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Identifying the Critical Path Using Microsoft Project

The critical path is constantly calculated by Microsoft Project and can change as tasks are modified or updated. The Tracking Gantt Chart includes the critical path by default.

You can also modify the standard Gantt Chart view to see which tasks are on the critical path in a project. The following exercise demonstrates how to do this.

  1. Go to File:Options to view the Project Options dialog, and then click Advanced in the sidebar. Scroll to the bottom and note the Tasks are critical if slack is less than or equal to option. Ensure that this is set to 0 days and click OK.

Project Option Dialog Box

Figure 3 The Project Options dialog box

  1. Apply the Schedule table to see the total slack for the tasks in this project. To do so, from View:Data click the Tables dropdown list and select Schedule. Note that the last column shows the total slack for each task.

 Filtering for Tasks with 0 Slack

  1. From View:Data select Critical from the Filter dropdown list. Only critical tasks in your project will now appear. Note: Look at the ID numbers of these tasks to see that not all tasks are displayed.

Only Tasks with 0 Slack Will Appear

Figure 5 Only critical tasks (0 slack) appear

  1. The Network Diagram view displays a node for tasks, along with schedule information and connecting arrows to show the relationship and sequence of activities. To see this view, from View:Task Views click the Network Diagram icon [Network Diagram Icon]. Your screen will resemble the following:

Network Diagram View

Figure 6 Network Diagram view

  1. Critical tasks can also be identified in the Gantt Chart. Reapply the Gantt Chart view, remove the Critical filter (so you again see all tasks in the project), and from Format: Bar Styles select the Critical Tasks checkbox.

Your screen will resemble the following:

Critical Tasks Identified in Red

Figure 7 Critical tasks identified in red in the Gantt Chart

Using an example project, you can link different tasks to each other to see how it affects the total slack of each task.

For a comprehensive coverage of all the features and functions of the Microsoft Project suite, our training guide is available to the public on Amazon.

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