As your projects grow in complexity and in length, it is easy to lose sight of how all of your tasks fit together. Project 2010 and earlier allow you to highlight and filter down to the critical path of your project, which is a great way to see which tasks affect your project’s finish date.
Many times, the project finish date doesn’t tell you the full story though. For example, let’s say that you are managing a construction project, and your favorite contractor suddenly announces he is retiring at the end of the month. You check your project plan, and you see that you were expecting him two weeks after this deadline. However, the list of predecessors that are driving his tasks is daunting.
Fortunately, the Project 2013 client has a brand new feature to help you in this and many similar scenarios. We call it “Task Path Highlighting”. Task path highlighting allows you to select any task and see the complete chain of predecessors and successors that are linked to it. Beyond that, the highlighting also differentiates between predecessors that are driving the scheduling of the selected task, and predecessors that are linked but can freely move without affecting the selected task. For instance, if two tasks are predecessors of the selected task, but one ends sooner and is therefore not directly affecting the start date of the selected task, then it is not considered to be a driving predecessor, and will be highlighted a different color. Similarly, successors are highlighted differently depending on whether or not their scheduling is driven by the selected task.
To use this feature, you turn it on from the Gantt Chart Format ribbon, as shown below.
In the above image, I have enabled highlighting for both Driving Predecessors and Driven Successors. These settings are persisted through a file save, meaning that if you were looking at highlighted tasks when you were last editing a project, you will see the same highlights next time you open it.
This feature is most useful when you have tasks with multiple links across your project – the screenshot below demonstrates what it might look like having task path highlighting turned on in a construction project.
You also have the ability to extend this feature programmatically, potentially to filter or even edit tasks along the task path. Andrew Lavinsky discusses one option for filtering through VBA at http://azlav.umtblog.com/2012/09/20/task-paths-in-project-2013/. See also the Task Path formatting section in What’s new for developers in the new Project desktop (besides task pane apps), in the Office Developer Blog.
Hopefully you find this new feature helpful in your project management work going forward. You can download the Project 2013 Preview and try this out now! We look forward to hearing your questions and comments below.