Microsoft Project Archives

May 9, 2005

Project Users

Microsoft Project users are not always a happy bunch. It often seems like they come across it by accident:

microsoft project got no idea what the hell is that... only know i need to master it when boss is back... hiazz... dunno can find pirated copy of it anot... den can at least try abit at home mahz... this IA learn so many software... haha... should be of use bah... next time.. haha

Or, they know they have to use it, but it just isn't doing what they want:

I hate MS Project
For some reason, Microsoft Project thinks my project doesnt have a critical path….this is pissing me off.

Why does it make people post things like this?:

Microsoft Project is a PIECE OF SH-T.

That is all.

That is all. :-)

May 11, 2005

Project 2006

If Bill Gates' comments about Office 12 are correct, then we can expect that the next version of Project will be Project 2006 (or whatever naming scheme they have dreamed up by then) rather than Project 2005.

Of course Project has not always been in lock step with the rest of office, so it is always possible that Project will ship earlier, but it is dependent on Office for a lot of the UI.

August 16, 2005

MS Project Tip - Working with Float

In Microsoft Project everything is scheduled "As Soon as Possible" by default. This is generally a good thing, though it is a bit misleading at times. It is very common for people to look at the schedule and see that something did not start on the "start" date and get concerned. Fortunately there is an easy way to tell whether a task starting late is a problem or not.

The way to do this is to look at the Total Slack (also referred to as Total Float) for the task. This value shows you the amount of time that a task can move later in time without affecting the finish of the project. Project calculates this automatically for you by performing a forward pass calculation - adding up the durations of tasks going forward to determine how early they can finish, and then a backward pass calculation - the same thing but from the project finish date which was calculated in the forward pass. As a result of these calculations you get an early finish date and a late finish date for every task. The difference between the two is the total slack or float.

The problem with slack is that it is not always visible in the gantt chart. To make it visible is simple. First go to the "Format" menu and select "Barstyles. A dialog box comes up. Add two new barstyles as shown here:

You note that I have two barstyles added and that they both use "finish" and "late finish" except in the opposite order. The reason for this is that Project draws all bars from left to right. The first bar will only be drawn if finish is earlier than late finish. The second bar will only be drawn if late finish is earlier than finish. This is a useful technique to remember for drawing other sorts of bars where you are comparing against another date (such as baseline, deadline etc.)

The result of adding these barstyles is shown in the next diagram. You can see for the first group of tasks that Task D has total slack of one week. So if you are in the second week of the project and contemplating whether Task B or Task D is more important to get started on, the answer should be clear that it is Task B.

The Neg Float bar comes into play when your tasks are already too late. In this case I set a "Must Finish On" constraint on the Finish milestone. In effect this makes Tasks A, B & C late by one day. You can see the red bar show up indicating that they are 1 day late. Task D is still showing 4 days of total slack.
By making this information visible on the Gantt chart it is much easier to see what tasks are the ones which will affect your project completion and which tasks are less critical.

September 12, 2005

Project 12 (Project 2006? Project Vista?) Blog

Dieter, the Group Program Manager for Project 12 - the upcoming version of Project - has started blogging here. So far there is not much up there, but if he can actually post some of the presentations from the PDC and other design documents it should be a compelling read. From what I know of Project 12 there are several new features which would be interesting to hear about prior to release. On the other hand I'm sure that Dieter and the team are torn between excitement over showing what is new vs. stalling sales of the current version.

Definitely worth subscribing to so you can see what is going to happen with the tool we all love to hate (or is it hate to love?). Thanks for taking the plunge Dieter.

September 27, 2005

Microsoft Project 2003 Service Pack 2 Download

Looks like they released Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Project 2003 (including standard, pro and server).
In my experience Project Service Packs always fix more things than they break so the odds are good that you should just download and install it. This is not always the case with Windows Service Releases.

Anyway, Project Service Pack is here
and the Project Server Service Pack is here

If you are wary, then check out the list of fixes and decide if it is worth it to you. With a list of 145 fixes (and a number of undocumented ones as well) you should be able to find at least one compelling reason.

October 26, 2005

What are you going to use Project Server 2006 for?

The news that the next version of Project Server is going to have "server side scheduling" is quite interesting. I think it is going to open up some new uses for Project Server. Uses that don't even require the use of Project Pro. If I had time and energy I'd be thinking about getting to work on a timesheet system which takes advantage of Project Server.

Of course, having scheduling available on the server also means that people will try to implement "real-time" scheduling, where the schedule reflects the impacts of the latest updates. This is a very attractive idea in theory, but in practice it has the problem that there is a level of uncertainty in the schedule at all times. You never really know if it is up to date. How many of the tasks are updated? And what was the status date of that update? It is often better to have an acccurate snapshot of where you were at a certain point in time than an impressionistic picture of where you might be now.

November 20, 2005

Oops - MS Project Server 2003 Service Pack 2 Recalled

Installing a Microsoft service pack right off the bat has always been a controversial thing, but the recent recall of Project Server SP2 is another black mark in the minus column. Seems it screws up outline codes. Read this knowledgebase article (KB# 909947) for the details.

January 23, 2006

One good thing about Project 2006 (AKA Project 12)

Jensen Harris says personalized menus are going away.

You might know what these are but not what they are called. They are the menus which show "recently used commands" first and hide the entire rest of the menu. To me this was about as stupid as a real menu (one from which you pick food to eat) which only showed you what you had the last time you were there.

