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Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual by Bonnie Biafore

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People have been managing projects for centuries. The construction of the mountaintop city of Machu Picchu was a project—although no one’s really sure whether the ancient Inca had a word for “project manager.” In fact, you may not have realized you were a project manager when you were assigned your first project to manage. Sure, you’re organized and good at making sure people get things done, but consistently managing projects to successful conclusions requires specific skills and know-how. Whether you’re building a shining city on a hill or aiming for something more mundane, Microsoft Project helps you document project tasks, build a schedule, assign resources, track progress, and make changes until your project is complete.

Perhaps you’ve launched Project, and now you’re staring at the screen, wondering about the meaning of the program’s Gantt Chart and Resource Usage views. Or maybe you already have dozens of Project schedules under your belt. Either way, some Project features can be mystifying. You know what you want to do, but you can’t find the magic combination that makes Project do it.

This book addresses the double whammy of learning your way around project management and Microsoft Project at the same time. It provides an introduction to managing projects and shows you how to use Project to do so. For more experienced project managers, this book can help you take your Project prowess to a new level with tips, time saving tricks, and mastery of features that never quite behaved the way you wanted.

What’s New in Project 2013

Microsoft Project comes in several flavors: Project Standard is good if you want to save some bucks; Project Professional can handle most of your project-scheduling needs; Project Pro for Office 365 gives you the convenience of an always-up-to-date version of the program; and Project Server is great if your organization wants to manage an entire portfolio of projects. (This book focuses on Project Standard and Project Professional.) Since its introduction, Project Server has often gotten most of Microsoft’s attention and cool new features, and Project 2013 is no exception. However, Project 2013 Standard and Professional have some new and improved features that could quickly grow on you.

Perhaps the biggest news is that Project is now part of the Office 365 suite of applications. You can install Project 2013 the way you’ve installed earlier versions (from a CD or downloaded file), or you can download and install Project Pro for Office 365, a subscription-based version of Project, which means you’ll always have the most up-to-date version. Project’s reporting features also got an overhaul—you can now produce graphical reports so you and the rest of the project team can see what’s going on.

Here’s an overview of the new Project 2013 features and where to learn about them in this book:

  • Project Pro for Office 365. If you have an Office 365 account, you can purchase and download Project Pro for Windows. With this subscription version of Project, you can set things up so that the program automatically updates when a software update is available. See Upgrading Project from an Earlier Version to learn how to install Project Pro for Office 365.

  • The Get Started template. Project 2013 offers this template to help you learn your way around the program and meet some of its new features. When you launch Project 2013 for the very first time, the Get Started template appears. Click the Start button to start the tour. As you follow along, you can dig deeper on any topic by clicking “Learn more” links. Jump to Creating a Blank Project File for more info on this template.

  • Access to the cloud. Project’s Backstage view now makes it easier to work with files stored in the cloud, whether you use Microsoft’s SkyDrive or another cloud-storage service. When you choose File→Open or File→Save As, the Open and Save As screens list locations, such as Computer or OneDrive. You choose the location where your file is stored, and then choose the folder and file. Chapter 5 provides the full scoop on opening and saving files, on or off the cloud.

  • Improved reporting. Projects seem to be all about communication, although people spend a lot of time with their heads down working. When it’s time to communicate, Project 2013 offers easy-to-digest reports that make it easier to communicate status to stakeholders and other team members. These reports can include dashboards with charts and tables, instead of row after row of numbers. The program comes with a bunch of reports to help you get started, but you can build and customize reports to your heart’s content. Or your team members can set up their own reports to see project information in a way that makes sense to them. Chapter 16 is all about project reports.

  • Task path. If you work on large or complex projects, you know how tough it can be to keep track of task dependencies and how tasks affect one another. Project’s Task Path feature (Making Sure Tasks Are Set Up Correctly) helps you view the path of tasks linked to a specific task. For example, if a crucial task is running late, Task Path can show you the task’s predecessors and driving predecessors (the ones that determine the task’s start date). In addition, you can watch the downstream effects by looking at successors and driven successors.

  • Integration with SharePoint and Office 365. Project 2013 is a lot chummier with SharePoint and other collaborative tools than earlier versions of Project were. You can now easily share Project data on a SharePoint team site. For small projects, a SharePoint Tasks List might be enough. If your scheduling needs grow, you can share tasks between Project and a SharePoint Tasks List, and vice versa. In addition, team members can provide task updates via SharePoint. Chapter 25 (available from this book’s Missing CD page—see About the Missing CD for details) shows you how to get Project and SharePoint to play well together.

