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Microsoft Project 2007: The Missing Manual by Bonnie Biafore

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Building a WBS in Microsoft Project

Your WBS may not have started out in Project. A WBS might be scribbled on a whiteboard, scrawled on sticky notes pasted to flip charts, or just rattling around noisily in your head. Regardless of where your ideas are, you can make short work of getting them into Project. Once you get familiar with the techniques for outlining tasks described on the next few pages, you'll develop a rhythm to your data entry. If you already have an outline, you can quickly type it into Project from the top down (see the box on Creating and Modifying a WBS on the Fly). Or if work packages are bubbling up in your brain, you can enter them without worrying about the order of the tasks or the overall structure. You can rearrange and add summary tasks and work packages later.

Creating a WBS in Project from the Top Down

One of the more efficient data entry methods is to start at the top of a WBS and complete each level of tasks before dropping to the next level. Because Project creates a new task at the same outline level as the previous task, this approach keeps indenting and outdenting to a minimum.

For maximum efficiency, when you flesh out a lowest-level summary task, insert as many rows as there are work packages for that summary task, and then type the names of the work packages in the Task Name cells. The following steps show you exactly how to work your way down a WBS one level at a time:

  1. Choose File → New to create a new blank project file.

    The Gantt Chart view appears with the Entry table on the left and the Gantt Chart timescale on the right. If the Gantt Chart view doesn't appear, choose View → Gantt Chart or, in the View bar, click Gantt Chart.

  2. If the WBS column doesn't appear in the Entry table, right-click the Task Name heading and, from the shortcut menu, choose Insert Column.

    The Column Definition dialog box appears. In the "Field name" drop-down list, choose WBS, as shown in Figure 4-2, and then click OK. The new column appears to the left of the Task Name column.

    In the Column Definition dialog box, in addition to choosing the field to display, you can label the column with a different name, align the text in the column, and specify the column width.

    Figure 4-2. In the Column Definition dialog box, in addition to choosing the field to display, you can label the column with a different name, align the text in the column, and specify the column width.

    Note

    Project keeps track of WBS numbers for tasks whether the WBS column is visible or not. The WBS code format that comes out of the box is a number at each level, with levels separated by periods. If your organization has a custom WBS format, you can set up your own WBS code (Setting Up Customized WBS Codes).

  3. In the Entry table, click the first Task Name cell, and then type the name for the first top-level summary task.

    Press Enter to save this task, and then move down to the Task Name cell in the next row, as illustrated in Figure 4-3.

    By the way, you don't have to create a top-level task for the overall project. Project has a project summary task, which sits in an exalted position of Row 0 and rolls up the values for all the other tasks in the schedule. If you want to see the Project Summary task, though, you have to tell Project to display it. Choose Tools → Options. In the Options dialog box, select the View tab, and then turn on the "Show project summary task" checkbox.

    Project creates the next task at the same level in the WBS outline as the previous task, so you're ready to enter the next top-level task. As you'll see shortly, this behavior makes it easy to add several tasks at the same level, no matter which level of the WBS you're creating.

    Figure 4-3. Project creates the next task at the same level in the WBS outline as the previous task, so you're ready to enter the next top-level task. As you'll see shortly, this behavior makes it easy to add several tasks at the same level, no matter which level of the WBS you're creating.

  4. Repeat Step 3 for each top-level task in the WBS.

    Creating the tasks at the top-level is as easy as it gets. You type a task name, press Enter, and repeat until all your top-level tasks are there. Now you're ready to add tasks at the next level of the WBS.

  5. To add subtasks to a summary task, click the Task Name cell immediately below the summary task you're fleshing out, and then press Insert as many times as there are subtasks, as demonstrated in Figure 4-4.

    This step is the secret to speedy outlining because it works in the same way at every level of the WBS: second-level, third-level, or lowest-level summary task. When you insert rows for the lowest-level summary task, insert as many rows as there are work packages for that summary task. Then you can type away and fill them all in quickly.

    You can insert blank task rows by clicking anywhere in the row below the summary task and pressing Insert. But if you click the Task Name cell, when you press Insert the blank task's Task Name cell becomes the active cell—ready for you to type the name of the first subtask.

    Figure 4-4. You can insert blank task rows by clicking anywhere in the row below the summary task and pressing Insert. But if you click the Task Name cell, when you press Insert the blank task's Task Name cell becomes the active cell—ready for you to type the name of the first subtask.

  6. With the blinking insertion point in the blank Task Name cell beckoning you, type the name of the subtask, and then press Enter to create the task.