Microsoft put them into Office (including Project) as an attempt to hide the clutter that feature bloat had caused. Unfortunately beyond limiting your perspective to things you already knew - thereby limiting your growth and understanding of the application, they had the unfortunate property of changing occasionally so you could not rely on a consistant physical location for the menu item. Jensen wrote a bit about this before stating:

"Auto-customization, unless it does a perfect job, is usually worse than no customization at all.  Although the algorithm used to promote and demote menu items is rather complex and well thought-out, it's not perfect.  Because it's not perfect, it does the wrong thing a lot of the time.  (If it's even clear what a "right thing" is for a feature like this.)  What people experienced is a sense randomness and unpredictability: one time, a menu item would be in a certain place, and then two days later it wasn't there anymore."

Well, he definitely got that part right. And it is good news that even though MS Project 2006  is not getting the same sort of interface makeover that the core office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) at least this feature will be off by default.

January 26, 2006

More Microsoft Project 12 features popping up

New MS Project 2006 features revealed at Project Conference held last week are making their way through the web. Bill Raymond posted a list of the top 10 on his blog here: MPA Blog. I'm interested to see that the first item:

Project Professional has some nice scheduling enhancements, but the client will remain mostly the same as Project 2003.

is really not a feature at all, but a recognition of the relative lack of any new features. Of course there is one greatly anticipated feature on the client and that is multi-level undo which people have been asking for for more than a decade. The rest of the features on Bill's list are all related to Project Server in one way or another.

This isn't that surprising though since the audience at the conference (according to Larry Duff's blog) was overwhelmingly people who make their living from Project Server. The ordinary desktop user doesn't spend money to go to a multi-day conference about project. Indeed, since the release of Project 1998 they can mostly make due with the skills they have as not much has fundamentally changed. I suppose there must be some who advocate for the single user with a single copy of project, but they are few and scattered and do not seem to have Microsoft's ear. I am somewhat concerned that the overwhelming feedback that Microsoft gets from those with an economic stake in developing and selling solutions based on Microsoft Project is what is setting the direction for future innovation (or in the case of the client, the lack thereof). More than once I've seen consultants grin sheepishly when I have referred to Project Server as "the Consultant's Full-Employment Act".

Of course to counter my argument is this example from the "I hate MS Project" crowd titled "why-ms-project-sucks-for-software" which seems to point that Microsoft has the right priorities - only he doesn't know it yet. Some of his concerns - particularly those of integration with other software development tools are on Microsoft's radar and are being addressed... the only issue being that it requires a suite of MS software rather than the diverse collection of tools he lists.

Maybe the average user does want a highly complex, integrated solution which requires extensive infrastructure? Or then again, maybe not.

January 31, 2006

Microsoft Project, the scheduling software people love to hate and hate to love

You can look here for some of the fun that is being had:
projectified: Glen is on a Roll!
I've posted about MS Project haters in the past. They are quite common beasts after all. On the other hand, those that "Love" Microsoft project are as rare as unicorns. Brian sticks up for it just because he is righteous and works for Microsoft :-). I think part of the problem is that it has a complex soul. It is hard to get close to it without accepting it on its own terms. It also carries a lot of baggage and thus is not as streamlined, simple and shiny as it could be. Bloat is not a pretty word so I'll refrain from using it.

Excel and Word get new ribbons for their hair in their upcoming version 12, but Project for the most part has to be content sweeping out the fireplaces of enterprise while the others are at the ball. One almost wishes that one could wave a wand and convert the resource substitution wizard into a golden full fledged resource leveling engine with a team of dalmations running along behind or that the tired old gui could be cleaned of soot. But I fear it is not likely, and even if by some miracle Project were cleaned and polished at the end of the evening someone will shut down the program without saving leaving only a spool file blinking in the task tray.

No, dreams are not practical. The best approach is to jump into the swamp with project anyway. You can kiss it if you want, but it won't turn into a princess. Not that you would want it too. It is a pretty useful as a frog as it is.

February 2, 2006

It's all about helium these days

It's all about helium these days. First my 9 year-old asks me if Helium-5 burns, then the Russians are reportedly planning to mine the moon for Helium-3 for reactors. Then Oil-man Bush gets all hot about alternative energy research, Richard Branson commissions Philippe Starck to design a multi-million$ space port in New Mexico (Hm... the logo is a blue eye?) and of course part of the US mission to Mars involves an extensive layover on the moon with a lot of time for exploration and other activities, so maybe we are all thinking the same thing.

Don't believe me? Well maybe we can read some of the documentation and see what is up.

Take a look at the Level 0 Exploration requirements for the mars mission. The basic idea is that development of the capabilities proceeds in a spiral fashion, each loop providing a foundation for the next. The moon plays a big part in this as it is a testing ground and staging point. There are 3 main phases of the project:

  1. Crew Exploration Development and Test - The goal here is to build a crew exploration vehicle (CEV) and Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) along with supporting infrastructure to put humans into Low Earth Orbit. This step is underway. Test flights expected in 2010 with the systems fully operational by 2014.
  2. Global Lunar Access for Human Exploration - Establishes the capability to conduct human exploration missions to any location on the surface of the Moon. This includes robotic systems, a Lunar Surface Access Module (LSAM) and a Cargo Delivery System. The robotic part of this is supposed to commence by 2008.
  3. Lunar Base and Mars Testbed - Estabishes the capability to conduct long term (several month) lunar surface exploration. This includes development of "surface power systems".

