Display the Project Summary Task

Background

Are you displaying the Project Summary Task in every one of your projects in Microsoft Project? If not, I strongly recommend that you do this.

What is the Project Summary Task? Often nicknamed Row 0 or Task 0, the Project Summary Task is the highest-level summary task in the entire project. When included in a project, Microsoft Project displays the Project Summary Task at Outline Level 0, and the software automatically indents every other task in the project at Outline Level 1 or greater.

As the highest level summary task in the project, the Project Summary Task summarizes or “rolls up” all information about the project into a single task row. It displays the Duration of the entire project, the specified Start date and the calculated Finish date for the entire project, all of the Work and Cost for the entire project, and all of the variance for the entire project as well.

Even rookie Microsoft Project users sense that they need a highest-level summary task in their projects. However, they commonly make the mistake of manually inserting a task on row 1 and then indenting all other tasks below that first task, which creates an “artificial” Project Summary Task. In this blog post article, I will show you how to display the Project Summary Task (Row 0 or Task 0) and how to delete an “artificial” Project Summary Task if you already created one in your projects.

Solution

To display the Project Summary Task, complete the following steps:

  1. Click the Gantt Chart Format ribbon tab to display the Gantt Chart Format ribbon.

In the Show/Hide section of the ribbon, select the Project Summary Task checkbox, such as shown in Figure 1.

Project summary task checkbox

Figure 1: Select the Project Summary Task checkbox

Figure 2 shows the Project Summary Task displayed in a project. As a courtesy, I inserted the Outline Level column so that you can see that the Project Summary Task is displayed at Outline Level 0, while all other tasks are displayed at Outline Level 1 or greater. In addition, notice that the Duration column displays the Duration of the entire project (145 days), while the Finish column displays the current calculated Finish date for the entire project (8/1/25).

PRoject summary task

Figure 2: Project Summary Task displayed in a project

After displaying the Project Summary Task in your project, you may have previously created an “artificial” Project Summary Task as task ID #1 in the project. If this is the case, you will need to delete the “artificial” Project Summary Task since it is no longer needed in the project. For example, notice in Figure 2 that task ID #1 is an “artificial” Project Summary Task, displayed at Outline Level 1, and that it displays the same information shown in the real Project Summary Task (Row 0 or Task 0). Notice also that all tasks below the “artificial” Project Summary Task are indented at Outline Level 2 or greater.

Artificial Project Summary Task

Figure 3: Task ID #1 is an Artificial Project Summary Task

To delete an “artificial” Project Summary Task, complete the following steps:

  1. Click the Task tab to display the Task ribbon, if necessary.
  2. Select the first task immediately below the “artificial” Project Summary Task.
  3. Press Control + Shift + Down-Arrow on your computer keyboard to select the current task and every task below it in the project.
  4. In the Schedule section of the Task ribbon, click the Outdent Task button.
  5. Right-click on the “artificial” Project Summary Task and select the Delete Task item on the shortcut menu.

Based on the information I have presented in this article, I recommend that you display the Project Summary Task in all of your existing projects and in any project templates you currently use.

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Written by Dale Howard
Dale Howard is currently a Senior PPM Consultant with Arch Systems, Inc. His hair and beard have turned white because of using Microsoft's project management tools for more than 20 years. Dale started his career using Microsoft Project 4.0 for Windows 95 and began using Microsoft's PPM tools when they introduced Project Central in 2000. Dale is the co-author of 23 books in Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He is currently one 0f 26 Microsoft Project MVPs in the entire world and one of only 4 Project MVPs in the United states.
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