Delin, Harold, and Michael of Kalamazoo, MI, ask: In MS Project 2010 desktop, we will be managing several projects using a Master project. We noticed that since each project used some of the same task names, when we combined projects, it was hard to tell which task belonged to which project. Any suggestions?

John of Indianapolis asked: I use the same task name in multiple sections of the same project. How can I know which Summary task the Detail task is related to

Ellen answers: You have a few choices of how to handle this situation. You might choose a combination of solutions. Below are a few suggestions.

 1) Create a customized WBS code for each project using an abbreviation of each project within the customized code. To create a customized WBS code:

For all levels of MS Project: Click on Project| WBS| Define code.

After you have defined the WBS code, you may insert the WBS column into any tasks table or add the WBS code to the task name field.

  • Using MS Project 2010: Click on Format| Outline number.
  • Using MS Project 2007 or earlier: Click on Tools| Options| View| Show Outline Number.

2) Make the task names unique by including more description as well as the project name. Most people feel this is a lot of work and makes the task descriptions too long, so it might not be the best solution for the problem, but it remains an option.

3) Add the field “Project” to task tables. This field contains the same project name that is held in the Project Summary task for the project. It is also the same name that will be used as the title on reports. Determine if this field can be used or if the name is too long to be added as a column for reports.

4) Create a project short-name field and populate the column with an abbreviated project name. This option will create an alternate field that could be inserted into task tables, reports, and views.

To create a customized field:

  • Using MS Project 2010: Click on Project| Customized fields.
  • Using MS Project 2007 or earlier: Click on Tools| Customize| Fields.

The box below will appear.

  • Click on Text1 (or any unused text field).
  • Click on Rename.
  • Enter the new field name “Project Short Name”
  • Click OK to close the Rename box.

Ask the Experts: Similar Task Names

After the field is created, it may be populated with the abbreviated project name. This new field of “Project Short Name” can be added to any Task view, including the Task Usage view, to indicate which project is the source of an assignment. The field can also be used to group and filter the tasks as needed.

Carrying it one step further, you can also combine the Project Short Name field and the Task “Name” field into one field and use the new field as a substitute for Task Name on any task reports, views, tables, etc.

To create this combined field, repeat the steps indicated above to create a new field called “ProjShortName & Task”

With the “ProjShortName & Task” field name selected:

  • Click on Formula to open the Formula box.
  • Click in the Formula box.
  • Click on the Field button below the box.
  • Select Text.
  • Select Custom Text.
  • Select “Project Short Name.” (The field will move inside the formula box.)
  • Click the “+” sign button.
  • Type “:  ” (double quote, colon, 2 spaces, double quote).
  • Click the “+” sign button.
  • Select Text.
  • Select Name.
  • Click OK to close the box.

The formula will look like the view below.

Ask the Experts: Similar Task Names

The fields that have been created are native to the files they have been created in. Copy the fields between files using the Organizer.

NOTE: In MS Project 2010 there is an option to automatically place created objects in the Global.mpt. This option refers to views, tables, filters, and groups only.

To use the Organizer to copy the field objects from one project to another and into the Global.mpt:

  • Using MS Project 2010: Click on: File| Info| Organizer| Fields.
  • Using MS Project 2007 or earlier: Click on: Tools| Organizer| Fields.

After combining the files, insert the “ProjShortName & Task” field into a table. Note that the tasks are not indented for the WBS, but you can clearly see the source for each task.

Ask the Experts: Similar Task Names

NOTE: Many users also have the situation of using the same task name in multiple sections of the same project. A customized field could be created called Summary Task Name and then populated with the names of the summary tasks used in the project. When the field is added to the task name you will get both values in the same column. The column can be used to substitute the Task Name column for reporting.