The thing that is a bit odd is that it stops there. Having guys living on and driving around on the moon is the end state of the currently published plans. But it is not inconsistant with the mission statement which is:

"NASA shall advance U.S. scientific, technological, security, and economic interests through a robust human and robotic space exploration program."
Nor is it inconsistant with the stated objective that:
"(1.3) NASA shall explore Jupiter's moons, asteroids, and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to search for resources"

So what is it about Helium-3 which is so attractive? The Helium-3 isotope has a nucleus with two protons and one neutron. A nuclear reactor based on the fusion of helium 3 and deuterium, which has a single nuclear proton and neutron, would produce very few neutrons -- about 1 percent of the number generated by the deuterium-tritium reaction. This means both greater safety for humans and elimination of much of the radioactive shielding which is necessary for other reactions. Unfortunately He-3 is very rare on earth, but much less so on the moon where it is deposited by the solar wind. Uranus and Saturn are presumed to be rich in He-3, so the stop on the moon is just a stepping stone.

Reportedly, just 25 tons of He-3 could supply the current energy needs of the US for an entire year. The moon is estimated to have a million tons of the stuff. Seems to me that the space race is back on. Or at least I hope so. If it all works out it would be a good thing for our planet.

At the very least I hope this post explains why Martians speak in high squeaky voices.

February 6, 2006

OMG that is like sooo cool

Dieter Z. points out some of the background behind multiple level undo which is now part of Project 2006 (keep the stories coming Dieter) and relates how a customer exclaimed "Oh My God..." when it was demo'ed at the recent project conference. Despite the extensive work required to implement this I'm guessing that the response was less an appreciation of the technical complexity involved than it was a recognition of the long unexpected - that is it was as if a teen-ager had just cleaned their room without being asked. Surprising and delightful, but quite overdue... <insert smiley here>

February 7, 2006

Microsoft Project 12 / Project 2006 / Project ? Feature List

Microsoft is busy working on the next version of Project and Project Server. So far they have disclosed a few new features and improvements. This entry is a running list of what they have disclosed so far (limited of course by my available energy to gather and summarize). I'll try to keep it updated. If you have any other public disclosures of features let me know and I'll add them: Now the list in no particular order:

Desktop Features:

  • Multiple level undo - this has been asked for forever, but due to the nature of the scheduling engine is something very difficult to implement. But with Project 2006 you will now be able to undo more than just your previous change. It remains to be seen if there are VBA methods to invoke this.
  • The end of context menus - I wrote about this before. The short menus are now off by default. Project does not get the new "ribbon" UI that the main office apps are getting, but it is a step in the right direction
  • Project Pro - Project Server:

  • Server-Side Scheduling - This means that the project stored in the Project Server Database can be calculated WITHOUT the intervention of Project Pro. No round-trip of data needed. This enables a number of different scenarios and usages.
  • Client-side cache and caching service - This is intended to make the I/O between Pro and Server to be resiliant, to maximize performance on high-latency WANs and by doing so to improve the experience for people using Proj Pro. Basically they have a local cache which communicates with the server through SOAP calls instead of ODBC. Performance is claimed to be greatly improved.
  • Unlimited enterprise custom fields - They are now on the server side instead of in the Global.mpt file. This frees Project Pro from the limitations imposed by the traditional project client which requires that the fields be predefined in the data structure to be used. Now you are limited to as many as you can reasonably use. In line with server-side scheduling they are also calculated on the server side and so will be accurate if you are working from Project Server.
  • Project Server Reporting - New database architecture consists of 4 databases - Working/Draft, Published, Reporting and Archive. In contrast to the Project Server 2003 database, the reporting database is relatively flat and easier to query for mere mortals. Through what is called the Reporting Data Service (RDS) it is kept updated with events occuring in the published database. It is also improved with support for SQL Server Reporting Services which means - um... well, it is supposed to be a good thing
  • To Be Continued...

    February 9, 2006

    News from the Microsoft Project 12 team

    DieterZ is moving on to a new position and is leaving the communication about the next version of Project and Project Server to Lidiane Souza. You can find her here:

    The only issue is that her latest post which states "Hopefully we’ll be able to build a good community on this blog.. Sadly, comments are not allowed and there is no email address for her... Hopefully she will get this straightened out.

    February 17, 2006

    Not Project 12, Not Project 2006, Announcing Microsoft Office Project 2007

    Looks like the newest versions are coming late enough in 2006 that it made sense to name them after next year.
    Also the version names seem to be growing every year, first they added Project Standard and Project Professional, now they are Microsoft Office Project Standard 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Professional 2007 along with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007. Quite a mouthful.

    Pricing data is here and you can sign up to be notified of the latest news and beta2 releases here

    Despite the long names it is good to see that Project is becoming more widely considered part of the office family.

    February 24, 2006

    Using Wikipedia to Promote Office 2007 and Project 2007

    I guess it should be there, but it just seems odd that such a thing is in an online "encyclopedia"
    Microsoft Office 2007 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    March 1, 2006

    Project 2007 vs. Excel 2007

    This post about multi-colored data bars
    Microsoft Excel 12 : Conditional Formatting Trick 1 – Multi-Coloured Data Bars in the upcoming Excel 2007 is making it look even better for the small time scheduler or as a credible reporting/analysis engine for project data. I can envision a number of macros which might benefit from this feature.

