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Quickly Present Dashboards & Custom Views

2012 June 22

OK, we tend to get many questions around this and one of the amazing thing I find is that even super users of MS Project tend to approach working in Project like Excel.

Yes we know that in 2010 it has the “User Defined Scheduling” which acts more like Excel, however there should never be a reason for an end user who repeatedly has to insert, move, delete columns for a view. In many cases this “rinse and repeat” process is cumbersome and un-needed.

Even executives like the option of quickly toggling or switching through a view to get to the “juicy” alerts or notifications, without having to labor through endless columns.

In my continued discussion/post I want to ensure end users know that you can easily right click and toggle in or out of any view, or a set of pre-defined columns. They can even define views.

OK, so let’s jump into some of these quick tips and tricks that help keep the necessary information easily accessible and optimize the end users time.

Customizing a field to have graphical indicators

You can easily customize a field to display graphical indicators (I won’t spend a lot of time here as this is covered in other posts).

  1. Simply Right Click on a Column Header
  2. Then select Custom Fields
The location of the Customize Fields menu item

Customize Fields is located in the Column Header contextual menu

Once you are there, you can choose the field or other fields and then use the Graphical Indicators… button to create values and conditions for showcasing different symbols.

how to use Custom Fields to assign graphical indicators

Select the field you want to assign the indicator to and then hit the Graphical Indicators button

A good example of this is creating conditions that give the end user or stakeholder a quick visual that alerts them to issues or problems in an escalating fashion (like stop light reporting).

Settings available for Graphical Indicators

There are many settings you can customize for your Graphical Indicators

Note that test conditions and values can be drawn from the field or if it is a look up table, you can pick from the list. Choosing a Graphical indicator (symbol) is your preference. In many cases I recommend not using the same symbols between different customized columns or dashboards so that you can differentiate between those columns.

One thing to mention is that if you are looking to have the graphical indicators roll up, you should click on the Project Summary option button and decide if it is rolled up from the task values or if they are different conditions or graphical indicators

OK, there is plenty more here, however the intent of this blog post is to help the end user of MS Project quickly present information and toggle back and forth between columns or data fields.

In this picture, you can see custom text values, different graphical indicators all showcasing different information.

A view with too many indicators

It is possible to have too many indicators

However this is not the most friendly working environment for people who want to print, do earned value analysis or even just progress and schedule updates. Let me show you some quick ways to take this view and toggle in, out and back and forth without having to insert and manually manipulate information. If your Right Click in the Upper Left hand Column (where the row and column headers meet), you are presented with a list of “Tables.” Tables are an arrangement of displayed columns in a pre-determined order.

A list of available tables

A list of tables brought up by a contextual click where the row and column headers meet

You can build tables on the fly (meaning manually inserting, moving or arranging and even sizing). If you choose to do this, instead of having to put the columns back to their original order, you can save this as “table” and call it up when you want to.

In follow-on posts, we will discuss the inclusion of Filters, Tables and Groups into a View. Right now we are focusing on saving the details of the data being presented in a view.

You can make all your changes and get the “Table” right the way that you like it and then save that table for future reference.

Save Fields as a New Table

saving a table for future reference

Once you save that table, this you can choose to either amend the existing table or to create a new table. In many cases people number the tables, views or add leading text like “_” underscores to sort the table to the top of the list.

In the picture above I have used “…” as an pretable indicator name.

save table dialog box

the Save Table dialog box

Once this is saved, it saves it to your local global template (Global.MPT), which means it is available for use on any other project files or new files as you need.

If you want to delete this table or edit this table, you can always use the organizer, but you can also quickly edit tables directly from the View Tab and clicking on Tables.

you can edit tables from the view tab

to edit tables from the view tab, go to View > Tables > More Tables

Once in More Tables, you can use the Organizer button to jump in and remove, rename that table.

use Organizer to rename tables

rename tables with the Organizer button

As seen in this next picture, you can rename it, delete it and even copy, or share it to other files.

multiple options for managing tables

You have many options in managing your tables

From here on out, all you should have to do is Right Click on the “Select All” column or go to the View Tab and click on Tables and choose your table.

choosing a table

choose your table from the “Select All” column

Happy Dashboard and Task switching!

the_author

Tim Runcie is the President and Founder of Advisicon, a Project Management consulting company with a global headquarters based in Vancouver, Washington. Advisicon specializes in training for project management best practices and the use of Microsoft’s project management tools like Microsoft Project, Project Server, and SharePoint.