Communicate schedule details with a Visio Gantt chart

To communicate detailed task and schedule information to managers or other team members, you can create a Gantt chart in Microsoft Visio 2010. You can also use a Gantt chart to manage the project's schedule at the task level.

What do you want to do?

Use a Gantt chart as a communication tool

Set up a Gantt chart

Add data to a Gantt chart

Print a large Gantt chart

Use a Gantt chart as a communication tool

In a Gantt chart, graphical elements such as bars and arrows represent tasks and the dependencies between them so you can track how the changes in one task affect the others.

You can also group several subordinate tasks under one summary task and add descriptions, required resources, and completion percentages to each task.

Tasks are displayed as bars on a timescale.

gantt chart with task bars

You can quickly produce a visually appealing annotated schedule for a presentation by applying a color scheme and adding text labels to a Gantt chart.

If you start a schedule for a complex project as a Visio Gantt chart, you can easily export the schedule data to Microsoft Project 2010, and then use Project to plan and manage the project in detail.

Product

Use when

Visio

  • You want to prepare a visually appealing annotated schedule for a presentation.

  • You want to define the basic tasks in a schedule in the early stages of a project.

  • Your schedule includes fewer than 30 tasks.

Project

  • You want to use a full-featured project management tool for planning and scheduling a project.

  • Your schedule includes dozens of tasks.

  • You need to assign multiple resources to tasks or connect schedules for different projects.

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Set up a Gantt chart

  1. On the File tab, click New.

  2. Under Choose a Template, click Schedule, and then double-click Gantt Chart.

  3. In the Gantt Chart Options dialog box, set up the dates for the timescale. You can also choose how you want to format the task bars, milestones, and other chart elements:

    • Click the Date tab, and then choose the options that you want.

      Note: Major units are the longest unit of time (such as years or months) that you want to use in the chart, and Minor units are the smallest (such as days or hours).

    • On the Format tab, click the shapes and labels that you want to use on the task bars, milestones, and summary bars, and then click OK.
      The Gantt Chart Options dialog box

Note:  If you aren't sure what formatting to choose, just accept the default choices. You can change the formatting later.

A chart frame up close

After you set up a Gantt chart, a generic chart frame appears.

The frame is like a blank canvas on which you can paint the details of your schedule:

  • In the Task Name column, click a cell, and then type to replace the generic text with a specific task name. You can add more tasks as your project progresses.

  • Initially, the dates in the Start and Finish columns reflect the start date that you specified for the project. To change the date, click a cell, and then type.

  • The Duration column updates automatically as you type new start and finish dates. You can also type one of the dates and the duration to indicate the length of a task.

  • In the Timescale (the area labeled 2000 with months shown below), Major units are on top, and Minor units are on the bottom. The timescale starts and ends with the start and finish dates that you specified. As you add task start and end dates or durations, task bars appear in the area below the timescale, and the area expands.

Tip: To record additional data about each task, you can add more columns. For example, you can add a Resource column so your Gantt chart reflects who is responsible for each task.

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Add data to a Gantt chart

You can fill the frame with data that reflects the details of your project schedule. You can add and refine the following schedule elements:

Tasks

Milestones

Summary tasks

Dependencies (Linked tasks)

Data columns

Timescale

Tasks

gantt chart with task bars

Each task in a Gantt chart occupies a row in the chart frame. When you type task names in cells in the Task Name column, task durations are represented as task bars in the area under the timescale.

Goal

Action to take

Change a task name

  • Click the cell in the Task Name column that contains the task, and then type a new name.

Set or change task duration

  • Click the cell in the Gantt chart frame that contains the date or duration that you want to change, and then type the new information.

Note:  Type a duration as follows:

  • 1h for 1 hour

  • 1d for 1 day

  • 1w for 1 week

  • 1m for 1 month

Add new tasks at the bottom of the Gantt chart

  • Select the Gantt chart frame by clicking the solid line that surrounds the chart. To create a new task row, on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click New.
    The Tasks group

Add a new task between two existing tasks

  • Select any cell in the row that you want a new task row to appear above, and then on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click New.
    The Tasks group

Add percent complete indicators to tasks

  1. Select the shaded portion at the top of the column to the left of where you want a percent complete column to appear, and then on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Columns group, click Insert.
    The Columns group

  2. Under Column type, click % Complete, and then click OK.

  3. As you make progress on a task, type the percentage of the task completed in the new column. A percent complete indicator appears in the task bar.