    Pressing Enter moves the active cell to the next Task Name cell. However, the first subtask isn't at the right level—it's still at the same level as the summary task.

  7. To indent the task, press the up arrow key, and then press Alt+Shift+right arrow. Or, on the Formatting toolbar, click Indent (the green arrow pointing to the right).

    Project indents the subtask and indicates its subordinate position in two ways: with the WBS number and the outline box—both shown in Figure 4-5.

  8. Press the down arrow key to move to the next Task Name cell, type the name, and then press Enter.

    Because the first subtask is at the correct level, the remaining subtasks come to life at the right level for their summary task.

  9. Repeat steps 5 through 8 for every summary task in the WBS, ultimately filling in each level of the WBS.

    Your initial draft of the WBS is complete.

    The WBS code for the subtask includes an additional level of numbers. If the summary task WBS number is 2.4, its first outline box subtask has the number 2.4.1. Summary task names are preceded by an outline box—a square with a minus sign inside that indicates that the summary task is expanded. If you click the box, the summary task collapses and hides its subtasks, and the outline box changes to a square with a + sign.

    Figure 4-5. The WBS code for the subtask includes an additional level of numbers. If the summary task WBS number is 2.4, its first outline box subtask has the number 2.4.1. Summary task names are preceded by an outline box—a square with a minus sign inside that indicates that the summary task is expanded. If you click the box, the summary task collapses and hides its subtasks, and the outline box changes to a square with a + sign.

Creating and Modifying a WBS on the Fly

If you're in high gear churning out project tasks, you can gleefully insert, delete, and rearrange the WBS outline as you go. The resulting WBS looks exactly the same as one methodically typed from the top down. Also, the methods for adding, moving, and changing outline levels for tasks are the same whether you're creating or modifying a WBS.

In Project 2007, visual reports can make project information easier to digest by displaying the data in Excel or Visio. This visual report using Visio takes the tasks in a Project file and displays them as a WBS tree structure. As you'll learn in , you can use other types of visual reports to decompose project information, for instance, or to analyze cost and schedule overruns to identify problems areas.

Figure 4-6. In Project 2007, visual reports can make project information easier to digest by displaying the data in Excel or Visio. This visual report using Visio takes the tasks in a Project file and displays them as a WBS tree structure. As you'll learn in Chapter 27, you can use other types of visual reports to decompose project information, for instance, or to analyze cost and schedule overruns to identify problems areas.

You can use the following techniques to develop a WBS in any order:

  • Insert a new summary task. In the row below the new summary task, click the Task Name cell, and then press Insert. Type the task name, and then either press Alt+Shift+left arrow or, on the Formatting toolbar, click Outdent until the summary task is at the level you want.

  • Insert a new subtask. Click the Task Name cell in the row that should be below the new subtask, and then press Insert. The task appears at the same outline level as the task you clicked.

  • Make a summary task into a subtask. Select the summary task, and then either press Alt+Shift+right arrow or, on the Formatting toolbar, click Indent (the green arrow pointing to the right). When you indent a summary task, its outline box disappears. In addition, the task above it remains at the same level in the outline.

  • Move a subtask to the next lower level. Select the task, and then press Alt+Shift+Right Arrow or, on the Formatting toolbar, click Indent. The task drops to the next lower level while the task above it turns into a summary task.

    Tip

    If you want to move, indent, outdent, or delete several tasks at once, then select them all, and then use the techniques in this section. To select adjoining tasks in the outline, drag across the adjacent tasks. To select several separate tasks, Ctrl+click each task.

  • Elevate a subtask to the next higher level. Click the task. On the Formatting toolbar, click Outdent (the green arrow pointing to the left) or press Alt+Shift+left arrow.

  • Move a subtask to another summary task. Click the ID cell (the first column of the view table) for the task you want to move. After the pointer turns into a four-headed arrow, drag the task to its new home in the outline. Change its out-line level if necessary.

  • Delete a subtask. Select the subtask, and then press Delete.

  • Delete a summary task. If you want to delete a summary task and all of its sub-tasks, select the summary task, and then press Delete, or choose Edit → Delete Task. (And if you want to delete a summary task and keep all of the subtasks, see the box below.)

    Note

    To use the Delete key to delete a task, you must select the entire task row (by clicking the ID number for the row). If you select only the Task Name cell, and then press Delete, Project deletes the text in the cell. Alternatively, if you click the Smart Tag with an X, which appears to the left of the Task Name cell, you can choose the "Only clear the contents of the Task Name Cell" option or "Delete the entire task" option.

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