnePager keeps the stripes alternating between colors 1 and 2 even when you move rows or swimlanes up or down since the stripes are part of the background and not strictly associated with the row or swimlane itself.
  • Horizontal stripes are layered at the back of your document so that they don’t obscure other things like curtains and comment boxes.
  • If you don’t want the row or swimlane titles included in the zebra stripes, just use the paint bucket on the Home tab ribbon to change their background colors by hand.

OnePager’s zebra striping feature is another tool in the Gantt Artist’s kit for preparing concise, focused, and colorful schedule charts for presentation to project team members, executives, and customers.

What’s new in OnePager Pro 5.0 (Part 6/6)

Column Splitting for Complex Resourcing

Our previous post covered conditional formatting, a very powerful feature, a time saver, and a way to make your project reports really sizzle. Our final post covers a new way to manage reporting on projects that have complicated resource assignments.

In OnePager Pro 5.0, we’ve created a feature called column splitting. Recall that Microsoft Project can associate multiple resources to an individual task. Typically, in your Microsoft Project plan these are represented as Resource Names separated by commas. In the Gantt view we typically see this “string” of Resource Names associated with the single task. This may make it difficult to see how individual resources are scheduled and what their activities are across a number of other tasks where they may be assigned.

OnePager Pro 5.0’s column splitting allows you to represent each resource as a unique task in the view.  So, a task with two resource assigned can be automatically duplicated so that one task appears for each resource. From there, you can group, sort, and color-code by resources very easily.

Let’s look at a simple example. Suppose we have a portion of a Microsoft Project plan that looks like the one shown below. There are several resources represented among these tasks with one task having three resources assigned.

When column splitting is not turned on, OnePager Pro will produce a Project View that resembles the graphic shown below:

If you look in the legend, each combination of resources generates a unique color, which can be confusion, since Team 1 is now assigned three different colors.
With column splitting turned on, OnePager will give each resource a copy of its assigned task, making for a much cleaner assignment of colors:

Note what happened in the project view above:

  1. There are now several more task markers on the screen than there were before. The task “Centrifugal barrier” has now been split into three separate task markers: one for each of the three resources that was assigned to this task.
  2. Each of the resources has a unique color assigned, instead of the confusing multi-resource color assignment that we saw earlier.
  3. Each of the resources appears by itself in the legend, instead of a part of a larger
    conglomeration of resources.
  4. The square brackets enclosing the percentage figures [%] are removed from the legend.

Once you have column splitting turned on, it’s really easy to see potential resource conflicts. Just group your swimlanes by the split resource column, to get a resource-by-resource view like the one below:

Even in this simple case, you can see with tasks close together, now in the same swimlane, that there is no apparent schedule conflict for Team 1.

While most people will use column splitting for resource assignments, it’s important to understand that column splitting will work for any Microsoft Project column!

In this blog series, we’ve seen most of the new features in OnePager Pro 5.0. Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. We are committed to responding directly and sharing your interesting comments and thoughts with other readers, where appropriate.

What’s new in OnePager Pro 5.0 (Part 5/6)

Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting is perhaps the most powerful feature in OnePager Pro 5.0. Why? Because conditional formatting lets you drive marker shape, color, borders, font, and height with data from your Microsoft Project Plan, and automatically update these attributes as your plan changes. With OnePager Pro 5.0, you can set up conditional formatting rules that look like this:

These rules will automatically be applied to the tasks and milestones in your OnePager Pro chart based on the data that you already have in Microsoft Project.

The simple Microsoft Project plan below has some sample data that will be picked up by the conditional formatting rules. Notice that initially, all tasks are marked as “Low Risk”:

When the project view is first created, all three low risk tasks are formatted with a green color according to the conditional formatting rules:

Now, let’s update the project plan, adjusting the risk of two of the tasks:

When we refresh the OnePager Pro chart, the conditional formatting rules are automatically reapplied, and the tasks change the formatting automatically based on the changes in Microsoft Project:

The example above is pretty simple, but it illustrates the power of conditional formatting. Think about how much time you would spend making PowerPoint slides showing this information. With conditional formatting, you can create Gantt Art instead of Gantt charts!

Our final post will cover a useful enhancement to OnePager Pro 5.0 that allows for better management of projects with complex resource assignments.