When a project is similar to one you’ve managed in the past, using an existing Microsoft Project file is a good start. But that old file could have people who don’t work for you anymore, lower labor rates and costs, or other obsolete details. Clearing the detritus of a previous project could take as long as creating the new project from scratch.
The best way to create a Project file without baggage is by saving the existing Project file as a template. You can tell Project to deep-six the information you don’t want and — voila! — you have a new Project file with only the information that’s still useful.
Note: When you choose File | New, the New Project task pane tempts you with the From Existing Project link. But this link is just Save As by another name. It doesn’t clean up your existing file in any way.
Here’s how you create a new project from an existing one:
1. Open the existing project and choose File | Save As.
2. In the Save As dialog box, choose the folder for the new Project file, for instance, a folder dedicated to the templates you create. See the section below, “Fast Access to Custom Templates,” to learn more.
3. In the “File name” box, type a new name for the template.
4. In the “Save as type” drop-down list choose Template and then click Save.
5. In the Save As Template dialog box (Figure 1), turn on the checkboxes for the data you want to eliminate—not what you want to keep. Typically, you want to remove baseline values, actual values, and whether the tasks have been published to Project Server. If costs have changed, you can get rid of resource rates and fixed costs, too.
Figure 1. Tell Project what you want to remove from the template.
1. Click Save to close the dialog box and create the template, which uses an .mpt file extension (Microsoft Project Template).
2. To create your new Project file, choose File and, at the bottom of the File menu, choose the template you just saved.
Tip: If you tell Project where you store your custom templates (see “Fast Access to Custom Templates”), you can choose File | New, and then click On Computer in the New Project task pane. Your templates appear in the Templates dialog box General tab.
3. Save the Project file by choosing File | Save. In the Save As dialog box, type a new name for the Project file, make sure that the “Save as type” box is set to Project, choose the folder you want, and then click Save.
Fast Access to Custom Templates
With time and effort invested in building your own templates, you want them readily available when you’re creating a new project. The first step to fast access is saving your templates in a folder dedicated to your custom templates (not mixed in with Project’s built-in templates). Then tell Project where you keep your templates, and the Templates dialog box displays them on its General tab from then on.
Here’s how you tell Project where your templates are:
1. Choose Tools | Options.
2. In the Options dialog box, click the Save tab.
3. In the File Types list, click User Templates and then click Modify.
4. In the Modify Location dialog box, choose your templates folder and then click OK. The Modify Location dialog box closes and the path to your template folder appears to the right of the User Templates label.
Note: To tell Project where to find your regular Project files, click Projects, and then click Modify. Choose the folder where you store your working project files. Then, whenever you choose File | Open, Project displays the contents of that folder in the Open dialog box.
5. Click OK to close the Options dialog box.
Now, when you click the On Computer link in the New Project task pane, the General tab lists the templates in your user templates folder, as Figure 2 illustrates.
Figure 2. Your templates appear on the General tab of the Templates dialog box.
Using Built-in Microsoft Templates
Microsoft Project comes with built-in templates and Microsoft Office Online offers a bunch more. To create a new Project file from a built-in template, do the following:
1. Choose File | New.
2. In the New Project task pane, click On Computer.
3. In the Templates dialog box, click the Project Templates tab.
4. Click the icon for the template you want and then click OK. Project creates a new Project file based on that template.
Tip: If you use the same templates over and over, in the New Project task pane, look at the Recently Used Templates section. If the template you want is there, click its link and Project immediately creates a new file based on that template.
Using Online Templates
Templates On Office Online sounds helpful, but the link by that name in the New Project task pane and the corresponding button in the Templates dialog box simply opens a browser window to the Microsoft Office Online templates home page. Then, you’re on your own finding Project templates.
The best way to find online templates is another option on the New Project task pane. In the Templates section in the Search Online For box, type keywords that describe the template you want. Then, click Go. The Project Help window displays the templates that match your keywords. Click an icon to see a preview or click Download Now to do just that.
To learn more about Microsoft certification, read, “Microsoft Project Management Certification: How to Get Started.”