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MS Project Hacks from the Practicing IT PM

If you are an avid MS Project user, it is worth to have a look at the novel tips over at the practicing IT PM.  Dave Gordon has compiled 7 MS Project Tips in an E-Book available for free download.  Here are three to give a flavor,


Crafting Formulas for Calculated Fields


My usage of MS Project is relatively simple and I seldom use the full and advanced functionality this powerful program has on offer.  One such feature is the use of functions whereby you can create Excel type equations which process inputs.  The example Dave mentions is returning a number, which depends on the relation of the Scheduled Start/Finish Date to Today’s date.  For example, if the Scheduled date is not after today, it returns a 4.  If the Scheduled start date is after today, it returns a 1, otherwise 3.

IIf(Finish>Now(), IIf(Start>Now(),1,3),4)

A complete list of the MS Project Functions is available at the MS Project site to tailor to your individual needs.

MS Project Active Task Indicator

Add a Current Tasks Flag


This tip provides the team with an indicator for tasks that are either in progress or due to start in the near future.  It may be useful for weekly project status updates.  The result is a little flag beside each task as shown below.  It utilizes the same functionality outlined in the first tip and again is completely configurable to individual needs.


Add a Status Indicator to Detail Tasks


This tip provides a traffic light kind of indicator to indicate the task status, whether that be complete, late or at some risk of delaying the Scheduled Completion date.  The rules governing the indicator colour are based on the % Complete, Scheduled Start and Scheduled Finish dates.  The detail is shown below but can be modified as desired,


For zero duration tasks (milestones)

o If % Complete = 100, return Blue

o If the scheduled finish is at least seven days away, return Clear

o Otherwise, if % Complete is < 80, return Red

o If % Complete is between 80 and 99, return Yellow


For non-zero duration tasks

o If % Complete = 100, return Blue

o If it’s not scheduled to start yet, return Clear

o If past the scheduled finish date and % Complete is less than 100%, return Red

o If % complete >= the prorated expected completion, return Green

o Otherwise, return Yellow.


The implementation in MS Project is done using Formula capability highlighted in the earlier tips.  When complete, you will end up with something akin to that shown below.  Needless to say there will not be any Red signals as everything will be on schedule 🙂

MS Project Traffic Lights



So, that’s a quick sample of the kind of tips available in Dave Gordon’s MS Project Hacks E-Book.  The full copy is available for download here along with sample MS Project files to get you started.


Brendan Toner

Let me welcome you to this alcove of the internet. In this little productivity blog, I detail the trials and tribulations of trying to use my time more effectively utilising the latest productivity tools and techniques. I hope you enjoy the articles, cheers! Brendan Toner, author of Done Before Brekky

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3 Responses

  1. Dave Gordon says:

    Thanks for the recommendation, Brendan! And if you haven’t stopped by my site before, I also curate a weekly list of articles and blog posts of interest to project managers.

  2. Done Before Brekky says:

    No problem Dave. As for the weekly round up – I already subscribed to the email.


  1. July 31, 2016

    […] If you are an avid MS Project user, it is worth to download the MS Projects hacks E-Book over at the practicing IT PM. Here are three tips from that.  […]

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