    March 2, 2006

    Free Monte Carlo Simulator For Microsoft Project - Want to help out?

    I don't think I've mentioned it here, but if you are interested in Monte Carlo Simulation for MS Project (and who isn't?!) then you can download my quick and dirty simulator here: Microsoft Project Monte Carlo Simulator
    Since it is just a VBA macro, the source is there for all to see and modify. Have at it! And if you make any improvements, please consider sharing them with me and others. Any updates will be posted with acknowledgement to the contributor. I've had this version up for a couple of years now and will keep it up until this function comes built into Project.

    March 10, 2006

    Project 2007 - No UI in sight

    But we can see some of the changes in the Office 2007 User Interface here:Jensen Harris: An Office User Interface Blog : Picture This: A New Look For Office It would be nice to see Project get a big makeover like this, but I'm afraid it isn't going to happen for 2007. Good to see the changes they made to Excel though.

    March 25, 2006

    2007 = 2007: Microsoft Office Project 2007 Delayed

    There is a reason why they decided to call it Project 2007. Seems that they are slipping the release until 2007 corresponding to the slip in Vista. Some more information here:

    Since Vista most likely will require a new PC due to heavy hardware requirement, I guess they are thinking that most office users (read corporate IT) would hold off on an upgrade to office until the Vista dust settles. Or at least that is what I think they may be thinking.

    April 11, 2006

    Microsoft Office Project 2007 Beta expected this spring

    According to Lidiane, the public beta will be available this "spring" which means sometime in the next couple months. The best way to get the beta is to sign up here and they will let you know when it is ready. Considering the large number of changes in this version it is probably worth your time to check it out in advance.

    April 28, 2006

    Microsoft Office Project 2007 Webcasts coming up

    Treb's blog notes that there are a couple of interesting webcasts coming up.

    The first is an overview of Office Project Server 2007, presumably covering what you need to know about how all of the server and client processes tie together. The description states:

    "Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 has a new architecture, enabling the system and solution to provide new functionality and capabilities. This webcast provides an overview of the architecture of Project Server 2007, and looks at how the new system functions. We also examine how Project Server 2007 differs from Microsoft Office Project Server 2003, and identify where developer opportunities exist."

    You can register for it here:

    Architecture Overview of Office Project Server 2007 (Level 100) Monday, May 08, 2006 11:00 AM Pacific Time (US & Canada)

    The second is a Project 2007 Preview:

    "This session is not your typical Deep Dive--it's a preview of what's coming in the next version of Project (P2007). Discussion will center on new features in P2007 and a focus on planning for resource management - planning your organizational needs, and best practices for decision making regarding resources.

    The Project Deep Dive Series is meant to provide an in-depth look at current business topics that most affect Project Managers/Directors and how to leverage Microsoft's tools and project management best practices to effectively address these topics."

    Register for it here:

    Project 2007 Preview Tuesday, May 23, 2006 10:00AM Pacific Time (US & Canada)

    I think that the Architecture session hosted by Larry Duff might be the more interesting one, but try them out and see. You can always keep it on in the background if it gets boring. One thing is certain and that is that Microsoft is trying to get deeper into the world of work and trying to get better integration with other apps.

    August 10, 2006

    Microsoft Project Performance Limitations

    Someone was wondering the other day whether the limit on tasks in project would be constrained by the possible number of Unique ID's. They were concerned that the unique ID might be stored as a 16 bit number and that they could conceivably reach it over time. I am reasonably certain that the unique ID is at least a 32 bit number but since it is not documented, I thought I'd do a little test. To test it I tried to construct a project with more than 2^16 tasks (2^16 = 65536 )

    My approach was to code up something which would add as many tasks as I wanted. Because there is always a concern that this might take a while I had it write to a log file along the way. And to get an idea of how long it would take I added a time stamp mechanism. What I found was what I expected... long before you get to 2^32 tasks (4,294,967,296 to be precise) you run out of time. Project becomes so sluggish that it becomes unreasonable to work with.

    The reason is that Project stores the project in memory and that as the file grows larger, it becomes much more processor intensive to do anything with the file. To illustrate what I mean, here is a chart showing the time required to add tasks.


    The straight line shows that as the file size grows, the time needed to add tasks increases almost linearly. The result of this is a power curve for the cumulative time required. Here you can see that it took about 45 minutes to add 30 thousand tasks. Extrapolating along this curve, adding 65536 tasks would take about 4.5 hours.

    Going a bit further and adding the 1 million tasks which Microsoft claims is the limit for Project we find that it would take about 70 days. Along the way, we can look at the memory used by Project. I noted that as the number of tasks rose, the amount of memory that project utilized increased almost linearly as well. 30,000 tasks consumed 90 Megabytes of memory. If we extrapolate to 1,000,000 tasks that works out to 3 Gigabytes. And, in this case, the tasks consisted of just a name, no resources, no assignments, no dependencies, no notes, no formatting.

    The point of all this is that Project is constrained more by the hardware you run it on than it is by any sort of fundamental limits to the data structure.

    Tonight when I'm not working I'm going to try and see how long it takes to add 65K tasks. I expect it will take a few hours if my machine does not crash first. Of course I'm running this on my laptop with a 1.86GHz processor so a desktop machine will be faster. I do have 1GB of RAM thougn so if I run out of this and the computer starts paging to the disk then it will take considerably longer.

