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Microsoft Project 2010 : Linking and Embedding Data into Project

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6/20/2013 7:44:19 PM

Linking and embedding data goes in either direction. Just as a Project schedule can provide information for a status report or presentation, other files can provide background information for the tasks in your Project schedule. For example, you might link information in a risk log spreadsheet to an at-risk task, so the most recent actions and results appear in the Task Information dialog box. Likewise, you could embed a Visio workflow diagram in the Gantt Chart timescale.

You can link or embed entire files into Project, or link cells from an Excel spreadsheet to Project table cells. In addition, you can link or embed portions of other files, like Excel charts or Visio drawing pages. This section explains how to link and embed data into Project.

Gem In The Rough: Creating Objects from Scratch

When you insert an object in a file, the dialog box (Object or Insert Object depending on the program) offers a two-for-one deal in which you can create an object and, at the same time, embed it in the container file. Although you can edit this embedded object like any other—for example to add formulas to a spreadsheet—the only time this approach makes sense is when the information you create is an inseparable part of the container file. That's because the embedded object you create in this way exists only in that file. If there's any chance you might need the information elsewhere, you should use its source program to create it, and then embed the resulting file.

To create a new embedded object, follow these steps:

  1. In the container file (an Excel spreadsheet, for example), select the location where you want the new object.

  2. Open the Object or Insert Object dialog box. (In Office 2007 or 2010, click Insert→Text→Object or Insert→Text→Insert Object. For example, in Excel, the Insert Object icon looks like a small landscape. For Office 2003 and many non-Microsoft programs, choose Insert→Object. If Project is the container, open the Task Information dialog box and select the Notes tab, or display the Notes pane in the Task Form. Then choose the Insert Object icon.

  3. If the program you're using opens the Object dialog box (like Word or Excel), then select the Create New tab. If the Insert Object dialog box opens instead (like Project), then select the Create New option.

  4. In the Object Type list, select the type of object you want to create. Your choice determines which program menus you see when you double-click the object. For example, to create an Excel workbook, select Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet.

  5. Click OK. A blank object appears in the container file.

  6. To add content to the object, make sure it's selected, and then use the program menus that appear.

  7. To revert to the container file's parent program, simply click outside the boundaries of the embedded object. To edit the object, double-click it.

1. Linking and Embedding Entire Files into Project

Inserting an entire file into Project is perfect for easy access to additional information—for example, a specifications Word document or a change request tracking database. To see more of the file, simply drag the boundaries of the inserted object. To see a different part of the file, select the object and then edit it. When you work with entire files, the linking and embedding steps are almost identical:

  1. Open your Project file, and then select the location where you want to insert the other file.

    Only some areas of a Project file accept inserted objects: the Gantt Chart timescale, the Notes or Objects boxes in the Task Form or Resource Form, and the Notes tab in the Task Information, Resource Information, or Assignment Information dialog box.

  2. On the Notes tab in any of the Information dialog boxes, simply click the Insert Object button immediately above the Notes area.

    The Insert Object dialog box opens.

    If you want to insert objects in the Gantt Chart timescale, you must customize the ribbon to add the Object command to a custom group (in the "Choose commands from" list, choose All Commands, and scroll until you see the Object command).

  3. Select the "Create from File" option, and then choose the file you want to link or embed.

    Click Browse to navigate to the folder that contains the file you want. Double-click the filename, and the path and filename appear in the "File name" box.

  4. To link to the file, be sure to turn on the Link checkbox.

    Initially, the Link checkbox is turned off, which means that Project will embed the file.

  5. To display the file as an icon until you want to see it, turn on the "Display as icon" checkbox.

    After you insert the link in Project, you will be able to open it by double-clicking it.

  6. Click OK.

    The object appears at the location you selected in your Project file.

2. Linking and Embedding Parts of Files in Project

With some programs, you can extract portions of a file to link or embed. A chart from an Excel spreadsheet, a slide from a PowerPoint presentation, or a drawing page from a Visio document are all candidates for inserting into a Project file. The advantage is that the inserted object represents only that portion of the file, so linked objects have less data to update, and embedded objects don't take up as much room.

To link or embed a part of a file into your Project file, follow these steps:

  1. In the source program, open the file and select what you want to show in your Project schedule.

    For example, in Visio, drag across the shapes you want to link or embed in Project. To select an entire Visio drawing page, make sure no shapes are selected. For an Excel chart, select the chart.

  2. Press Ctrl+C to copy the selection to the Clipboard.

    In Office 2010 programs, click Home→Clipboard→Copy. For Office 2003 and non-Microsoft programs, choose Edit→Copy or, on the Standard toolbar, click Copy.

  3. In your Microsoft Project file, select the location where you want to place the object, and then choose Task→Clipboard→Paste→Paste Special.

    Because you must choose Paste Special from the ribbon, you can't insert these partial objects in the Notes tab of the Information dialog boxes. You can insert them in the Gantt Chart timescale and the Objects box in the Task Form or Resource Form. (To display the Objects box in a form, right-click the top part of the form, and then, in the shortcut menu, choose Objects).

  4. In the Paste Special dialog box, select the Paste Link option to create a link to the source data.

    Initially, Project selects the Paste option, which embeds the object. The Paste Link option can be stubborn and appear grayed out. Make sure you've saved the Project file at least once, so the program knows where the file is stored and can define the link. If saving the file doesn't help, try copying and paste-linking the information again.

  5. In the As box, select the type of object, as shown in Figure 1.

    The choices vary depending on what you copied to the Clipboard.

    Figure 1. If the object you're linking or embedding is an Excel chart, for example, select Microsoft Office Excel Chart. Select Microsoft Visio Drawing to insert a Visio drawing page.


    The Picture type appears in the As list whether you select Paste or Paste Link. If you select the Paste option and the Picture type, then Project inserts a picture as you'd expect. If you select Paste Link and Picture, then Project acts as if you selected a type like Microsoft Visio Drawing. Linking a picture of a Visio drawing actually inserts a linked Microsoft Visio Drawing object. Double-clicking the object opens the Visio file to the drawing page.

  6. Click OK.

    The object appears in Project at the location you selected.

3. Linking Tabular Data in Project

Just as you can link Project table cells into other programs, you can bring data from other programs into Project's table cells. When you link data to Project cells, the values look as if you typed them directly into Project, but they're actually linked to the source file, and change when the source data changes. Project demands the right types of data in its fields, so you have to make sure the data types are the same in both places. The easiest way to keep data types in sync is to link column by column:

  1. In Excel or another table-based program, select the first column you want to link (click the column heading), and then press Ctrl+C.

    Another advantage to linking column by column is that the links don't break if you rearrange the columns. For example, if you link several Excel columns at once, then the Project link expects those columns to stay in the same order. If you move one of the columns in the Excel spreadsheet, then the entire Project link breaks. However, if you link each column separately, then you can move the columns, and the links continue to work.

  2. In Project, display the view and table in which you want to link the data. Then select the first cell for the linked data.

    Select the top-left cell for the linked data. Project fills in the other cells to the right and below.

  3. Choose Task→Clipboard→Paste→Paste Special, and then select the Paste Link option.

    If you choose the Paste option, Project simply copies the values into the Project cell as text, numbers, dates, and so on.

  4. In the As box, select Text Data.

    As you learned on Section 2, selecting an object type like Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet inserts a linked object that you double-click to open and edit. By selecting Text Data, Project fills in individual cells with linked values. Each linked cell gets its value from the corresponding cell in the source file.

  5. Click OK.

    The cells display values from the source file. To link other columns in the source file, repeat steps 1 through 5 for each additional column.

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