Certification Insider: Configuring General and View Options in Project

If you’re preparing for the Microsoft exam 70-632, Microsoft Office Project 2007, Managing Projects, this new monthly column by Project certification expert Bonnie Biafore guides you through the skills you’ll be tested on to gain your credential, the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS). This month, Bonnie shares insight into what you should understand about configuring tools and options as a Project professional.

Continuing the options theme from the previous column, some General and View options represent personal preference. But your preferences go hand in hand with your productivity, so it’s worthwhile setting them to suit your taste. A few General options affect project scheduling and cost, so you definitely want to set them correctly. And, of course, the Project certification exam wants to see whether you understand these options too.

General Options

General options (click Tools | Options, and then in the Options dialog box, click General) tell Project how you want it to behave for all projects — the user name that appears as the author of your files, whether Project automatically opens the last project you worked on, whether the Project Information dialog box opens when you create a new project (so you can fill out its information before you forget), and how many recent files hang from the bottom of the File menu.

Here are some of the other General options you might want to modify:

Now that Project 2007 finally lets you undo more than one previous action, why settle for the 20 actions set by default in the Undo Levels drop-down list? You can change this setting to undo up to 99 previous actions.

The checkboxes in the Planning Wizard section are turned on by default, which makes Project a regular chatterbox. Even if you zip around Project with your eyes closed and don’t want to be interrupted, the Planning Wizard does have some value. Instead of turning off the Advice From Planning Wizard checkbox, which shuts the wizard up once and for all, consider turning off the Advice About Using Microsoft Office Project checkbox instead. Keep the Advice About Scheduling and Advice About Errors checkboxes turned on, so Project gives you hints about scheduling issues or errors that arise.

The three options at the bottom of the General tab apply to only the active project file, but you do want to change these settings. Then click Set As Default to apply them to new projects too.

  • The Automatically Add New Resources and Tasks checkbox is turned on by default, which is almost guaranteed to cause trouble. This setting tells Project to automatically add a resource to your Resource Sheet or resource pool Project file, if the resource name you assign doesn’t already exist — without asking permission or warning you in any way. If you regularly fat-finger data entry, typos could bloat your resource list with Bonnie, Bornie, and Bonie. Those multiple aliases for the same person also mean you won’t know whether the real resource is overallocated, because tasks are assigned to Bonnie, Bornie, and Bonie, which Project thinks are three different people.The safer approach is to turn off this checkbox. Then, when you type a resource name that doesn’t exist, Project asks if you want to add this new resource to the pool.
  • If many of your resources bill at the same regular and overtime rate, you can type the most common rates in the Default Standard Rate box and Default Overtime Rate box. Project automatically applies these rates to new resources. If a new resource bills at a different rate, you must edit the resource to set the correct rates.

Note: If resources get paid the same no matter how many hours they work, you can skip the Default Overtime Rate setting altogether. If you don’t specify hours worked as overtime hours, Project uses resources’ standard rates for all work hours.

View Options

The View options that you’re most likely to change (or toggle) lurk at the bottom of the View tab in the Outline Options For ‘Project name’ section. Most of the time, you want to see summary tasks, but you can focus on work package tasks by turning off the Show Summary Tasks checkbox.

The Show Project Summary Task checkbox isn’t turned on by default. A project summary task is a great way to keep overall project values at your fingertips, so you’ll want to turn the checkbox on.

Turning on the Show Outline Number checkbox prefaces each task name with an outline number, such as 1 for the first top-level task and 1.1 for its first sub task. Keep in mind, these outline numbers change if you rearrange your tasks, whereas WBS numbers stay put unless you tell Project to reorder them.

Back at the top of the tab, the Date Format drop-down list is another frequently changed setting. You can squeeze more info onto the screen or in reports with a terse format such as mm/dd (3/18 for March 18). For full disclosure, opt for a format that shows date and time, such as May 2, 2008 3:00 PM.

Tip: Project gets its date format from your Windows regional settings. Click Start | Control Panel, and then click Regional and Language Settings. On the Regional Options tab, choose the country in which you work, which assigns the standard date format for that country. You can also create a custom format.

The Show section on the View tab is where you turn interface elements (status bar, scroll bars, entry bar, and so on) on and off. Unless screen real estate is in desperately short supply, keep these checkboxes turned on as they are by default.

The Cross Project Linking Options For ‘Project 1’ section controls the data you see from other projects. These are turned on by default, which is usually fine. If you want to hide tasks or links from other projects, turn off these checkboxes.

Currency options also take their cue from your Windows currency settings. However, you can choose a different currency for the active project, which modifies the Symbol and Placement settings. You can choose the currency symbol, such as $, whether the symbol appears before or after the value, and the number of decimal digits.
Pre-order the new book, MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-632): Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007.

Read “Configuring Tools and Options” here.

To learn more about Microsoft certification, read, “Microsoft Project Management Certification: How to Get Started.”

Next Webinar

5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Project 2007: Cost and Budget Resources

Written by Bonnie Biafore
Bonnie Biafore is the author of O'Reilly's Microsoft Project: The Missing Manual (2007, 2010, and 2013 editions) and Microsoft Press' Successful Project Management: Applying Best Practices and Real-World Techniques with Microsoft Project. She's recorded Project Essential Training (for 2010 and 2013), Project Management Fundamentals, Managing Small Projects, and other courses for lynda.com. As a consultant, she manages projects for clients and wins accolades for her ability to herd cats. She has also written a humorous novel about hitmen and stupid criminals. You can learn more at Bonnie's website or email her at bonnie.biafore@gmail.com.
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