    If you are curious about how well your computer performs, you can use the same code I used to check. It is probably best if you save any work and do not run this at a time when you expect to do anything else with your computer.

    Sub PerformanceCheck()
    'a simple tool to check the performance of Microsoft Project
    'Copyright Jack Dahlgren, August 9, 2006
    'for more information go to:
    'Note: entering a total test size of greater than a few tens of thousands
    'will occupy your machine for a considerable amount of time!
    Dim i As Integer
    Dim j As Integer
    Dim step As Integer
    If MsgBox("Warning! May Crash Your Computer. _
    Save ALL Work Prior To Running This Macro!", _
    vbOKCancel, "Warning!") = vbCancel Then
    Exit Sub
    End If
    'open a new file to insert tasks into
    FileNew SummaryInfo:=True, Template:="", FileNewDialog:=False
    OptionsCalculation Automatic:=False
    'get values for upper limit
    j = CInt(InputBox("Enter the Total number of tasks you want to test for.", _
    "Test Size"))
    'get step size for log file
    step = CInt(InputBox("Enter how many tasks for each interim performance check" _
    & vbCrLf & "example - 1000", "Step size"))
    'create a logfile and open for writing
    'the logfile goes in the root directory
    Dim MyFile As String

    Dim fnum As Integer
    Dim randID As Integer
    randID = CInt(100 * Rnd())
    'create filename with randID as a quasi-unique Identifier
    MyFile = "c:\" & j & "tasks_performance" & randID & ".csv"
    fnum = FreeFile()

    Open MyFile For Output As fnum
    Print #fnum, "performance test, " & j & " tasks"
    Print #fnum, "Number of tasks:, Cumulative Elapsed Time:"

    'get the start time of the test
    Dim start, finish, current
    start = Timer

    'add tasks up to the total number
    For i = 1 To j
    'if the current task is divisible by the step size
    'then write an entry to the log file
    If i Mod step = 0 Then
    current = Timer
    Print #fnum, i & ", " & current - start
    'reset the start to eliminate any time wasted writing to the file
    start = start + Timer - current
    End If
    'add the task
    ActiveProject.Tasks.Add (i)
    Next i
    Close #fnum

    On Error GoTo myerror

    MsgBox i & " tasks in " & current - start & " seconds"
    Close #fnum

    End Sub

    This will give you a rough idea of how project performs on your computer. It is highly dependent on how much memory is available and how much processing power you have available. As a result, your findings may be different from what I have found by a large factor.

    UPDATE: Of course things can always go faster. In this case I added a bit of code to turn off recalculation OptionsCalculation Automatic:=False and the required time to add 1,000,000 tasks drops to about 250 hours. 65536 tasks should take around an hour.

    UPDATE #2: Adding 70,000 tasks took an hour and 13 minutes. The Unique ID field did not break. The empirical formula on my computer with Project 2000 for elapsed time is approximately 9E-7 * (number of tasks)^2. This translates to 250 hours to add a million tasks. Updating a million tasks on a weekly basis would be approaching the far edge of ridiculous. Such a thing is not the job for MS Project.

    August 29, 2006

    Waiting for Project 2007 - tick tock tick

    Is it just me who thinks things are moving slowly? I know they have to tie the release into the release of Office 2007 which was pushed out just like Vista, but the public presence and excitement around Project 2007 seems almost non-existant after what was going on earlier in the year. No one I know seems to be doing anything active with the beta. Maybe it is just summer and things will pick up in the fall.

    Looking at what I've been writing here I'm as guilty as anyone. The annual abalone dive should signal an end to this lethargy... or perhaps the start to an even slower fall season! But at least outside the project management world there is stuff going on. For example, click over to my other site and read an article I put up about how to clean an abalone.

    August 31, 2006

    Project Server authors breaking radio silence

    Or at least poking the periscope above the water. This week sees 3 new Project Server authors (presumably on a dare from Brian Kennemer). For some reason all of them have double letters in their names just like Brian...

    Dr. Ed Hanna
    I'm expecting good things from Dr. Ed. His writing is very clear and is based on real issues people have. I think this is the most useful kind of writing even if I do not indulge in it myself :-)

    His first post is about how things are features not bugs "Users are constantly finding “imagined bugs” in the software that—on closer inspection—are really not bugs at all. These problems are just a result of the way that they are misusing the application.". Ed, I agree with you. Many times people think microsoft project is doing something wrong when it is really that they just don't understand project. For example, write-only properties can't be read because they are write-only. You can't be silly and think that you can read what it is before you operate on it! Likewise, I have no idea why people think that the "effort-driven" box would be the equivalent of making a task fixed-work.

    Ok... maybe I'm being too subtle here and on the internet no one can see you smirk. There are a lot of things Project does which are counter-intuitive or just plain wierd. The sad thing is that after using Project for years, they start to seem normal. When users don't "get" the application you can either blame the user or the application. Like the poor craftsman, I prefer to blame the tools - but always with a healthy dose of explanation about why Microsoft Project might not do things the way you expect it to. Making the application easier and more understandable should be a goal of the development team. Understanding the workings of Project should be a goal of the users. Hopefully they will meet in the middle.

    Anyway, sorry about going off about this. That wasn't my intent. Dr. Hanna, Congratulations on your new blog. I hope to see more!

