Author: Tony Zink

Tony Zink is Vice President of Learning and Innovation at Houston, Texas-based EPMA, a Gold Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management Partner that provides PPM implementation, integration, development, training, and support services to large and small organizations world-wide. Tony volunteers his time to the Project Management, MS Project, and SharePoint user communities through organizing and presenting at conferences, user groups, and round table sessions, publishing articles, and answering questions in online forums. Tony co-authored two of the best-selling books in the Project and Portfolio Management field, 'Implementing and Administering Microsoft Project Server 2010' and 'Managing Enterprise Projects with Microsoft Project Server 2010', and he developed the entire training curriculum for EPMA Institute. In Tony's spare time, he is a bass slapper, a quadcopter pilot, and a karaoke superstar.

To turn off Autolink inserted or moved tasks, you would uncheck the box next to it.

Beware of ‘AutoLink Inserted or Moved Tasks’ Setting in Microsoft Project

There are several configuration settings available in Microsoft Project that control how the tool looks and behaves. Many of the settings are merely personal preferences, but some can be dangerous to your project schedule if you do not understand them and configure them properly. You can view or update these settings through the ‘Project Options’ dialog box (File > Options): One of the options available on the ‘Schedule’ page of the ‘Project Options’ dialog box is ‘Autolink inserted or moved tasks’ option: This option is typically enabled when you install one of the recent versions of Microsoft Project, and it is important to understand how it affects your project schedule. Only then can you decide whether you should enable the option… or disable it and potentially save yourself some grief. When the ‘Autolink inserted or moved tasks’ option is enabled, Microsoft Project automatically establishes logical dependencies — or “links” — when you insert a new task between two existing tasks in the schedule. Consider the example project schedule below… …in which a blank task line is inserted… …and a new task is added. Notice that the new task is automatically linked its neighboring tasks: Does the new ‘Review project schedule’ task indeed need to wait until after the ‘Prepare and submit project schedule’ task is finished? Must the ‘Prepare and submit schedule of values’ task wait until after the new ‘Review project schedule’ task is finished? Is Microsoft Project incorrectly assuming that the order of the items in the task list truly indicates the sequence that the tasks should be performed? Also, when deleting a task which is linked ‘in series’ between two other tasks, Microsoft Project automatically re-establishes new links /dependencies between the neighboring tasks: Microsoft Project is making another assumption that the two neighboring tasks should be sequentially connected, but is this assumption correct? When you drag a task from one position in the task list to another… …Microsoft Project automatically links the task to its new neighbors… but is this what you want? The moral of the story is this: with the ‘Autolink inserted or moved tasks’ option enabled, Microsoft Project automatically makes assumptions and creates task dependencies / links while you are working in the project schedule… whether you intend to do this or not. This could cause unintended changes to the logical cause-and-effect relationships throughout your project schedule, therefore making your forecasting model inaccurate. I suggest disabling this option to avoid inadvertent dependency logic being introduced into your project schedule. You can then review each task and establish its dependencies manually to represent the true flow of work through the project… without dealing with the automated software assumptions. Good luck!

The image shows a 3.5-inch floppy disk with a green arrow pointing down, indicating that something is being downloaded to the disk. PNG

Beware of Auto Save in Microsoft Project!

You may initially think that Microsoft Project’s auto save feature can be a great life saver… but beware! When you save a project schedule in Microsoft Project — either manually or automatically — all of your ‘undo’ operations are removed. Prior to the save: After the save (notice the ‘Undo’ button on the Quick Access Toolbar is greyed out):   The danger of auto save should be obvious; if Microsoft Project is configured to auto save periodically (every 5 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.) and if you have completed a series of actions in the project schedule that you may want the ability to undo, then the next auto save could wipe them out. You then need to remember the exact steps that you performed and the order that you performed them… and reverse them manually. Instead, you can choose to disable the Microsoft Project auto save feature and ‘train yourself’ to manually save periodically… when you are ready to lose your undo operations. To disable the auto save feature in Microsoft Project, complete the following steps: 1. Click the ‘File’ tab to enter the Microsoft Project Backstage.   2. Click the ‘Options’ item at the bottom of the Backstage menu.   3. In the ‘Project Options’ dialog box, click the ‘Save’ option in the left panel.   4. On the ‘Save’ page, deselect the ‘Auto save’ option, then click the ‘OK’ button to close the ‘Project Options’ dialog box.   If you MUST enable the auto save feature in Microsoft Project, I strongly recommend that you also enable the‘Save active project only’ option, as well as the ‘Prompt before saving’ option; these selections will limit the auto save to the project that you are currently working on, and Microsoft Project will prompt you before saving (and deleting your undo operations).

