What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project is a project management software sold by Microsoft that provides project management tools to manage projects. The program, which has many different versions, allows users to:

  • Understand and control project schedules and finances.
  • Communicate and present project information.
  • Organize, estimate, and schedule work, resources, and costs to ensure projects are completed according to plan.
  • Track and report project progress against original work, cost, and schedule assumptions.

Overview of Microsoft Project as a Project Management Software

Microsoft originally purchased the software from another company and released its own version in 1985. The most recent version of the project management software is Ms Project 2021.

Ms Project allows the project manager to enter the tasks of a project (also known as the “work breakdown structure” or WBS) and assign workers (known as “resources“) to those tasks, as well as cost information.

MS Project also provides functionality that allows the user to create reports that communicate the status and progress of a project.

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Microsoft Project User Interface
Source: Microsoft

Versions of Microsoft Project

Ms Project has several different editions or versions, based on the needs of the users and organization. Below is a brief overview of the latest versions.

Microsoft Project 2021

  • Project Standard 2021: Designed for the single user with basic and convenient interface to  automate scheduling , create intuitive baselines and easily sync with office apps.
  • Project Professional 2021 Includes all the features in Project Standard 2021 but includes new features including “What if Planning”, and the ability to auto-populate start and end dates based on dependencies
  • Project Plan 1: Designed for the “occasional” project manager that needs to create a lightweight schedule and share that with the team. All are based on an easy-to-follow web interface. Project Plan 1 gives the user access to Project Home and Project for the Web.
  • Project Online Essentials: Designed for Project Online team members, Essentials allows for task updates, issue and risk updates, timesheet submission, and online collaboration with Microsoft Teams. This license does not provide you with access to Project for the Web.
  • Project Plan 3: Designed for the project manager and is subscription based. Project Online Professional provides remote, web, and local connectivity to Microsoft’s enterprise project management solutions.
  • Project Plan 5: Designed for resource managers and portfolio managers, Premium provides enterprise-level project, program, and portfolio functionality. Resource demands across all projects and portfolio reporting are key components of grasping all of the projects in the enterprise.
  • Project Server: Project Server is Project Online with fewer features. It is not streamed from the Cloud. As in Project Server 2016, the 2019 version is a SharePoint feature and service.

Microsoft Project 2019

  • Project Standard 2019: Helps the single user stay organized and enables quick planning, tracking, and reporting. Designed to integrate with Microsoft Office 2019 and its advanced charting and graphing.
  • Project Professional 2019: Includes all of the features of Project Standard 2019 plus collaboration tools, timesheet submission, and task synchronization to SharePoint and Enterprise connectivity.
  • Project Plan 1: Designed for the “occasional” project manager that needs to create a light weight schedule and share that with the team. All based on a easy to follow web interface. Project Plan 1 gives the user access to Project Home and Project for the Web.
  • Project Online Essentials: Designed for Project Online team members, Essentials allows for task updates, issue and risk updates, timesheet submission, and online collaboration with Microsoft Teams. This license does not provide you with access to Project for the Web.
  • Project Plan 3: Designed for the project manager and is subscription based. Project Online Professional provides remote, web, and local connectivity to Microsoft’s enterprise project management solutions.
  • Project Plan 5: Designed for resource managers and portfolio managers, Premium provides enterprise level project, program, and portfolio functionality. Resource demands across all projects and portfolio reporting are key components of grasping all of the projects in the enterprise.
  • Project Server: Project Server is Project Online with fewer features. It is not streamed from the Cloud. As in Project Server 2016, the 2019 version is a SharePoint feature and service.

Microsoft Project 2016

  • Project Standard 2016: Allows a single-user to easily create modern reports to measure progress and communicate project details effectively with your team and stakeholders.
  • Project Professional 2016: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2016 as well as collaboration capabilities to quickly start and deliver projects while leveraging the power of Office 365 or SharePoint to work from virtually anywhere. This version integrates Skype for Business to call or instant message team members from Project Professional.
  • Project Online Professional: Delivers the latest version of Project Professional as a subscription through Office 365. The software is automatically kept up to date (with options for customizable policies) and users on the go can work from the computer of their choice by streaming the complete desktop client with Project on Demand.
  • Project Online Essentials: For use with projects that are managed with Project Online or Project Server. Allows team members to access timesheets, manage tasks, add issues and risks, and collaborate from anywhere.
  • Project Online Premium: Provides a flexible online solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables organizations to get started, prioritize project portfolio investments and deliver the intended business value—from virtually anywhere on nearly any device.
  • Project Server 2016: A flexible, on-premises solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Team members, project participants, and business decision makers can get started, prioritize project portfolio investments and deliver the intended business value from virtually anywhere. This version requires SharePoint 2016, which is licensed separately.