Delete a task

  • Select any cell in the row that represents the task you want to delete, and then on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Delete.
    The Tasks group

Milestones

milestone on gantt chart

Because a milestone represents a significant event in a schedule rather than a task, set its duration to zero.

Goal

Action to take

Add a new milestone

  1. Drag a Milestone shape from the Gantt Chart Shapes stencil onto the Gantt chart frame, and drop it between the cells containing the task names for the tasks that you want the milestone to follow and precede.

  2. Right-click the cell in the Start column of the row representing the milestone, and then click Edit Date on the shortcut menu.

  3. Type the date that you want, and then click OK. The date in the Finish column changes to match the date in the Start column, and the Duration is set to zero (0).

Convert an existing task to a milestone

  • Type a duration of zero (0) in the Duration column of the row representing the task that you want to convert to a milestone.

Change the way a milestone marker looks

  • Right-click the milestone marker, and then click Task Options on the shortcut menu. Choose the options that you want, and then click OK.

Delete a milestone

  • Select any cell in the row that represents the milestone that you want to delete, and then on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Delete.
    The Tasks group

Summary tasks

gantt chart with summary and subordinate tasks

You can use a summary task when you want to combine several subordinate tasks under one umbrella task.

Goal

Action to take

Create a summary task with subordinate tasks

  1. Add a summary task and subordinate tasks or milestones to the Gantt chart.

  2. To select a subordinate task, select a cell containing the task name. To select multiple tasks, hold down SHIFT while you click.

  3. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Indent.
    The Tasks group

Set the duration for a summary task

  1. In the row for the first subordinate task, click the cell in the Start column, and then type the start date for that task.

  2. For the same subordinate task, click the cell in the Finish column, and then type the end date for that task.

  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for each subordinate task.

Note:  The summary task duration fills in automatically after you add the task duration information for all the subordinate tasks.

Demote (Indent) a task

  • Select the name of the task that you want to demote, and then on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Indent.
    The Tasks group

Promote (Outdent) a task

  • Right-click the name of the task that you want to promote, and then on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Oudent.
    The Tasks group

Change the way a summary task bar looks

  1. Right-click the task bar of a summary task that you want to change, and then click Task Options on the shortcut menu.

  2. Under Summary bars, select the symbols that you want for the start and end of the bars, and then click OK.

Dependencies (Linked tasks)

milestone on gantt chart

When you make one task in your Gantt chart dependent upon another, an arrow connects the two task bars. If you change a date or duration of the task that another task is dependent upon, the dependent task dates change also.

Goal

Action to take

Set dependencies between tasks

  1. Select the tasks and milestones between which you want to set dependencies by clicking in the cells containing the task names. To select multiple tasks, hold down SHIFT while you select.

  2. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Link.
    The Tasks group

Break dependencies between tasks

  1. Select the tasks with dependencies that you want to break by clicking in the cells containing the task names. To select multiple tasks, hold down SHIFT while you select.

  2. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Tasks group, click Unlink.
    The Tasks group

Change the style of dependency arrows

  • With the Gantt chart open, right-click the drawing page, and then click S Type Connectors.

Data columns

A project schedule is built from task-specific data. The accumulation of task start dates and durations determines the finish date for the project. In a Visio Gantt chart, you store task data in data columns.

If you want to record and display additional task data in a Gantt chart, you can add new columns. For example, you may want to add a column for task notes in which you can describe complex or unique tasks, a column for resources to list the people responsible for completing each task, or a column for percent complete to track what percentage of each task is completed.


gantt chart with task bars

By default, when you create a new Gantt chart, the chart contains Task Name, Start, Finish, and Duration columns. You can rearrange the existing columns, add new columns, and delete columns that you no longer need.

Goal

Action to take

Rename an existing column

  • Click the heading of the column that you want to rename, and then type a new name.

Add a new predesigned data column

  1. Select the heading of the column to the left of where you want the new column to appear.

  2. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Columns group, click Insert.
    The Columns group

  3. In the Column Type list, click the column name that corresponds to the type of data that you want to add, and then click OK.

Add a new data column that you design yourself

  1. Select the heading of the column to the left of where you want the new column to appear.

  2. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Columns group, click Insert.
    The Columns group

  3. In the Column Type list, click one of the user-defined columns that corresponds to the format that the data will be in (for example, User Defined Decimal, User Defined Text, or User Defined Time), and then click OK.

  4. Type a new name for the column.

Note:  If you add more than one text column, click a different user-defined text option each time. For example, click User Defined Text 1 for the first column, User Defined Text 2 for the second column, and so on.