    Kermit Llaurador -
    Kermit's blog so far is just a placeholder. Looking forward to seeing a post or two here.

    Reid McTaggart -
    Reid has recently guest posted for Evil Dr. Porkchop. The topic was a great example of how a couple of custom field formulas can be used rather than a macro featuring one of my favorite constructs, the nested Iif statement, and it is a long one at that:

    Iif([% Complete] = 100,99,Switch([Enterprise Text1]=”Exclude from Phase Calculation”,100, [Enterprise Text1]=”Inception”,1, [Enterprise Text1]=”Planning”,2, [Enterprise Text1]=”Execution”,3, [Enterprise Text1]=”Closeout”,4))

    Like the others I'm looking for more great examples from Reid.

    Thanks Brian for encouraging these guys. And best of luck to all of you.

    November 13, 2006

    Microsoft Project 2007 VBA Help now Available Online

    Microsoft Project 2007 (and the rest of Office 2007) were released over the weekend (Nov. 12, 2006) and while it will take until early next year to make it through the retail channels you can at least get started with perusing the help files. The last version of Office started a trend towards on-line help which I feel is somewhat inconvenient when you are not working on a network, but at least it allows them to keep the help up to date. And as a side benefit, it is available to all, even if you don't have the program. This used to be a sore spot for the VBA help as it only got installed through a custom install, something some corporate IT departments overlooked.

    For example to access the help files for Microsoft Project 2007 VBA you can go to this URL:

    The lcid=1033 at the end notes that the language is English. Change that to 1041 for Japanese. I'm not sure if any of the content is up for other languages, but you can poke around and see for yourself.

    The regular help for Project 2007 itself can be found here:

    From here it is a simple matter to look around at the rest of the online help for office. Check these entries for Excel and Word:
    Excel Help:
    Excel VBA Help:
    Word Help:

    Just extend the pattern and you can find help on any Office 2007 product. This is a great resource so take advantage of it and have fun!!

    UPDATE: Looking a bit deeper, this approach also appears to allow the help writers an excuse on their deadlines since they can always "post it tomorrow" and in the case of some new objects like workweek, it looks like that is what they are going to do...:-(

    March 13, 2007

    Cramming for the Microsoft Project 2007 Certification Exam


    This is the way that they worship their god


    Stand before him and clothe thy body in red. Offer unto him thy technology, screens great and small glowing with the holy light. Polish thine head until it reflects verily like the convex back end of a stainless steel milk truck. And when thou has done so, chant the incantations at a sharepoint service. Invoke replication across a broad server farm. SELECT * from Authors. Tie the unholy scripture in broad ribbons woven with HIS icons. And when he has left the stage, endure penance as the lesser priests drone the unending chant, at least until 5:00.

    Tomorrow will come and the mysteries of Microsoft Office Project 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 (MOP and MOPS - sorry Brian) will be revealed.

    March 16, 2007

    On the Other Side of the Mountain

    The MVP summit is over. The past two days were spent in Room 2668 with the Project developer team. At this stage in the development cycle spirits are high and there are a number of good ideas floating around. Most importantly, the team seems to be reaching out to really try to understand their (current and future) user base. This is a marked change from what happened in Project 2007 where large portions of the design were already predetermined and the team charged straight ahead ignoring any and all distractions.

    The amount of time spent with the teams is also an improvement over previous summits. There is still room for improvement, but Microsoft reversed the trend for MVP summits to be more and more about show and tell than they were about listening. This is enough to make me want to come back next year if I'm still invited.

    Now I sit waiting at Seatac Gate N1 watching grey planes passing by the grey terminal on grey pavement, serviced by little grey vehicles under a grey sky. The splashes of yellow and blue paint on bollards and runways are a poor substitute for bright sun and blue sky. But I'll be on my way soon enough... soon enough.

    July 2, 2007

    Microsoft Project 2003 and 2007 Cross Version Compatibility

    There are many questions about which versions of Microsoft Project and Microsoft Project server are compatible. Here are the general rules:

    • Project 2000 connects to Project Central
    • Project 2002 connects to Project Server 2002
    • Project Professional 2003 connects to Project Server 2003 and Project Server 2002
    • Project Professional 2007 connects to Project Server 2007

    No other connections are possible.

    Project 2007 was redesigned in a number of ways to make it more efficient and improve performance. These changes included changes to the database schema and to the method that data is transferred. ODBC was abandoned in favor of Web services. This means that compatibility between the two versions was broken completely

    One nod that Microsoft made to ease the pain was that they did make it possible to install the 2003 version and 2007 version side by side on the same machine. This applies to both Project Professional and Project Server.

    It is important to note that Project 2003 knows nothing about 2007 so you should always install 2003 before you install 2007 or 2003 may overwrite the 2007 installation or do other bad things.

    Project 2007 can read from all versions back to Project 98, but can only write back in Proj 2000 or later. It can read from ODBC but not write back to it. This means that any .mpd databases will have to be converted to stand-alone files or stored in Project Server if you want to continue working with them.

    August 6, 2007

    OpenProj First Look


    Projity is introducing a new free MS Project compatible scheduling program which they bill as "a complete open source desktop replacement of Microsoft Project". I have tried the beta briefly ( and I like what I see. While it looks very much like a clone of MS Project, it strips down some of the complexity from the interface and makes some common tasks easier (viewing a stacked resource graph for example). It opened my MS existing MS Project 2003 .xml files with no visible problems - though even MS Project has some quirks in handling .xml files, so it will pay to double check this before using for a real schedule.

