Tips/Tricks to display colored Gantt chart lines when you have MANY different tasks to label?? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Need some advice/tips/tricks to displaying different colored Gantt Bar Styles when you have MANY different tasks to display.

    99% of people will use one of the 20 Flag fields to define/customize Bar Styles.   My problem is I may have MANY MANY more than 20 different tasks.  Is there some other way to make descriptive filters to allow for more than the 20 Flag fields.

    A co-scheduler of mine suggested using a combination of flag fields.  An example would be if a task:

    Build House No 1:    Flag1 = Yes  Flag2= Yes  Flag3=No  

    Build House No 2:   Flag1= Yes  Flag2=No  Flag3=No

    Build House No 3:   Flag1=Yes  Flag2=No Flag3=Yes

    And so on.... so with 3 flag fields you could get a possible 27 combinations to put into Bar Styles, and a possible 27 different color/format of bars.

    Seems very tedious...but would be the only way I can see to make good use of the flag fields when you have a lot of different information to display on a Gantt chart.

    Thanks in advance for any/all suggestions...

    Claude Stevens

    MS Project user since 1994

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015 2:57 PM

All replies

  • Hi Claude,

    As far as I know, there is no other way to format the Gantt bar style than with the flags. But the question is: would your Gantt be readable with 30 or 40 different colors?

    I would suggest restricting the Gantt bar style to only a few flags (less than 10 in my opinion) with high level categories and using task custom fields with formulas and graphical indicators for more granular segmentation. Doing this you'll keep the visual usage of your project plan but you'll have 2 levels of graphical view.

    Hope this helps,

    Guillaume Rouyre, MBA, MVP, P-Seller |

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015 3:30 PM
  • Hi Guillaume,

    Thanks for the quick response.

    I currently have almost 20 unique events that I roll up to a summary line. 

    I have 40 "machines" that at some point will got through various maintenance/modifications.  Each of those 40 machines will have 3 or 4 unique events.  Some are shared among all 40 some are not.

    Attached is a generic picture (removed any potential sensitive info) of at least 5 of those "events" that I have rolled up to a summary line and just did custom bar styles one by one.  Each of those bars are currently a task that is rolled up to a summary line.  Some Summary lines have more than one task displayed but occur at different times/dates  (ie like the Gold and Silver bars that are on the same line).

    Reason I would like to use defined bar styles is so it will show the same bars on the NON summary tasks, and will also translate over when I do different views with groupings.

    Hope this makes more sense?

    EDIT:  Tried to attach a picture...but it says I cannot until I am verified....  If you could verify me I will edit and attach.

    Thanks again!

    EDIT 2:   So going back to my house building example:

    If House 1 Build was my summary roll up task...and I had several tasks underneath that summary to display on the roll up like:

    Site Survey  - Green Bar

    Level Lot - Blue Bar

    Pour Foundation - Orange Bar

    Frame house- Green Bar with Hashmarks

    Install Roof - Green bar with Diamonds

    ETC ETC (say I have 20 more bars to do)...  and I had 40 houses to display this way, all with the same Bar formats...  but displayed on each houses summary lines.

    The program I am doing this for has a schedule that is approx. 4,000 lines of schedule and growing.  To do this manually each time is VERY tedious (ie click on each task, roll up to summary, right click set that tasks bar style..etc).

    Wednesday, July 29, 2015 4:25 PM
  • I recommend abandoning the idea of colouring in the bars to the extent you propose.

    INMHO, trying to do what you are doing will ultimately prove futile, and there are other better alternatives to display the information you want to show. Filtering and grouping, for example.

    It seems you have about 20 tasks per house and 40 houses, which is only about 800 tasks. You say you have 4000 lines, which is not an unusually high number.I would say that it takes many more tasks than 20 to describe a plan to build a house, more like 1000.

    All of the formatting, including fonts, bars, and everything in page setup, is built into a particular view, so if you switch views you will not see the formatting that you designed into the previous view.

    Thursday, July 30, 2015 12:29 AM
  • Claude,

    Sorry for bumping in but that's a pretty neat trick to get 27 bar combinations using only 3 flag fields. Flag fields are binary so 2 **3 = 8, not 27. Likewise 4 flag fields will yield 16 combinations and 5 flag fields will yield 32 combinations, all assuming a "no" for all used flags is a viable combination.

    I agree with Guillaume in that once the display has more than 10 color combinations the display starts to become a challenge to read, the user will need a decoder ring to interpret what each color means.

    Nonetheless, if you have your heart set on creating a rainbow display I would not custom format each task's bar style, that indeed is a huge amount of manual work. I would select an appropriate number of flag fields to meet your needs and then format accordingly. It will still be a daunting effort to set the flags for each task but that potentially could be assisted with some VBA.

    My humble opinion.


    Thursday, July 30, 2015 12:32 AM
  • Thanks John and all,

    Agree with you all that there are products out there MUCH better suited for what we are doing.

    And Yep..I even set up a MS Excel Flag dictionary and found my math was off.  Still to use 5 flag fields and get 32 different combos is not bad.

    Our charts are very busy and require a legend or as you all pointed out, they get very confusing. 

    Wish I could post a picture to show you all what we are attempting to do.  Still not verified so I cannot.

    Anyway...Im sure MS Project is not the tool we should be using for this purpose.  Especially since our tasks are not really linked via logic.  But we do make extensive use of being able to set SNETs and use durations to make the bars span the length of time we need them to, as well as the Gantt chart area of project.

    Im open to suggestions on what other products may produce the same results... Our problem is and why Im asking all these questions, is that we are running out of flag fields.  Hence my idea of using multiple flag field combinations.

    Thanks again all....

    Monday, August 3, 2015 7:03 PM
  • You can use any cloud service to upload a picture and share the link. Or use imageshack to share the picture.

    You might have already considered this solution, but I will post it anyway, since some other user can benefit from it; IMO, instead of using color coding, you can use letter coding such as,

    Site Survey  --> SS

    Level Lot --> LL

    Pour Foundation --> PF

    Frame house--> FH

    Install Roof --> IR

    and display these texts in the middle of the task bars (see this article: Insert a custom text field to the table and define a lookup in this text field, which contains letter codes; then modify the bar definition to include text in the middle.

    Monday, August 3, 2015 8:11 PM