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Using Microsoft Project’s “Add New Column” Virtual Column

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Microsoft introduced a new feature in Microsoft Project 2010 known as the Add New Column virtual column and continued this feature in the 2013 version of the software. You can find the Add New Column virtual column on the far right end of any default task or resource table, such as the task Entry table shown in Figure 1.

 

 

 

Figure 1: Add New Column virtual column

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To use the basic functionality of this feature, click the pick list arrow button in the column header of the Add New Column virtual column, and then select any default or custom field shown in the pick list. For example, notice in Figure 2 that I am ready to insert the Actual Start column. Microsoft Project inserts the selected column to the left of the Add New Column virtual column.

Figure 2: Insert the Actual Start column

Dale Howard_Virtual_column_figure_2

The Add New Column virtual column includes additional functionality of which you may not be aware. For example, you can click the pick list arrow button in this virtual column, manually type of the name of any field not listed in the pick list, and then press the Enter key on your computer keyboard. When you perform this action, Microsoft Project inserts the first unused local Text field to the left of the virtual column and renames the Text field using the name you manually typed. For example, I manually entered the name Location in the Add New Column virtual column, so the software automatically inserted the Text1 column and renamed it as Location. You can see this in Figure 3 when I float my mouse pointer over the column header in the new Location column.

Figure 3: New Location column inserted

Dale Howard_Virtual_column_figure_3

When you manually type the name of a new column in the column header of the Add New Column virtual column, Microsoft Project always inserts the first available Text field and renames it using the name you entered. This means that if you have previously used the Text1, Text2, and Text3 columns as custom columns, Microsoft Project would automatically insert the Text4 column the next time you use this functionality.

 

 

Beyond these two features, there is even more functionality available to you using the Add New Column virtual column. If you manually type a value in the virtual column for any task, Microsoft Project 2010 and 2013 automatically insert the next available custom field using the data type you entered. This functionality works as follows:

  • If you manually type a number value, such as 318, the software inserts the first unused Number field, such as Number1 for example.
  • If you manually type a cost value, such as $500, the software inserts the first unused Cost field, such as Cost1 for example.
  • If you manually type a Yes or a No value, the software inserts the first unused Flag field, such as Flag1 for example.
  • If you manually type a duration value, such as 15d, the software inserts the first unused Duration field, such as Duration1 for example.
  • If you manually type any text value, such as Mickey Cobb, the software inserts the first unused Text field, such as Text1 for example.

In Figure 4, you can see this functionality for each of the custom columns I added by typing a value in the Add New Column virtual column for the first task in the project. Notice that when I typed the name, Mickey Cobb, the software inserted the Text2 field and not the Text1 field. This is because I had already used the Text1 field when I typed the word, Location, in the Add New Column virtual column header.

Figure 4: Custom columns inserted by data type

Dale Howard_Virtual_column_figure_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you use this technique to insert new columns in a table, I recommend that you rename each of the custom fields to apply a descriptive name to the column. To rename a custom field, right-click on the column header of any custom column and select the Custom Fields item on the shortcut menu. Microsoft Project displays the Custom Fields dialog shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Custom Fields dialog

Dale Howard_Virtual_column_figure_5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Custom Fields dialog, the software preselects the custom field automatically. Click the Rename button, enter a descriptive name for the custom field, and then click the OK button. Click the OK button to close the Custom Fields dialog as well.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Sensei Project Solutions blog.

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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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