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How to Show a Project's Critical Path using OnePager Pro

Illustrating the critical path of a project to mitigate risk

Understanding your project's critical path can mean the difference between staying on track and falling behind schedule. As constraints tighten and dependencies change, it is important to understand which deliverables can be relaxed, and which ones must stay on schedule.

Microsoft Project does a good job of calculating your project's critical path. If you need to present decisions or alternatives to upper management or stakeholders, OnePager Pro can help you by quickly creating charts that highlight the critical path of your project.

This article describes how to use OnePager Pro to create a Gantt chart that highlights the critical path, using the project plan you have already created in Microsoft Project. OnePager Pro is a Microsoft Project plug-in that creates dynamic project timelines. Don't have OnePager Pro yet? You can download a 15-day free trial to see how it works.

  1. Start with your Microsoft Project plan. In this example, we'll use a simple project plan with relatively few tasks, but with enough complex dependencies to create an interesting critical path:

  2. A Microsoft Project plan with multiple dependencies, creating a complex critical path.
  3. Next, we'll set up a template that you can use to track or highlight the critical path of this and future projects. Locate the Templates... button next to the OnePager Pro button. In Project 2010/2013/2016, the button will be on your Add-Ins tab, while in Project 2007 and earlier, it will be on your Microsoft Project toolbar.
  4. On the Task Bars tab of the View/edit template menu, ensure that the Critical-Path Segments box is checked.
    OnePager Pro enables project managers to show their project's critical path in a number of different formats. You can also change the format of the critical path markers by clicking the Critical Path Properties button, which will show the Set critical-path properties menu box. In this example, we'll use a red color taking up 40% of the Gantt bar height.
    OnePager Pro enables project managers to show their project's critical path in a number of different formats.
  5. Click the Save and Use at the bottom of the Templates menu to return to your MS Project document. Now, click the OnePager Pro button to begin importing your Microsoft Project data into OnePager Pro. After clicking the New option from the Start screen that pops up...
    OnePager Pro Start screen. ...a menu will appear with a few choices about your project presentation. Give your project view a unique name. In this example, we will name the project view "Simple Project Critical-Path". For task selection, we will choose Flag20, which we added to designate which items we wanted to pull into our OnePager document.
    The snapshot date should be indicative of when the data you are importing is accurate. If you haven't updated your MS Project data for a week, for example, then you'd probably want to make your snapshot date for a week ago. When you are finished, click Create new project view:
    OnePager Pro's choices form gives the user control over how much of a project schedule to import into a presentation.
  6. OnePager Pro will import your data from Microsoft Project and create a project summary chart that looks something like the one below. Notice the red lines along the top of certain tasks--these tasks are on the critical path of the project. The project's tasks have also been automatically color-coded by the resource assignments in Microsoft Project. OnePager Pro can automatically color-code tasks and milestones based on any data column in Microsoft Project.
    OnePager Pro project schedule showing a project's critical path in red.
  7. If you would like to show links between two tasks on the critical path, left-click on the first task, hold your CTRL key then left-click on a second task. Right-click one of the selected group and choose Event Links in the menu that appears, or you can also click the Link button on the Insert tab. A menu will then appear, allowing you to specify the format of the arrow linking the two tasks:
    Easily link two related project tasks using OnePager Pro.
  8. You can repeat the previous step, adding links between multiple tasks on the critical path. OnePager also lets you customize the document in various ways such as reposition text labels, or even entire Gantt bars. The Project-View Properties button on the Home tab of the ribbon includes many settings that can enable you to create a project schedule that may look something like this:
    MS Project Critical Path Example: This project schedule shows the critical path, complete with task links. Created in OnePager Pro from a Microsoft Project plan.

You're finished! By using OnePager Pro to create a project presentation, you not only create better-looking schedules, but you also save considerable time and frustration over drawing Gantt charts by hand in PowerPoint or Visio.

Get started today by downloading a free trial or attending one of our demonstration webinars.

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