    I think this is the first MS Project viewer which will really make inroads against MS Project. This is true for a number of reasons:

    • It is free
    • Look and feel similar to Project (maybe too similar... but let the lawyers decide)
    • File compatibility
    • Ability to edit and create schedules
    • Cross-platform compatibility (Mac users will rejoice after being denied the latest versions of Microsoft Project)

    The developers of OpenProj appear to have come from Scitor (now Sciforma) which was known for their "Project Scheduler" software, the latest version of which is PS8. PS was always an also-ran in comparison to project because of Microsoft's millions of installed versions of Office and associated enterprise licensing. By focusing on compatibility and on Linux/Mac and by providing the software for free, Projity may have a better chance of initiating cracks in the marketplace. The ultimate goal for them must be in project hosting or selling enterprise-level features (multi-project support etc.).

    On the other hand, I think that desktop scheduling products are fairly dormant. Microsoft has been moving away from them by adding things like server-side scheduling and the ability to create and maintain projects through Project Web Access. Meanwhile, new features on the desktop are very slow in coming.

    The next battleground will be online scheduling and by providing a full featured client for free, Projity is signalling their readiness to fight. It should be interesting to see how things go. Competition in this space will drive Microsoft harder and that should be good for everyone.

    I'll try and get to a more in depth review when I have a chance.

    April 8, 2009

    Migrating Projects from Project Server 2003 to Project Server 2007

    Migrating from previous versions of Project to newer ones has always been difficult. The change from Project Server 2003 to Project Server 2007 is probably the most difficult so far, and until now you have been on your own figuring it out. A lot of sleepless nights have been acrued.

    But if you have not migrated yet (and you will have to fairly soon as support for Project Server 2003 fades away) you are fortunate to have a new guide to help you through it. Microsoft has enlisted Quantum PM to put together this free guide to making a successful migration. It runs to 47 pages, so it will take some reading time. After the link you will find the table of contents.

    Click here to go to the download site: Best Practices for Migrating to Project Server 2007


    Envision Success for Your Business Goals
    Reasons to Migrate
    Business Goals
    Technology Improvements
    Use Public Resources
    Microsoft Project Server 2007 Web Links
    Use a Formal Schedule for Your Migration
    Gold Certified Partners
    Pick Your Team
    Migration Team
    End User Team
    Analyze Project Server 2007 Features and Business Impacts
    Conduct a Review of Project Server 2007 Architecture and Features
    Evaluate Project Server 2007 Technology Features
    Determine Business Process Impacts
    Develop a Formal Project Plan for Your Migration
    Scope Definition Statement
    Roles and Responsibilities
    Migration Sponsors
    Risks, Issues, and Change Control
    Communications Plan
    Quality Test and Validation Plan
    Schedule of Events

    Perform Your Current State Business Process Assessment
    Review Recent Use of Project Server 2003
    Identify Custom Interfaces for Project Server 2003
    Identify Custom Reports for Project Server 2003
    Review the Project Server 2007 Platform Capabilities and Potential Uses
    Prepare For Changes to Project and Resource Management
    Project Scheduling and Project Web Access (PWA) Changes
    Proposals and Activity Plans
    Saved Links Not Available in Project Server 2007
    Project Server 2003 Versions Not Available in Project Server 2007
    Resource Management Changes
    Resource Management Capabilities in Project Web Access
    Resource Plans
    Team Resources
    Budget and Cost Resources
    Status Report Migration Considerations
    Preparing For Changes to Time and Task Update Processes
    Differences Between Project Server 2003 and Project Server 2007 Timesheets
    Project Server 2003 Administrative Plans versus Project Server 2007 Administrative Time
    Project Server 2003 Historical Time Tracking Data
    Planning For Timesheet Migration
    Planning For Reporting Changes and Enhanced Capabilities
    Project Professional 2007 Visual Reports
    Project Web Access Data Analysis Views
    SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
    Office SharePoint Server Excel Services

    Verify that computers meet hardware and software requirements
    Confirm licensing and media
    Confirm IT Staffing Availability and Training Needs
    Install Project Server 2007 Environments

    Perform Data Analysis to Determine Quality of the Data for Migration
    Archive or Delete Project Schedules and Workspaces
    Analyze Project Schedules
    Validate Project Server 2003 Configuration Settings and Data
    Validate Users and Resources
    Validate Enterprise Global Custom Fields
    Validate Security Templates, Groups, Categories
    Validate Security Group and Category Members
    Validate Views and the Associated Security Categories
    Document the Pre-Migration Corrective Action Plan
    Immediate Actions
    Postponed Actions

    Pre-Migration Planning and Documentation Checklist
    Pre-Migration Training
    Pre-Migration Checklist
    Server Information
    Database Information
    Migration Account Verification Information
    Migration Tool and Project Server 2007 Version Verification
    Perform data analysis on your existing Project Server 2003 data.
    Run a Pre-Migration Verification Test
    Data Analysis Queries and Corrective Actions
    Contingency Planning
    Perform a Test Migration

