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Microsoft Project Predecessors

How to link two tasks together to show a predecessor-successor relationship

This article will show you how to set up dependencies in Microsoft Project, which are sometimes known as links.

Linking Predecessors and Successors in Project with Drag and Drop

  1. Start with a simple Microsoft Project plan. In this example, we have only two tasks. The first task is already scheduled, and we want to make the second task depend on the first task:
    Microsoft Project plan with two tasks.
  2. To link two tasks together, first click on the predecessor task, which in this case is the first task. Then, hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and select the successor task, which is the second task. The result should be that two tasks are selected:
    Select two tasks in Microsoft Project.

    It's very important to select the tasks in the correct order. The predecessor should be selected first, and the successor should be selected second. If you end up selecting the tasks in reverse order, your dependencies will be backwards.

  3. With the two tasks selected, go to the Task tab of Microsoft Project and click the Link button to link the two tasks together:

    Link two tasks together in Microsoft Project.

  4. Once you've linked the two tasks together, you should see something like this:

    Predecessor in Microsoft Project.

    Notice that the start and finish dates for the second task are now filled in, and are based on the finish dates for the first task. The first task finishes on Friday, March 15, 2019, which means that the second task is now scheduled to start on the following Monday, March 18th.

    If you look in the Predecessors column, you will see a "1" appear for the second task. This is your confirmation that the second task is now linked to the first task.

Changing Dependency Relationship Types

The example above assumes that you want to create Finish-to-Start dependencies between tasks. This is the most common type of link, because most project managers plan their schedules so that one task cannot start before another task finishes. However, there are actually four types of dependencies that you can link in Microsoft Project:

  • Finish-to-Start: This is the most common dependency, and means that the successor task cannot start until the predecessor task has finished. Unless you specify otherwise in Microsoft Project, all links that you create will be Finish-to-Start
  • Finish-to-Finish: This type of dependency means that the linked tasks finish at the same time. Specifically, the successor task cannot finish until the predecessor task has finished. This is useful for milestones, as you can set a project handoff milestone to finish the same day that the last task in the project is finished.
  • Start-to-Finish: While not commonly used, this type of dependency means that the successor task cannot finish until the predecessor task starts.
  • Start-to-Start: This dependency ensures that the linked tasks start at the same time. Specifically, the successor task will always start at the same time as the predecessor task. These types of dependencies are also useful for milestones, as you can set a project kickoff milestone that starts at the same time as the first task in your project plan.

If you have linked predecessors and successors in Microsoft Project, you have created Finish-to-Start dependencies by default. Continuing the example above, here is how we would change the relationship between the first and second task:

  1. Hover your mouse over the successor task and double-click it. In this case, it means that we need to double-click on the second task:

    Double-click on the successor task.

  2. The Task Information window will appear in Microsoft Project. Click on the Predecessors tab to edit the dependency logic:

    Microsoft Project Task Information Screen

  3. In the Type column, change the dependency type from Finish-to-Start as shown above, to Start-to-Start:

    Change Predecessor Rules in Microsoft Project

  4. After clicking OK, Microsoft Project will reschedule the second task so that it now starts at the same time as the first task instead of waiting for the first task to finish:

    Start-to-Start Predecessor Relationship

    Notice that the second task now starts as the exact same time as the first task--this is the result of changing the dependency type.

    The notation in the Predecessors column now reads "1SS", which is short hand for a Start-to-Start dependency based on the first task.

Predecessors Using Shorthand Linking Syntax

While some users are content linking tasks together using the point-and-click method described above, there is a shorthand way to establish dependencies in your project plan as well. Instead of clicking on two tasks to link them, you can type directly into the Predecessors field.

To do this, you need to know the ID (line number) of the predecessor task and the type of dependency you want to create. Here is the shorthand syntax for the four different dependency types:

  • Finish-to-Start: FS
  • Finish-to-Finish: FF
  • Start-to-Start: SS
  • Start-to-Finish: SF

If you are creating Finish-to-Start dependencies, you can technically omit the shorthand and only enter the line number of the predecessor task. Because Finish-to-Start is the default link type, Microsoft Project will assume that you want a Finish-to-Start link, even if you don't specify "FS" in your shorthand.

Here is a step-by-step example of how to hand-key a link in Microsoft Project:

  1. Since the two tasks in your project plan are already linked, let's add a third task and use it to create a fresh predecessor relationship:

    Add another task to Microsoft Project

  2. This time, let's create a Finish-to-Finish dependency from "Task 3" to "Task 2", which also happens to be line #2 in the Microsoft Project schedule. To set this up, left-click in the Predecessors field for "Task 3" and type in "2FF":

    Shorthand for typing in predecessor relationships in Microsoft Project

  3. When you press Enter, Microsoft Project will link the two tasks so that the third task finishes at the same time as the second task:

    Finish-to-Finish dependency in Microsoft Project

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