Change Highlighting isn’t available in previous versions of Microsoft Project. Like my previous topic, Multiple Undo/Redo, Change Highlighting may be all the reason you need to upgrade. If you make many changes to your project plans and struggle with identifying the effects of those changes on your project, this simple but effective feature is for you.

Change Highlighting assists you in identifying how changing data affects your other project variables. These include but aren’t limited to project duration as well as task start and finish. Resource data may change as well, though I don’t address this in the article.

In the first article of this series about why to consider upgrading to Project 2007, I examined Multiple Undo/Redo. This second article explains how Change Highlighting and Undo/Redo are related and together will let you change and undo project variables until you’re satisfied with your project plan.

The Basics of Change Highlighting

Change Highlighting is turned on by default when Project is installed. You can check this by looking at the View Menu. If Change Highlighting is on, your list of items should include “Hide Change Highlighting” as shown in Figure 1. If Change Highlighting is Off, the list will contain the option to “Show Change Highlighting” as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Hide Change Highlighting.

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Change Highlighting
Figure 2: Show Change Highlighting.

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Change Highlighting
Figure 3 shows project data before any changes are made. If a change is made to the duration of task five, what will the effect of that change be on other tasks in the project? In previous versions you would have to painstakingly analyze the project in order to answer the question. In Project 2007, it’s a breeze.
Figure 3: Gantt Chart before changes.

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Change Highlighting
Changing the duration of task five to 10 days kicks off calculations and changes to other project data, which then initiates the Change Highlighting. Figure 4 illustrates how the change to the duration has affected the finish date of task five as well as the start and finish dates of tasks six and seven. As you can see, Change Highlighting is a real timesaver!
Figure 4: Gantt Chart with change and results identified.

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Change Highlighting
Change Highlighting exists only until the next change occurs. It then highlights the effects of the new change. In Figure 5 the duration of task six was changed to four days, which triggered new task date calculations and initiated a new round of Change Highlighting.
Figure 5. Gantt Chart with a second change and results identified.

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Change Highlighting
Change Highlighting works well with Multiple Undo/Redo in that you’re usually able to return to your original project plan without saving the changes to the Project file. Figure 6 shows the list of possible actions in the Undo button’s drop down list. This allows the user to go back to the change point in their data entry sequence that gives them the best solution to task dates.
Figure 6. Multiple Undo makes it possible to return to a previous change point.

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Change Highlighting
Use the Change Highlighting feature as a tool for what-if analysis. It’s fast, very visible and can easily be undone.

Next time: Cost and Budget resources.