Adding a Current Tasks Flag

It is important to keep your project team focused on current and near-term tasks. If you want to send out a weekly update to your project team, showing which tasks are active, but incomplete, or scheduled to start in the next week, it would help to have a flag that automatically identifies those tasks for you. Here’s how to add it to your MS Project plan.

Inserting the Flag

Right click on the column where you want to insert the status indicator. Click “Insert Column” and then select Flag 1. Right click on the newly inserted column and select “Custom Fields.” From here, you can rename the field (I chose “Act” to keep it brief). Then, under custom attributes, click on the radio button for Formula. You’ll get a warning message, but that’s fine because you really do want to calculate the values.

Next, click on the Formula button and paste in the following:

IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd([Status Date],”5″) And [% Complete]<>100,True,False)

Click OK, and then click on the Graphical Indicators button. This is where you choose the flag to display and associate it with a specific value. The formula will return a binary value—think of it as Yes or No.

In this example, the flag will only appear for non-summary rows. Your project team members will likely be more interested in the specific tasks assigned to them than in the summary tasks.

Click in the first cell in the first row and select “equals” from the pulldown list. Then, click within the second cell. You will be presented with a list of all available fields, but you want the “Yes” value at the top of the list. Click in the third cell and choose a graphical image that meets your needs. I used a blue flag, but the light bulb image is also a good choice.

To confirm, click OK.

Using the Flag

In the formula, we reference a field called Status Date. This is set at the project level, under the Project tab. In this case, I’ve set the status date to May 14.

The formula will add five working days to the status date, as reflected in the project calendar. In this case, the result will be May 21. If a non-working day, such as a holiday, falls during that period the formula will take that into account. Thus, any task with a start date on or before May 21 and not at 100% complete will be flagged.

In our example, Task 1 is not flagged because it is marked 100% complete. Task 2 was scheduled to finish on May 11, but is not yet 100% complete, so it is flagged. Task 3 and 4 are flagged because the start dates fall on or before May 21. Tasks that are scheduled to start after May 21 are not flagged.

By setting the filter on the Act field to Yes, only the flagged tasks will be visible. The resulting data can easily be captured in a PDF or image file and incorporated into an Email or status report. This is useful for communicating current and near-term tasks to the project team, as noted earlier.


The “5” in the formula is the part that specifies five working days. For two weeks, use “10”. If you want to use a different reference point, change Start to a different date field such as Baseline Start. Explore the list of available fields in the Formula screen by clicking on the Field button.

Another alternative is to use the current date. In the formula, replace [Status Date] with Now(). This will save the step of setting the status date.

IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd(Now(),”5″) And [% Complete]<>100,True,False)

You can also add criteria to the formula. For example, you may want to filter out summary tasks. This allows you to focus attention on the individual tasks.

IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd([Status Date],”5″) And [% Complete]<>100 And [Summary]=False,True,False)

If you think of other variations that might be useful, leave a comment below.

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Written by Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project management consultant with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources and in benefits administration. In addition to his articles and blog posts, Dave curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management at The Practicing IT Project Manager, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.

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  1. Avatar photo

    Nice tip. Thanks for sharing

  2. thanks , very good

  3. When copying the formula into the box for Edit formula I get an error message. Entering the following text: IIf([Start]<ProjDateAdd([Status Date],”5″) And [% Complete]100 And [Summary]=False,True,False) Error message is: The formula contains a syntax error or contains a reference to an unrecognized field or function name. The following formula text is highlighted: ”5″) And [% Complete]100 And [Summary]=False,True,False). What do I need to correct?

  4. Hi Mike,

    It appears that you left out the from the formula. That fragment should read: “And [% Complete]100 And [Summary]=False”

  5. OK, I just had the not-equal-to stripped out from my response, and I can’t go back and edit it. Sorry, this is one of the technical problems with inserting formulas into comments. Let me know if that doesn’t resolve the problem.

  6. I think I have another problem. I am trying to create this flag on an Enterprise MS Project Server. FYI: I am copying the text directly from the article and it doesn’t matter what text string I use I get the same error message.

  7. This didn’t resolve the error message. I have tried copying each formula in Edit Formula box and I get an error message every time. The error message starts at ”5″) And [% Complete]100 And [Summary]=False,True,False) and goes to the end of the formula. The error message I get is the same for each formula I try to enter. “The formula contains a syntax error or contains a reference to an unrecognized field or function name. To return to the Formula dialog box and highlight the error, click ok.” My column headings are Task Mode, Task Name, Duration, Start, Finish, % Complete, Resource Names, Action, Predecessors. I’m using Project 2010. Just in case my not-equal-to gets stripped out when I click enter I do have it in each of the formulas I have entered.

  8. Dave, I finally figured out the problem. In the formula the,”5″) text had an extra space. I typed the line in versus copying the text from the article into the Formula dialog box and it worked.

  9. Good to hear that you cleared it up, Mike. I have another article coming up with an even more complex formula, so it’s good that you shared your debugging experience with everyone.

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