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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Microsoft Project 2010 quick review

First impression

The first thing new users will notice is that the Ribbon interface has now been applied to MS Project. While a large number of people dislike the Ribbon interface, Office 2010 contains a fantastic new feature which allows you to create your own tab containing any combination of buttons you like. You can read more about this in our Office 2010 review blog .
Microsoft Project 2010 ribbon
Double-clicking tasks still displays the traditional Task Information panel which is largely unchanged from earlier versions of MS Project and many panels produced by the buttons on the Ribbon are also the same as in earlier versions.
Manual Scheduling mode / Automatic Scheduling mode
Experienced users of MS Project will be well aware of the problem of inexperienced users typing start and/or finish dates into their tasks inadvertedly leaving a trail of Start No Earlier Than and Finish No Earlier Than constraints behind them. Microsoft have attempted to address this issue of incorrect usage by creating a Manual Schedule / Auto Schedule toggle mode.
By default, Project 2010 starts in Manual Scheduling mode which allows people to enter start and finish dates without causing constraints to be added to their tasks. The same is also true of dragging the manually scheduled task bars across the Gantt chart. To add flexibility to this feature, Microsoft have allowed users to add partial information for tasks such as only the duration or only one date. Manual tasks can also be linked to automatic tasks as shown below.
Automatic and Manual scheduled tasks
This manual scheduling allows novices to simply type their desired task dates to produce a Gantt chart while experienced users can create their project sheets in automatic mode which utilises the powerful Project scheduling engine with only a few changes (such as that adding resources to existing resourced tasks no longer adjusts the duration by default). Manually scheduled tasks can be quickly and easily converted to automatically scheduled tasks, hence providing the best of both worlds.
MS Project 2010 contains a new view called the Timeline which by default sits above the Gantt chart. It is useful for seeing the length and start/end dates of the project and for quickly and easily viewing different parts of the Gantt chart. It also allows you to add your choice of tasks and milestones to it, so you can produce a personalised project summary.
Project 2010 timeline
This timeline can be inserted into emails, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations or practically any document capable of displaying graphics. This feature is an excellent addition to Project.
Team planner
The team planner, while existing in various forms in previous versions of Project, now has a more attractive and informative view with its own dedicated access button.
Project 2010 team planner
This view in particular will make it easier for those using manual scheduling mode to rearrange tasks according to overallocation, though those using automatic scheduling still have the same levelling tools available.
Compare projects
Microsoft Project 2010 allows you to compare two projects with each other, ideal for when multiple project sheets get out of hand or you wish to compare a previous project with the current project.
Inactive tasks
For those tasks which you want to keep in your project sheet in an inactive way, the new Inactivate Task button now allows you to keep all the information in the project sheet without it impacting the scheduling of your project sheet. The task bar changes to a clear task bar and can be made active again with a single click.
Easier access to multiple baselines
Baselines 1 to 10 which in the past were sometimes inconvenient to display are now available on a simple drop-down menu to make switching views between baselines very easy.
A variety of formatting options
Project 2010 allows you to use many in-built colour-schemes for your Gantt chart while also utilising easy options for displaying critical path, slack and late tasks.
Project 2010 formatting tab
While not technically new features, these controls on the Format tab make altering the view of your Gantt chart very easy.
Microsoft have programmed Project 2010 to be compatible with previous versions of Microsoft Project, allowing Project 2010 users to create files which can be opened in version 07 and 03 then opened again in version 2010 though it goes without saying that the new Project 2010 features are not available when using versions 07 and 03 of MS Project.
Should I upgrade?
There are more changes to Project 2010 than mentioned above (though the above changes are the most apparent) and overall, the upgrades and changes to Microsoft Project 2010 make it a very good improvement over previous versions of this 26-year-old program. If you have an office full of people using Project 2007 correctly, it may not be worth upgrading unless you wish to utilise some of the new features specified above. However, if you have any users of MS Project who do not know how to use the scheduling engine in Project correctly, Project 2010 is a worthy upgrade which will make everyone's life easier and hopefully result in less infamous "Microsoft Excel project sheets" being made in the future!
Monday, 19 July 2010

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