Keeping a project on schedule is the cornerstone of any good project management strategy. Project managers need to focus not only on the project’s overall deadline, but key dates for tasks and milestones along the way. Letting a few tasks fall behind can quickly cascade into significant delays to the project, sometimes with serious budget implications.
If you’re managing your project with a traditional spreadsheet, keeping track of the timeline is usually a matter of scanning dozens of rows to identify these key dates. You might transfer these dates to a separate calendar or scheduling application, meaning that changes to information in one place need to be manually updated elsewhere. For a project with a lot of tasks, this can be a tedious process and one that’s vulnerable to human error.
With Spreadsheet.com’s Gantt views, you can transform your project task list into an interactive Gantt timeline in just a few clicks, maintaining a single source of truth for your project with support for dependencies, auto-generated critical paths, rich data types, and more.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at Spreadsheet.com’s Product Launch Plan template and explore how to use Gantt view features to turn a workbook into an end-to-end project management machine.
Turning your project task list into an interactive Gantt chart only takes a few clicks. Once you add a new Gantt view to your workbook, you’re prompted to turn on Project Management settings to identify key columns in your worksheet like task start and end dates, assigned users, and task status. You can also designate working days and choose to enable task dependencies.
Once you finish configuring your Project Management settings, Spreadsheet.com automatically generates a Gantt chart and places it to the right of your task list in the Gantt view.
You can scroll horizontally through the Gantt view, change your zoom level from the toolbar in the upper right corner of your browser window, and double click on taskbars to expand the corresponding row. If you want to edit your Project Management settings later, click the gear icon in the Gantt view toolbar.
If dependencies are enabled in your workbook’s Project Management settings, you can create finish-to-start dependencies between multiple tasks. Each task can be a dependency for one or multiple tasks, or be dependent on one or multiple tasks. Dependencies are reflected on the Gantt chart with gray arrows and in the worksheet’s “Predecessor” column (here, Column K - Predecessor), expressed as Related rows.
You can add new dependencies by inputting them in the worksheet’s “Predecessor” column, or by clicking on a taskbar in the Gantt view and dragging your cursor to the dependent task. Spreadsheet.com uses task dependencies to generate and display your project’s critical path.
A project’s critical path is the longest stretch of continuous dependent activities from the beginning to the end of the project. Identifying activities in the critical path is important, as delays to these tasks are most likely to delay the project overall. When you create a Gantt view and establish dependencies between tasks, Spreadsheet.com automatically calculates your project’s critical path.
When you click the critical path button in the Gantt view toolbar, you can toggle it on and off in your Gantt chart. The critical path is represented by pink-highlighted tasks and dependency lines.
After identifying critical path activities, you might want to flag them as high priority in your spreadsheet. In our workbook, high priority activities are marked as such in Column H - Priority, an Icon set column.
The Gantt chart appearance settings dialog lets you fine tune your Gantt chart’s appearance. Specify the column used to define your taskbar labels and taskbar colors (here, Column A - Task Name and Column F - Status, respectively), as well as toggle non-working days and hours, the today line, and dependency lines.
Ready to level up your project management strategy and start working with Gantt charts in Spreadsheet.com today? Check out our Template Gallery to find pre-built project management templates with Gantt views built-in, or start from scratch and build your own.