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Does Microsoft Project overwhelm you? In 7 short lessons and less than a day, you will confidently start using it to your advantage

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Step-by-Step Project Planning with MS-Project

One of the most critical aspects of successfully executing a project is planning it, and planning must involve both tasks and resources. In addition, it is not enough to simply create a plan and start executing tasks without properly tracking the progress. Proper project reporting to all stakeholders involved is an equally important part of project delivery.

Many tools that help with project planning and execution mechanisms are freely and commercially available. They range significantly in terms of the features they present and in terms of their ease of use. While ease of use is an important factor, it must not be at the expense of successfully planning, tracking and reporting a project progress. A decision on the tool to use is also dependent on the project size.

After working with a variety of tools, we have found that although Microsoft Project involves a lot of complexity and has a steep learning curve, it provides with comprehensive planning, tracking and reporting features. MS Project has built-in visual reporting features; MS Excel is also a useful application in providing custom visual reports. Various PDF tools help present these reports in a professional manner.

This tutorial provides basic steps and tips to create a comprehensive project plan and generate and present professional visual reports.


The key elements of planning, tracking and reporting a project using MS Project are:

  • Calendar setup
  • Task planning
  • Resource allocation
  • Resource leveling
  • Report generation


Various applications we used for the purpose are:

  • MS Office Project 2007 (for task and resource planning and for creating reports)
  • MS Office Excel 2007 (for creating visual reports using the reported data from MS Project)
  • PrimoPDF (for converting the MS Project reports into PDF documents)
  • PDFill PDF Tools 5.0 (for creating a single reporting document using the information generated from MS Project and MS Excel)


It is assumed that the person using this tutorial has basic familiarity with creating tasks in MS Project and using MS Excel. As such, to avoid this article becoming a tutorial on MS Project and MS Excel, such details will not be presented here. Also, many options (menu items and features) in MS Project can be accessed in multiple ways from multiple locations within MS Project. Instructions are provided to access and use these features in one particular way and not in all available ways.


  1. Open MS Project.
  2. Save the file as [ProjectName]_rev[RevisionNumber].mpp or use any naming convention that will be self explanatory and the future versions can be named consistently.
  3. celeroo-smiley Note: If you wish to make the file compatible with older MS Project versions, select “Microsoft Project 2000-2003 (*mpp)” in the “Save as type” drop-down in the box that opens on clicking “Save As…” under the “File” menu. Please note that this may result in some features being lost.
  4. It is important that the calendar options be setup prior to defining tasks and assigning resources; otherwise, the effort and duration calculations will go wrong and it is not easy to rectify this later.
  5. celeroo-smiley Note: Task and Resource calendar options can be setup during task setup and resource allocation.

Next Article in this Series
Lesson 1 - Setup Calendar(s)


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