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


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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Written by Dale Howard

Dale Howard is the Director of Education for Sensei Project Solutions.  He is in his 15th year of serving as a Microsoft Project MVP (Most Valuable Professional) and is currently one of only 39 Microsoft Project MVPs in the entire world. Dale is the co-author of 21 books on Microsoft Project, Project Server, and Project Online. He works out of his home in Ellisville, Missouri (a west suburb of St. Louis).

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  1. Sir,

    I have not been using MSP 2010 all that long, but could you explain the benefit in using the “Add New Column” field versus just using the regular right-click to “Insert Column” function?



  2. Mark —

    You will find the benefits of using the ‘Add New Column’ virtual column in the last two-thirds of the article. You see the new behavior of this feature when you type a column name for a column that is not a default column, or you type a value in the ‘Add New Column’ virtual column. In each case, Microsoft Project inserts a new custom column. If all you want to do is to insert a default column, right-clicking and using the Insert Column functionality will continue to work fine. Hope this helps.


  3. Creative post – I am thankful for the specifics – Does someone know if my assistant would be able to locate a sample CUT0068-4S copy to fill in ?

  4. Not sure what you mean by a “sample CUT0068-4S copy”. Please explain.


  5. Dale,

    I am trying to use the Add New Column feature to add a PWA Enterprise Custom field I created to the Project 2013 Entry form (Gantt view). The custom field is a Resource Entity. It seems that the drop down only shows Project and Task Entity Enterprise Custom fields… it does not show the Resource Entity fields. I DO see the Enterprise Custom fields on Resource type tables. I can add built in Resource Entity fields (like Resource Name, Resource Group) to the Entry Table… any way to add Enterprise Custom fields of the Resource Entity?

  6. Paul —

    The data model in Microsoft Project only allows you to add default and custom Task fields to Task views and Task tables. It will not allow you to add default and custom Resource fields to Task views and Task tables. That is why you cannot add your custom enterprise Resource field to the task Entry table. The Resource Names and Resource Group fields are actually Task fields that duplicate information found in Resource fields, which is why you can add them to Task views and Task tables. Hope this helps.


  7. how to add columns additional to what existing ones in MS project e.g. beyond Cost 10…. I want cost 11, cost 12….. cost 55 and more also

  8. Also can I i take a spreadsheet like .xlsx and link it to the various columns of Cost from Cost 1, Cost 2,….. till cost99, cost 100 as already existing in my .xlsx-sheet.

    Actuality i want monthly expenditures for past 6 years to be independently available on my Gantt-chart & this requires 12*6=72 Cost columns + Total Expenditure of each year in separate six-columns

  9. Kindly acknowledge and confirm if you’re receiving my questions and will it be possible to help me out!

  10. Dr. Pruneet S —

    It is not possible to extend the list of custom fields beyond the number already available in Microsoft Project. As per your example, you cannot use custom Cost fields beyond the ten already available in the software. Given your data requirements, I think the best you can probably do is to keep this information in an Excel workbook, but you cannot link it to any of the custom Cost fields. Sorry. Hope this helps.


  11. I want to create an indicator to show whether the current task has been added to the timeline (sometimes the Timeline gets busy and activities overlap):
    if task has been added to timeline, then indicator is ON, otherwise indicator is OFF

    Is this possible?

  12. Chris –

    Good question, my friend. Unfortunately there are no default fields related to the Timeline view that would allow you to do what you want. Sorry. Hope this helps.



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