Microsoft Project 2013

  • Project Standard 2013: Allows a single-user to easily create modern reports to measure progress and communicate project details effectively with your team and stakeholders.
  • Project Professional 2013: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2013 as well as collaboration capabilities to quickly start and deliver projects while leveraging the power of Office 365 or SharePoint to work from virtually anywhere. This version integrates Lync 2013 to call or instant message team members from Project Professional.
  • Project Pro for Office 365: Delivers the latest version of Project Professional as a subscription through Office 365. The software is automatically kept up to date (with options for customizable policies) and users on the go can work from the computer of their choice by streaming the complete desktop client with Project on Demand.
  • Project Online: Provides a flexible online solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Delivered through Office 365, Project Online enables organizations to get started, prioritize project portfolio investments and deliver the intended business value—from virtually anywhere on nearly any device.
  • Project Server 2013: A flexible, on-premises solution for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Team members, project participants, and business decision makers can get started, prioritize project portfolio investments and deliver the intended business value from virtually anywhere. This version requires SharePoint 2013, which is sold separately.

Microsoft Project 2010

  • Microsoft Project Standard 2010: A single-user edition of the software. This version is targeted toward the desktop user.
  • Microsoft Project Professional 2010: Includes all the capabilities in Project Standard 2010 as well as collaborative features that allow users to work together when the organization is also using Ms Project Server 2010.
  • Microsoft Project Server 2010: Maintains project plan information and data on a server. Project Server allows multiple users to access that data through their client applications, Ms Project Professional and Microsoft Project Web Access.

Microsoft Project 2007

Discontinued

Microsoft Project 2003

Discontinued

Microsoft Project User Interface
Ms Project User Interface – Source : Microsoft
Ms Project
Ms Project – Source : Microsoft

 

Microsoft Project Features

Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2019 and Project for the Web

  • Drop-down menu for task linking: selecting this menu will show the task hierarchy allowing predecessor or successor selection at the click of the mouse.
  • Task Summary Name Field: This new feature is a read only field that identifies each tasks Summary (or Parent) task in the project’s task hierarchy. It’s useful when sorting and filtering clouds the default project structure.
  • Timeline bar labels and progress: The Timeline view has long aided the “project at a glance” capabilities of Ms Project, but now also provides the ability to organize the bars into separate segments and provide visual clues as to the progress made.
  • Improved Accessibility: Improvements to contrast and keyboard support, Narrator, and customization capabilities has ensured Project and its management features are available to everyone.
  • Read more

Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2016

  • Multiple Timeline View: See more than one visually enhanced timeline view to help visualize different phases of your project plan. You can set both start and end dates for each timeline from this view.
  • Resource Engagements: Request a resource in project and your resource man
  • accept or deny your request. If accepted, your resource will lock to ensure availability.
  • Resource Views: A designated space for resource managers to look at and accept or deny all resource requests.
  • Resource Capacity Heat Maps: New reporting feature that allows you to quickly see how your resources are being used.
  • Tell Me: Instead of searching in Project or in the online help resources, Tell Me, will look for whatever solution you need.
  • Add-ins: Ms Project Add-ins are now easier than ever to integrate with your Project. Microsoft partner applications can be downloaded in the same efficient manner as templates from the Office store.
  • New Themes: Change your project theme to which ever theme you prefer: colorful, dark gray, and white.
  • In-App Feedback: You can now give your comments, opinions, and suggestions directly to Microsoft in the File tab by clicking on the Feedback section.

Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2013

  • Improved Reporting
    • Customizable Reports: Users can create professional reports without having to export the data to another program. This includes adding pictures, charts, animation, links, and more.
    • Pre-Installed Reports: Takes full advantage of the new graphics and formatting capabilities. Add or remove elements from these pre-created reports, including changing the colors.
    • Burndown Reports: Shows planned work, completed work, and remaining work as lines on a graph. They give an at-a-glance status, letting you know if your project is behind or ahead of schedule.
  • Lync Integration: Start an IM session, a video chat, an email, or a phone call with team members by hovering over a name.
  • Trace Task Paths: Helps sort out a complex Gantt Chart by allowing users to highlight the link chain — or task path — for any task. When you click a task, all of its predecessor tasks show up in one color and all of its successor tasks show up in another color.
  • Increased Date Range: Set project dates up to 12/31/2149 – a century longer than Project 2010’s limits.
  • Share Meetings: In online meetings, users can now share exported Project reports, timelines, or data in the form of PowerPoint slides, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and OneNote notes from any supported device, even if Office isn’t installed.
  • Cloud Storage: Allows users to access and share Project schedules, Excel spreadsheets, and other Office files.
  • Online Access: With Project Online, users can access a full version of Project from almost anywhere, even on PCs that don’t have Project 2013 installed.