A blue pushpin.

Quick Trick: Attaching General Project Notes to the Project Summary Task

Perhaps you are aware that you can use the Task Notes feature in Microsoft Project to attach work details, update history, or other notes to individual tasks in a project schedule… but what if you want to store general notes in a project that are NOT specific to an individual task? You could store a general overview or description for the project, information describing usage of the 11 baselines, or other types of information describing the project in the Project Summary notes field. Here’s how… Open your project and display a Task view such as the ‘Gantt Chart’ view: Display the Project Summary task (task ID #0) by clicking the ‘Format’ ribbon tab and selecting the ‘Project Summary Task’ option:   Select the Project Summary row in the left task table, click the ‘Task’ ribbon tab, and click the ‘Notes’ button (double-clicking the Project Summary task also works here):   Under the ‘Notes’ tab in the ‘Summary Task Information’ dialog box, enter your general project notes, then click the ‘OK’ button:   Notice the format that I use for each entry that I added to the notes: – [ENTRY DATE] — [MY INITIALS] — [NOTE ENTRY]. This allows you to neatly add multiple entries into the notes area, while historically tracking when each entry was made, as well as who made the entry. After adding notes with the ‘Summary Task Information’ dialog box for the first time, you see a yellow note icon in the ‘Indicators’ column on the Project Summary row:   Good luck!  

The Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. It is named after its inventor, Henry Gantt, who developed it in the early 1900s.

Quick Trick: Align Tasks and Gantt Bars with Grid Lines

Sometimes it can be difficult to visually align task rows in Microsoft Project with their corresponding shapes in the Gantt Chart: We can fix that in about 30 seconds by simply adding horizontal grid lines to the Gantt Chart to help align the left task rows with the Gantt shapes. Click the ‘Format’ tab in Microsoft Project to display the ‘Format’ ribbon: Click the ‘Gridlines’ button and select the ‘Gridlines…’ option from the pick list: In the ‘Gridlines’ dialog box, select the ‘Gantt Rows’ item in the left ‘Line to change’ list, select the small dashed line (———–) option from the ‘Type’ pick list, and select a dark grey color from the ‘Color’ pick list: Voila! The new horizontal grid lines in the Gantt Chart now make it easier to align the left task rows with their corresponding shapes in the Gantt Chart: Good luck!

NorthEast Connection Webinar: Give Your Project Workspaces a Facelift

  Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs): This Webinar is not in the PMI® system. However, it is eligible for self-directed learning PMI® PDU credit. Speakers: Tony Zink, MSProject Experts Event Description: One of the most powerful features in Project Server 2007 is the Project Workspace which is created for each project in the system. These SharePoint collaboration web sites not only come with several powerful features “in the box” such as Issue logs, Risk logs, and Project Document libraries which help project team participants share information with one another, but because they are built using SharePoint technologies, you can also easily add more features and change the design of the Project Workspace… without the need for any custom programming. Tony Zink MCTS of MSProjectExperts will show how to give your Project Workspaces a facelift by manipulating the built-in features, adding new features, and changing the overall look and feel of this powerful project collaboration tool. Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]

Webinar: Managing Projects with MS Project and SharePoint: Collaboration, Automation and Intelligence

  Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs): This Webinar is not in the PMI® system. However, it is eligible for self-directed learning PMI® PDU credit. Event Description: Please join us for this special webcast recording sponsored by the New York City chapter of MPUG, which will be led by Tony Zink – MCTS. The NYC chapter of the Microsoft Project User Group is a proud partner in the MPUG NORTHEAST CONNECTION – a regional partnership developed between MPUG NYC, MPUG Connecticut and MPUG Boston to share resources, learning content and best-practices for the benefit of our collective chapter membership. Have you watched this webinar recording? Tell MPUG viewers what you think! [WPCR_INSERT]