Unique IDs in Microsoft Project

Continuing our earlier discussion of Unique IDs, we’ll turn our attention this week to Microsoft Project. Project generally does a pretty good job of creating and maintaining Unique IDs so that you don’t have to worry about it, but we’ll cover a few gotchas in this article.

Your Unique IDs in OnePager will vary in MS Project based on whether you are:

  • Using Project on the desktop or connecting directly to Project Online or Project Server over your network; and
  • Reporting on a single project or on multiple projects

This blog post will focus specifically on desktop Microsoft Project (*.mpp files), but the next blog post in this series will cover Project Server and Project Online, as they’re a bit different.

Desktop Microsoft Project

When using desktop Microsoft Project and working with *.mpp files, you will most likely use the standard Unique ID field. A lot of people confuse this with the line number in Microsoft Project. By showing them side-by-side, you’ll see that they are not the same thing:

The Unique ID values in a given desktop Microsoft Project file will never change. So, as you insert new tasks into the middle of your project plan, you’ll see that the UIDs are out of order, but that’s OK, because it means that the same task always has the same UID.

Multiple MPP Files

When creating a OnePager report from multiple MPP files, the standard Microsoft Project Unique ID starts to have issues. This is because UIDs are integers that start at 1 for each new project and count up, so while they’re unique within a single project, they tend to repeat across multiple projects. Compare Project1 and Project2 below and notice that both projects have a Unique ID #2:

When building a multi-project report, your Unique ID needs to be unique across all imported projects. You can’t change the UID values in Microsoft Project, but OnePager can easily fix this issue by using a combination of the Unique ID plus the project name, giving you UIDs like this:

  • Project1_2
  • Project2_2

This way, even if your UIDs repeat across different projects, as long as your project names are different, OnePager will make everything unique.

The biggest gotcha here is not having unique project names, especially if you’re in the habit of building one Microsoft Project plan and then saving copies of it to generate new project plans. When you do this, the filenames may change, but the project names don’t always get updated. To be sure that you truly have unique project names, go to the Format tab in MS Project and turn on the Project Summary Task, which will appear on line #0:

If you find that your project summary task is incorrect and doesn’t match the name of your MPP file itself, change line #0 to the correct project name to avoid unintentional duplication.

When building a multi-project report in OnePager, be sure to start with one of our multi-project templates, which are automatically set up to include both the Unique ID and the Project Name in the UID field. If you prefer to build your own custom templates, you can enable this setting yourself under Templates > Advanced > Safely Combine Tasks from Different Files. As long as this setting is turned on in your template before you start importing files into a OnePager report, you’ll be all set.

In our next blog post, we’ll cover how UIDs work in Project Server and Project Online.

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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 Business Solutions, Senior Manager of Business Development 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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