Where Microsoft Project Fits In

Any project manager who has calculated task start and finish dates by hand knows how helpful Project is. By calculating dates, costs, and total assigned work, the program eliminates a mountain of grunt work and helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, so you’ll have time and stamina left over to actually manage your projects.

In the planning stage, Project helps you develop a project schedule. You add the tasks and people to a Project file, link the tasks together in sequence, assign workers and other resources to those tasks, and poof!—you have a schedule. Project calculates when tasks start and finish, how much they cost, and how many hours each person needs to work each day. The program even helps you develop better project plans, because you can revise the schedule quickly to try other strategies until the plan really works. Views and reports help you spot problems, like too many tasks assigned to the same beleaguered team member.

Once your project is under way, you can add actual dates, hours, and costs to the Project file. With actual values, you can use Project to track progress to see how actual progress and cost compare to the project plan. If problems arise—like tasks running late or over budget—you can use Project’s tools, views, and reports to look for solutions and quickly make changes until you find a way to get the project back on track.

Of course, plenty of project-management work goes on outside Project. Touchy-feely tasks like identifying project objectives, negotiating with vendors, and building stakeholder buy-in are all about people skills (although Project’s reports can certainly help you communicate status with these folks). And projects typically require a lot of documents besides the project schedule. For example, a project plan may include financial-analysis spreadsheets, requirements and specifications documents, change request databases, and diagrams to show how the change-management process works. In addition, thousands of email messages, memos, and other correspondence could change hands before a project finishes.

Communication, change management, and risk management are essential to successful project management, but they don’t occur in Project, either. For example, you may have a risk-management plan that identifies the risks your project faces and what you plan to do if they occur. You may also develop a spreadsheet to track those risks and your response if they become reality. In Project, you can link the risk-tracking spreadsheet or risk-response document to the corresponding tasks, but that’s about it.


The enterprise features in Project Server combined with SharePoint help you track risks, issues, changes, and more. But smaller teams can collaborate on topics like these on an Office 365 team site. Chapter 25 (available from this book’s Missing CD page) describes Office 365 and SharePoint collaboration features in more detail.

Choosing the Right Edition

This book covers Project Standard and Project Professional, which have about the same capabilities if you manage projects independently and aren’t trying to work closely with other project managers, teams, and projects. It doesn’t cover the enterprise features available in Project Professional and Project Server. (The box on page xvii describes some of Project’s enterprise features so you can see whether they make sense for your organization.)


This book also covers Project Pro for Office 365 as that edition stood at the time this book was written. However, because Project Pro for Office 365 will update more frequently than the desktop versions, differences between that edition and this book will increase over time.

Project Standard works for most one-person shows, even if you manage several projects at the same time. It lets you communicate with your team via email and share documents on a network drive, or the cloud (Saving a New Project).

Project Professional adds Team Planner view, and the abilities to inactivate tasks and synchronize Project tasks to a task list in SharePoint 2013. If you manage project teams with hundreds of resources, share a pool of resources with other project managers, or manage your project as one of many in your organization’s project portfolio, then you need Project Professional, along with Microsoft Enterprise Project Management Solutions. (You can set up your own Project Server environment or subscribe to a hosted solution, such as Project Online.)


Project Standard and Project Professional are both available for purchase in retail stores like Office-Max and Amazon.com. However, Project Server or a hosted EPM solution are available for purchase only through Microsoft and Microsoft partners and solution providers.

Complementary Software

Managing a project requires other programs in addition to Project. Word and Excel are great for working with the documents and financial-analysis data you produce. PowerPoint is ideal for project presentations and status meetings. And Outlook keeps project communication flowing. This book includes instructions for using these programs in some of your project-management duties.

Office 2013 Home and Business includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. You can purchase Office at stores like Staples or websites like www.bestbuy.com. Office 2013 Professional adds Office Web Apps, Publisher, and Access to the Office Home and Business suite. (Office 2013 Professional Plus adds Lync to the Office Professional lineup so your team members can communicate via instant messaging, voice, and video.) Here are some of the ways you might use these products in project management:

  • Word. Producing documents like the overall project plan, work-package descriptions, requirements, specifications, status reports, and so on.

