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Microsoft Project 2007: The Missing Manual by Bonnie Biafore

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Importing a WBS into Project

If you build a list of tasks in Word or, for that matter, Excel, WordPad, or another program that can produce text files, you can easily import tasks into Project. Suppose different teams use Word outlines to document the tasks they plan to perform. They can save their outlines as text files and send them to you. All you have to do is open the text file in Project; the Import Wizard launches to guide you through importing the tasks into a Project file.

Word doesn't save Tab-delimited files out of the box. In addition, ideally you'd like imported tasks to come in at the correct WBS level. If you use Word outlining, the heading styles in the Word document correspond to the WBS level in the Project file.

The Import WBS Word template (created in Word 2003) at www.missingmanuals.com/cds has some handy tools for importing tasks into Project. The heading styles number each task with a WBS code, so you can confirm that the tasks are at the correct level before you import them. In addition, the template includes a macro that creates a text file that separates the task name (the first value) from the outline level (the second value).


To use the macro in the Import WBS template, you must set up your copy of Word to let macros run. Because the steps to enable macros depend on the level of security you use, refer to Word Help or a book about Microsoft Word—like Word 2007: The Missing Manual by Chris Grover—for instructions.

Here are the steps to use the Word template (CH04 WBS Outline.dot) to import a WBS text file into Project:

  1. Replace the text in the template with the tasks for your project.

    Use the techniques described on Documenting a WBS in Another Program to indent or outdent tasks to the correct WBS level.

  2. In the custom WBS toolbar, click "Create WBS for Import".

    You can specify the number of levels that you want to export, for example, if you plan to import the first several levels into a master project. When you click OK, then Word creates a new Word document with the outline levels separated from the task names with commas.

  3. Choose File → Save As. Navigate to the folder you want to use, and then make sure to set the "Save as type" box to Plain Text.

    Name the file, and then click Save to create the text file.

  4. To import this file into Project, switch to Project, and then choose File → Open.

    The Open dialog box automatically sets the "Files of type" box to Microsoft Project Files, so you need to tell Project you're importing a text file.

  5. In the "Files of type" drop-down list, choose Text (Tab delimited).

    As you navigate folders, text files appear in the file list. The text file you created is comma-delimited, but the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft programs require you to choose Text (Tab Delimited). You'll change the delimiter in a few steps.

    If you import a comma-delimited file instead, for instance, one created with Excel, choose CSV (Comma delimited). Then, continue with the following steps.

  6. When you locate your WBS text file in the file list, doubleclick its name. Alternatively, click the file name, and then click Open.

    Project opens the text document, and then launches the Import Wizard.

  7. Click Next to start the wizard.

    On the Import Wizard—Map page, the wizard automatically selects the New Map option, which is usually what you want.


    If you make a habit of importing text files, you can save the map (Importing Data into Project) you define. Then, the next time you import a file, select the Use Existing Map option, and then choose the map. The fields and other settings are ready for the import.

  8. On the Import Wizard-Import Mode page, if you want to import the WBS into a blank project, keep the "As a new project" option selected. Click Next.

    If you're importing several text files into the same project, the "Append the data to the active project" option imports the tasks at the end of the existing task list. Selecting the "Merge the data into the active project" option imports the tasks at the currently selected row.

  9. On the Import Wizard-Map Options page, keep the Task option selected. Click Next.

    If the first row of the text file includes column names (as it might if you're importing from an Excel file), then make sure the "Import includes headers" checkbox is turned on. However, if you used Word outlining to build a text file, turn off that checkbox.

    The "Text delimiter" box specifies the character that separates fields, including a comma, tab, or space. For the WBS template, verify that the value is ",".

  10. On the Import Wizard-Task Mapping page, match the values in the text file to Project fields, as shown in Figure 4-10.

    If your text file doesn't include headings, the cells in the From: Text File Field column display sequential numbers for each field in the text file. For the WBS import template, you see "1" and "2" in the first two rows. In the first To: Microsoft Office Project Field cell, choose Name, because the first field in the text file is the task name. In the second cell in the column, choose Outline Level.


    If you import tasks from another source, match up the fields in the To: column with Project fields in the From: column. You can match as many fields as you want as long as the field in the text file for names maps to the Name field in Project and the outline level field in the text file maps to Outline Level.

  11. Click Finish.

    Project imports the tasks into your Project file.

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