    Update the Enterprise Global file to reflect new objectives and processes
    Update or Re-engineer the RBS
    Update or Re-engineer User Access and the Project Security Model
    Perform a final Project Server 2003 data clean-up, verification and backup
    Perform a final Windows SharePoint Services data clean-up, verification and backup
    Prepare for the Migration
    Enterprise Global Data Migration
    Project Data Migration
    Roll back Migration

    Project Server Technical Operations and Maintenance
    Protecting Your Information Assets
    Technical Operations and Maintenance Schedule
    Project Server Applications Operations and Maintenance
    Enterprise Data
    Enterprise Global
    Timesheet Management
    Database Object Administration

    April 17, 2009

    Project 2010 and Project 2007 Service Pack 2 Release Dates

    The latest news is that the next version of Microsoft Office Project will be with Office 2010 which will be released, quite coincidentally, in the first half of 2010. According to Microsoft's Chris Capossela:

    We’re announcing that Microsoft will begin releasing new versions of Office-related products this year. Exchange 2010 will be the first product in this lineup, entering beta for customers to download today. Exchange 2010 will become available in the second half of 2009. Office 2010 — including Office Web applications, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 — will enter a technical preview in the third quarter of 2009 and will release to manufacturing in the first half of 2010.

    The Technical Preview for Project Server is usually restricted to mostly larger customers and Partners, but I'm hopeful that desktop users get some sort of preview as well. I can't say much about it, but I am certain that Project 2010 introduces the most ambitious changes on the desktop since Project 98.

    The big unknown with 2010 is how well the move to software as a service will go. Sharepoint 2010 is supposed to be able to be offered as a service, but does this mean that the applications which ride on top of it (Microsoft Project for example) are going to be hosted by Microsoft as well? Are enough people willing to buy it?

    Project's prospects are also tied up in the latest Office Service Pack. Word on the streets and the blogs is that Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will be out on April 28th. I'm trying to remember all of what is in SP2, but I am drawing a blank. No doubt some of the things which are still broken will be fixed and some of the things which are still working will be broken... (if history is any guide). Always test before rolling out!.

    Update: This post has some vague details to refresh my memory. They are getting better at Service Packs I think...

    The scheduling engine, Active Cache, and Gantt charts all have improvements. There is additional reliability with earlier versions of the .mpp format.

    May 12, 2009

    Project Server 2010 Technical Requirements

    The key points: 64-bit only running on 64-bit Windows Server 2008 or 64-bit Windows Server 2008 R2 with a 64-bit SQL Server 2008 or 64-bit SQL Server 2005 to hold the databases.
    IE 7 or IE8 as the browser - IE6 is being dropped in July 2010.
    (Update: Just noted that IE ONLY is supported by Project Server 2010. Sharepoint Server will be supporting "other" browsers (Firefox and Safari) but it does not appear that cross-browser support will be in Project. See Christophe Fiessinger's Blog )

    As most people know, Project Server runs right on top of Sharepoint server, so the same requirements which were announced a couple of days ago for Sharepoint Server apply to Project Server. You can read the details and the QA here:

    So far I've seen nothing public about other requirements, but I'd guess that for features such as visual reports that Excel 2003 and Visio 2003 would probably drop off the supported filetype list in this next version and that it would work best with Office 2010.

    May 19, 2009

    Seeing Other Scheduling Software

    Project, this is hard to say because, you know, we've been together for so long. I mean, I was there when you graduated from High School back in '98 and started getting "fully featured" with some of the stuff that other tools had. With your interoperability and automation you won me away from them. And baby, your looks haven't changed at all since then. You should have no problem attracting other customers, especially with that surgery on your menus that is planned for next year.

    But this summer, I know you are going to be up in Redmond and I'm down here so it is difficult to keep in touch. I thought maybe we could, you know, explore a little. I'd just try out a few of those free schedule tools - nothing serious, just summer fun. And when September comes and we are together at the Project Conference I'll be refreshed and ready with all of those behind me.

    But this isn't just about me. I know you have other Partners participating in the TAP program. So it is not exclusive on your part either. And I know you are working something up with Portfolio Server and Sharepoint too. You know I like your friends (Sharepoint is a cutie, Portfolio Server seems a bit stuck up, and her menus -GAH!) and I want you all to get closer, so take some time to do it right and I'll see you in September.

    Well, with that introduction, I thought I'd begin an occasional series on the state of the Project, Program and Portfolio software world. If you have a favorite tool you would like to read about or some other thoughts on the world of scheduling technology, drop me a comment.

    April 28, 2011

    Setting Microsoft Project Level Custom fields using VBA

    I was recently trying to set a number of different project level custom fields using VBA and got tired of finding and editing all the parameters so I wrote a small wrapper function that you may find useful:

    Private Function setPField(ByVal field As String, ByVal newValue As String, ByRef proj As Project)
    pfield = FieldNameToFieldConstant(field, pjProject)
    proj.ProjectSummaryTask.SetField FieldID:=pfield, value:=newValue
    End Function

    It does two things. First it converts the field name into the field constant. This way you can supply the name of the field. Then it uses that field and sets the text value. It might not seem like much but it does make it easier for me to reuse this function, than having to search through a longer statement and find out what I need to set. To use it just supply the field name, the value and the project like this:

    setPField field:="My Custom Field", newValue:="foo", proj:=ActiveProject

    About Microsoft Project

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Project in the Microsoft Project category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    Excel is the previous category.

    Personal Productivity is the next category.

    Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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