  • Excel. Creating spreadsheets for financial analysis or tracking change requests, risks, issues, and defects reported.

  • PowerPoint. Putting together presentations for project proposals, project kickoff, status, change control board meetings, and so on.

  • Outlook. Emailing everyone who’s on the project team.

  • Publisher. Publishing newsletters, fliers, invitations to meetings, and so on.

  • Access. Tracking change requests, requirements, risks, and issues. Access is a database program that’s a more robust alternative to Excel.

Visio 2013 Professional is another program that comes in handy, whether you want to document project processes in flowcharts or to generate Visio-based visual reports from within Project. Visio isn’t part of the Office suite, so if you want to use Visio, you have to purchase it separately.

About This Book

Over the years and versions, Project has collected improvements the way sailboat keels attract barnacles. To use Project successfully, you need to understand something about project management, but that’s an exercise Microsoft leaves to its customers. The program’s Help feature is at least organized around the activities that project managers perform, but Help still focuses on what Project does rather than what you’re trying to do.

Project Help is optimistically named, because it often lacks troubleshooting tips or meaningful examples. In many cases, the topic you want simply isn’t there. Help rarely tells you what you really need to know, like when and why to use a certain feature. And with Help, highlighting key points, jotting notes in the margins, or reading about Project after your laptop’s battery is dead are all out of the question.

The purpose of this book is to serve as the manual that should have come with Project 2013. It focuses on managing projects with Project Standard or Project Professional, with the aid of a few other Microsoft programs like Word and Excel. The book points out some of the power tools that come with Microsoft’s enterprise project-management software, but it doesn’t explain how to set up or use Project Server and Project Web App. (To learn how to work with Project Server, check out Microsoft Office Project 2013 Inside Out by Teresa Stover [Microsoft Press] or Microsoft Project Server 2013 Install and Wire-up by Gary L. Chefetz and Bill Raymond [MSProjectExperts]).


Although each version of Project adds new features and enhancements, you can still use this book if you’re managing projects with earlier versions of Project. Of course, the older your version of the program, the more discrepancies you’ll run across.

In these pages, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for using Project Standard and Professional features (minus the ones that require Project Server), including those you might not quite understand: choosing the right type of task dependency, assigning resources, assigning overtime, leveling resources, producing reports, and so on. This book helps you be productive by explaining which features are useful and when to use them. From time to time, this book also includes instructions for using other programs—like Word and Excel—in your project-management duties.

Although this book is primarily a guide to Project 2013, it comes with a healthy dose of project-management guidance. The chapters walk you through managing a project from start to finish: getting a project off the ground (initiating), figuring out who needs to do what when and more (planning), doing the project work (executing), keeping the project on track (managing and controlling), and tying up loose ends (closing). You’ll find practical advice about what project managers do and how those activities help make projects a success.

Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual is designed to accommodate readers at every level of technical and project-management expertise. The primary discussions are written for advanced-beginner or intermediate Project users. First-time Project users can look for special boxes labeled “Up to Speed” to get introductory information on the topic at hand. Advanced users should watch for similar boxes labeled “Power Users’ Clinic,” which offer more technical tips, tricks, and shortcuts for the experienced Project fan. Boxes called “Tools of the Trade” provide more background on project-management tools and techniques (Gantt Charts, for example). And if you’ve ever wondered how to extract yourself from a gnarly project-management situation, look for boxes called “Reality Check” for techniques you can try when project-management textbooks fail you.

About the Outline

Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual is divided into six parts, each containing several chapters:

  • Part 1 is like a mini-manual on project management. It explains what projects are and why managing them is such a good idea. These chapters explain how to pick the right projects to perform, obtain support for them, and start them off on the right foot. You also get a whirlwind tour of planning a project, which Part Two tackles in detail.

  • Part 2 starts by introducing you to Project 2013 and creating a simple project schedule to whet your appetite. These chapters then take you through each aspect of planning a project, including breaking work down into manageable pieces, estimating work and duration, building a schedule, assembling a team, assigning resources to tasks, and setting up a budget. The remaining chapters explain how to refine your plan until everyone is (mostly) happy with it, and then how to prepare it for the execution phase of the project.

  • Part 3 takes you from an approved project plan to the end of a project. These chapters explain how to track progress once work gets under way, evaluate that progress, correct course, and manage changes. Other chapters explain how to use Project’s reports and complete important steps at the end of a project.