Delete (hide) a data column

  • Select the heading of the column that you want to delete (hide).

  • On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Columns group, click Hide.
    The Columns group

Note:  When you delete, or hide, a column from the chart, the data from the column is preserved in a file. To show the column again later, right-click a column heading, and then click Insert Column. From the list, select the column that you want to show again, and then click OK.

Move a data column

  1. Click the heading of the column that you want to move.

  2. Drag the column to a new location.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To move a column to the left of another column, position the midpoint of the column that you are moving to the left of the midpoint of the other column.

    • To move a column to the right of another column, position the midpoint of the column that you are moving to the right of the midpoint of the other column.

    • To move a column to the right of the timescale region, position the midpoint of the column that you are moving to the right of the midpoint of the timescale region.

Note: If the timescale region is long, you may have to zoom out to move the column past the region's midpoint. To zoom out, on the View menu, point to Zoom, and then click the zoom level that you want.

Timescale

The timescale is a scale of major and minor time units that extends from the date that your project begins to the date that it ends. You can define the time units for the timescale, its start and end dates, and the days that you consider to be nonworking days.

gantt chart with task bars

You can scroll to a particular date or task on the timescale, and you can change the width of the timescale region and display more dates.

Goal

Action to take

Change start or end date, or both

  1. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Manage group, click Chart Options.
    The Manage group

  2. In the Gantt Chart Options dialog box, under Timescale range, change the click the date that you want to change.

Change time units

  1. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Manage group, click Chart Options.
    The Manage group

  2. In the Gantt Chart Options dialog box, under Time units, select the Major units and Minor units that you want, and then click OK.

Set nonworking days

  1. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Manage group, click Configure Working Time.
    The Manage group

  2. In the Configure Working Time dialog box, select the options that you want for Working days and Working time, and then click OK.

Scroll to a particular task or milestone

  1. Select the task or milestone that you want to scroll to by clicking in the cell that contains the task name.

  2. On the Gantt Chart tab, in the Navigation group, click Scroll To Task.
    The Navigation group

Scroll to a particular date

  • To scroll to the end of the timescale, on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Navigation group, click Go to Finish.

  • To scroll one minor unit to the left, on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Navigation group, click Next.

  • To scroll one minor unit to the right, on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Navigation group, click Previous.

  • To scroll to the beginning of the timescale, on the Gantt Chart tab, in the Navigation group, click Go to Start.
    The Navigation group

Change the width of the timescale region

  1. Click once in the gray area at the top of the timescale region, and then click again to select the timescale column.

  2. Drag the blue selection handle on the right side of the column in either direction until the region is the width that you want.

Display more time units

  1. Click the solid line surrounding the Gantt chart frame to select the frame.

  2. Drag the blue selection handle at the right-center of the frame toward the right.

Note:  When you extend the timescale to display more time units, you also change the end date associated with your project.

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Print a large Gantt chart

Unless you are creating a schedule for a small project, your Gantt chart is likely to extend beyond the boundaries of one standard printer page. The following table describes some printing problems that you may encounter and steps that you can take before you print that will help you get the results that you expect.

Problem

Solution

Action to take

Only part of the Gantt chart is printed.

Make sure the whole chart fits on a drawing page.

  1. On the Design tab, in the Page Setup group, click Page Setup dialog box launcher.

  2. In the Page Setup dialog box, click the Page Size tab, under Print zoom, select Fit to.

  3. Next to Fit to, type “1” in the sheet(s) across box and type “1” in the sheet(s) down box.

  4. Click Apply and then click OK.

The printed page and drawing page orientations are not the same.

Change the printer page orientation.

  • On the Design tab, in the Page Setup group, click Orientation, and then click the orientation that you want.

You don't know how many pages the chart will be printed across.

Preview how the drawing will be printed before you print it.

  • On the File tab, click Print, and then click Print Preview.

You don't know where the page breaks will occur.

Turn on page breaks to see how many pages the chart will tile across.

  • On the View tab, in the Show group, select Page Breaks. Gray lines on the chart indicate where the page breaks will occur.

The breaks between the printed pages occur at awkward positions.

Change the margin settings to control the overlap between pages. The larger the margins, the larger the overlap between pages.

  1. On the Design tab, in the Page Setup group, click Page Setup dialog box launcher.

  2. On the Print Setup tab, under Printer paper, click Setup.

  3. Type the margin settings that you want, and then click OK two times.

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