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Ask the Teacher: Tips for Creating Templates

Rob S. of Schaumburg, IL asked: Can you give me some best practices for creating Microsoft Office Project templates? And in a related question Rebecca S. from Lansdale, PA asked: I just completed a project and I want to re-use the schedule to manage another similar project. I have cleared out some of the task fields but there seems to be a lot of leftover data. How do I turn an existing project schedule into a template?

Answer: Id like to start with Rebecca’s question regarding taking an existing project schedule and using it as a template. Just clearing specific fields of information won’t remove all related calculated fields that have been affected. The best way to turn a used schedule into a template is to save it as a template and programmatically remove data. See below for the steps, which apply to versions Project 2000 through Project 2007 only:

  1. Choose File | Save As.
  2. At the bottom of the form select in Save As type: Template.
  3. The form in Figure 1 appears. Select all of the values that you would like removed and click Save. The template will also be placed in the template area on your hard drive and ready for use when needed.Ask the Teacher: Tips for Creating Templates
  4. To use the template click on File | New | on my computer (left bar).
  5. The template should be in the General section of the form. Click on it, then click OK.

Below are also some tips to make your template easier to use.

  • A template should not contain any dates, baselines, constraints or deadlines.
  • Use common language — stay away from company-speak and use real words. The next person who uses it might not be familiar with the internal language of the organization. Also, this will be extremely helpful if you expect contractors to use your templates or if you use the project schedule to create customer-facing reports and presentations.
  • Use generic resources (or roles). Use the real job title and not an abbreviation. If it’s an internal term, explain it in the notes.
  • All tasks should have a predecessor and a successor except the first and last tasks. Add milestones in meaning locations throughout the schedule. Check usefulness by applying the Milestone filter and checking the milestone report. Milestones are goal points and should be treated as such.
  • Use notes to explain what the work of the tasks is. Use notes to explain details concerning a resource requirement. Use notes to explain details concerning an assignment. You might know what you mean, but would others
  • Add schedule slack into the template by adding tasks in the project or at the end of the schedule. Never create a template for the tightest schedule possible.
  • Divide the work into logical sections. If the template is at a high level, include check lists in the notes fields. Dont put in so many details, it becomes overwhelming.
  • Duration and Work estimates should be for worst case, not best case.
  • Resource Level the template. Generic resources can be leveled — and should be to reflect a more realistic picture.
  • Use this time to create standardized reports and custom elements that can aide you in creating a repeatable process.
Written by Ellen Lehnert

Ellen Lehnert, PMP, Microsoft Project MVP, MCP, is a independent consultant and trainer on Microsoft Project and Project Server. She has taught Microsoft Project over 400 times and is the author of  MS Project 2010 and

2013 published courseware. Ellen is also a contributor and tech editor for many reference books, a developer for the Microsoft Project certification tests and is a frequent meeting speaker for Microsoft, MPUG and PMI. Contact Ellen at ellen@lehnertcs.com.

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