  • Part 4 helps you get the most out of Project. These chapters talk about how to work on more than one project at a time, share data with other programs, and collaborate on projects with colleagues.

  • Part 5 explains how to customize every aspect of Project to fit your needs—even the ribbon. After all, every organization is unique, and so is every project. Other chapters show you how to save time by reusing Project elements (in templates) and boost productivity by recording macros.

  • Part 6. At the end of the book, three appendixes provide a guide to installing and upgrading Project, a reference to help resources for Project, and a quick review of the most helpful keyboard shortcuts.


You can download one additional chapter—Chapter 25: Collaborating on Projects with SharePoint—from this book’s Missing CD page at www.missingmanuals.com/cds. See About the Missing CD for more about the Missing CD page.

The Very Basics

To use this book—and Project—you need to know a few computer basics. Like other Microsoft programs, Project responds to several types of mouse clicks, menu commands, and keystroke combinations. Here’s a quick overview of a few terms and concepts this book uses:

  • Clicking. This book gives you three kinds of instructions that require you to use your computer’s mouse or trackpad. To click means to point the arrow pointer at something on the screen, and then—without moving the pointer at all—press and release the left button on the mouse (or laptop trackpad). To right-click means the same thing, but using the right mouse button instead. To double-click means to click the left mouse button twice in rapid succession, again without moving the pointer at all. And to drag means to move the pointer while holding down the left mouse button the entire time.

    When you’re told to Shift-click something, press and hold the Shift key, and then click; then release both the key and the mouse button. Related procedures, such as Ctrl-clicking, work the same way—just click while pressing the corresponding key.

  • Keyboard shortcuts. Nothing is faster than keeping your fingers on your keyboard—entering data, choosing names, and triggering commands, all without losing time by reaching for the mouse. That’s why many experienced Project fans prefer to trigger commands by pressing combinations of keys on the keyboard. For example, when you read an instruction like “Press Ctrl+C to copy the selection to the Clipboard,” start by pressing the Ctrl key; while it’s down, type the letter C, and then release both keys.


Throughout this book and the Missing Manual series, you’ll find sentences like this one: “In the Gantt Chart Tools | Format tab’s Bar Styles section, choose Format→Bar Styles.” That’s shorthand for selecting the Gantt Chart Tool contextual Format tab on the ribbon, navigating to the tab’s Bar Styles section, clicking Format, and then clicking Bar Styles. Figure I-1 shows what this looks like.

Instead of filling pages with long and hard-to-follow instructions for navigating through nested menus and nested folders, the arrow notations are concise, but just as informative. For example, here’s how you execute the Bar Styles command.
Figure I-1. Instead of filling pages with long and hard-to-follow instructions for navigating through nested menus and nested folders, the arrow notations are concise, but just as informative. For example, here’s how you execute the Bar Styles command.

If you see an instruction that includes arrows but starts with the word File, it’s telling you to go to Project’s Backstage view. For example, the sentence “Choose File→New” means to select the File tab to switch to Backstage view, and then click the New command (which appears in the narrow list on the left).

About MissingManuals.com

At www.missingmanuals.com, you’ll find news, articles, and updates to the books in this series. The website also offers corrections and updates to this book (to see them, click the book’s title, and then click Errata). In fact, you’re invited and encouraged to submit such corrections and updates yourself. In an effort to keep this book as up to date and accurate as possible, each time we print more copies, we’ll make any confirmed corrections you suggest. We’ll also note such changes on the website so that you can mark important corrections into your own copy of the book.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your suggestions for new books in the Missing Manual line. There’s a place for that on the website, too, as well as a place to sign up for free email notification of new titles in the series.

About the Missing CD

As you read through this book, you’ll find references to files that you can use to help you manage your projects. To download these files, you need to hop online and visit this book’s Missing CD page. This book also mentions websites that offer additional resources. Each reference includes the site’s URL, but you can save yourself some typing by going to this book’s Missing CD page, where you’ll find clickable links to all the sites mentioned here.

To get to this book’s Missing CD page, go to www.missingmanuals.com, click the Missing CDs link, scroll down to Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual, and then click the Missing CD-ROM link.

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If one of your goals is to pass the Microsoft Project MCTS Exam, including the upcoming exam for Project 2013, this Missing Manual includes all the Microsoft Project information you need.

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