Features Introduced in Microsoft Project 2010

  • SharePoint synchronization: This feature lets you publish a project schedules as a SharePoint 2010 task list and receive tasks updates from team members and keep the two matching even as one or the other changes.
  • Manual scheduling: Called “user-controlled scheduling” by Microsoft, this feature lets you set task durations and start and finish dates with point and click.
  • Placeholder text: Now you can create a project plan even if you don’t have all the details yet. Project 2010 lets you enter text notes in Date or Duration fields and update them later when you know the details.
  • Active and inactive tasks: You can also perform what-if analysis by making tasks active or inactive to see what impact it has on your schedule, resources, and budget.
  • Timeline view: This view shows the whole schedule in a model that’s easy for non-project managers to understand and follow.
  • Team Planner: This feature lets you drag and drop resources (people and materials) to try out various project scenarios.
  • Task Inspector: If a task has a scheduling conflict or a resource is over-allocated, this feature lets you fix the problem.

What sets Microsoft Project apart from other Project Management Tools

Although Microsoft has been the preferred Project Management Tool for Project Managers across the world, new software focuses on having a user-friendly interface, which makes it easy for teams to get started with the tool and begin managing their projects right away.

Despite the increasing number of project management tools on the market, there remains a strong demand for Microsoft Project. There are several reasons why Microsoft Project continues to be a popular choice for project management:

  1. Widely adopted: Microsoft Project is one of the most widely used project management tools in the world, which means it has a large user base and a wealth of online resources and support available. This makes it a reliable and well-supported tool that businesses can rely on to manage their projects effectively.
  2. Integration with other Microsoft products: As part of the Microsoft Office suite, Microsoft Project integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products such as Excel and PowerPoint. This makes it easy to import and export data and create presentations and reports using familiar tools.
  3. Customization options: Microsoft Project allows you to customize almost every aspect of your project, from the layout and appearance of your project plan to the fields and data you track. This level of customization is ideal for businesses that have specific requirements or processes they need to follow.
  4. Advanced project scheduling features: Microsoft Project includes a range of advanced project scheduling features, such as the ability to set task dependencies and constraints, assign resources to tasks, and create baselines for tracking progress. These features allow you to create detailed and accurate project plans that help ensure your project stays on track and on budget.

Overall, the combination of a large user base, integration with other Microsoft products, customization options, advanced project scheduling features, and collaboration tools make Microsoft Project an attractive choice for many businesses.

How to use Microsoft Projects for Project Management

You might be inclined to believe that Microsoft Project is difficult to learn due to its vast number of features (and it is intimidating at first) but Microsoft has an undeniable head start in the world of Project Management, and therefore resources to help you learn are all over the web. For eg, MPUG, the official Microsoft Project User group provides you with over 500 on-demand webinars, over 2000 expert articles and access to forums with experienced project users.

If Microsoft Project is still intimidating, you could try Microsoft Project for the Web, a project management tool that is designed to be user-friendly and easy to use, even for those who may not have experience as a project manager. It is part of the Microsoft 365 suite of tools and is intended to help teams plan, execute, and track work across a variety of projects.

Read Here about Microsoft Project Plans and Pricing

Benefits of Using Microsoft Project

There are many benefits to using Microsoft Project for your project management needs. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Improved project visibility: With Microsoft Project, you can easily view the status of your project and identify potential issues. This includes the ability to view detailed Gantt charts, track task progress, and resource management and availability.
  • Increased productivity: Microsoft Project includes a wide range of tools and functionalities that can help you increase your productivity and get more done in less time. This includes the ability to automate repetitive tasks, streamline project management processes, and make data-driven decisions.
  • Better collaboration and communication: Microsoft Project includes a variety of collaboration and communication tools that allow you to work more effectively with your team. This includes the ability to share project information, assign tasks, and track progress in real-time.

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Learn how an MPUG Membership helps individuals and teams become better project managers and Microsoft Project users through Microsoft Project Training.

Join MPUG to attend live training webinars, access 500+ hours of on-demand sessions, receive certificates of completion and earn the Project Management Institute (PMI)® Professional Development Units (PDUs) that you need. Watch an MPUG training webinar for free and improve your Microsoft Project skills in less than 1 hour.


FAQ

What is the most recent version of Microsoft Project?

The most recent version of Microsoft Project is Ms Project 2021.

What is Microsoft Project for the Web and how is it different from Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project for the Web is a simplified version of the Microsoft Project software that is designed to be user-friendly and easy to use for those who may not have experience as a project manager. It is part of the Microsoft 365 suite of tools and includes many of the same features as the full version of Microsoft Project, but with a simpler interface and fewer advanced options.

What resources are available to help me learn how to use Microsoft Project?

There are many resources available to help you learn how to use Microsoft Project, including the official Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG) which provides over 500 on-demand webinars, over 2000 expert articles and access to forums with experienced project users. Additionally, there are many tutorials, guides and videos available online that can help you learn how to use the software.

Microsoft Project Training

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