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Microsoft Project 2010 : Setting Up Project for Your Use - Defining Environment Options (part 3)

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Calendar Options

The Calendar options section is one of the more critical sections in the Options dialog box (see Figure 5). All fields in the Calendar options section are file-specific; select the All New Projects item if you want to use the information on all future projects as well as the one you are working on.

Figure 5. Use the Calendar section of the Schedule tab to set Project’s calendar options, which include the default calendar used for all of your projects.

The Hours Per Day, Hours Per Week, and Days Per Month fields are crucial to the interpretation and display of your estimates of task duration. Days, weeks, and months are the basic task duration units. However, minutes are the fundamental time unit in Project 2010. Thus, all durations are converted into minutes, and the conversion is based on the information you enter on the Calendar tab. If this information is inaccurate, your schedule will be inaccurate. For example, if you define a day as 8 hours, Project calculates that there are 480 minutes of working time in a day. If you define a day as 10 hours, Project calculates that there are 600 minutes of working time in a day. Even though they are both one day, there is a big difference in the amount of working time in that day.

To avoid confusion, make your estimates of the amount of work in hours rather than in days and then validate that the duration of the work matches what you expected it to be.

You can use the Week Starts On field at the top of the Calendar tab to change the way that a week is displayed in timescales and dialogs. It does not change any calculations for the project. Similarly, the Fiscal Year Starts In field affects reports and displays that show annual and quarterly information. The default setting is the same as a calendar year, so this field should be changed if your fiscal year does not begin in January.

The Default Start Time and Default End Time fields define the start and end times of the normal working days.

Although you may assign tasks to begin on a certain day, Project does not actually schedule the task until the start time of that day. So, if your workday starts at 6:00 a.m., but you have not changed the Default Start Time from 8:00 a.m., Project will schedule that task to start two hours late. This also affects how you track a task. If a task took a full eight-hour day from 6:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. (accounting for an hour lunch break), and you mark the task as 100% complete but still have 8:00 a.m. in the Default Start Time field, Project shows the task as finishing later than it actually did.

If the information you defined in the Calendar tab is the standard calendar information for your organization, select the “All New Projects” item from the Calendar options for this project drop-down.

In short, be sure to define your calendar options accurately and realistically, and be sure that the Calendar tab on the Options dialog box matches the information defined in the base calendar you use for your project, created in the Change Working Time dialog box.

Schedule

Show scheduling messages causes Project to display messages about scheduling inconsistencies, such as successor tasks starting before the finish of predecessor tasks.

The Schedule section enables you to turn scheduling messages on and off, and to show the assignment units as either a percentage or a decimal (refer to Figure 5). This is a matter of personal preference.

Scheduling Options

The Scheduling Options section pertains primarily to tasks that are auto scheduled. However, there are two exceptions:

  • The option Without Dates for New Tasks Created pertains only to Manually Scheduled tasks.

  • Update Manually Scheduled tasks when editing links is self-explanatory.

For New Tasks Created, choose whether you want new tasks to begin on the project start date or on the current date, or as mentioned, without dates in the case of manually scheduled tasks.

The next two fields enable you to enter the unit of duration and work: minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months. Again, this is a personal preference, depending on what is best for you and your project. Be sure your working time and Calendar tab entries coincide; if you enter duration in days, be sure you have defined the correct number of hours in a day, and so on. Also, these fields will determine the default units when entering tasks. For example, if you have Days entered in the Duration in Entered In field, you could simply type 2 in the Duration field for 2 days. However, if you wanted to assign a different time unit, you would have to enter the unit, such as 2 w for 2 weeks.

Choose the task type: Fixed Duration, Fixed Units, or Fixed Work. The task type defines how Project will calculate the schedule, work, and units (this will be described in great detail later).

Caution

It is unwise to use months as a duration unit because of the inconsistency of the length of months throughout the year. Use hours, days, or weeks as the duration unit.


Auto-linking inserted or moved tasks enables Project to create finish to start dependencies automatically. Split In-Progress Tasks enables project to discontinuously re-schedule unfinished portions of a task when you Update the Project while selecting the Reschedule Uncompleted Work option. Tasks Will Always Honor Their Constraint dates is less significant than it was before Manual Task mode was introduced. Tasks that do not honor their constraint dates will be rescheduled to eliminate negative slack. Show that Scheduled Tasks Have Estimated Durations merely toggles off the indicator in the duration field. The Estimated column serves the same purpose. New Scheduled Tasks Have Estimated Durations applies only to auto-scheduled tasks. Finally, Keep Task on Nearest Working Day When Changing to Automatically Scheduled Mode is self-explanatory. Turning off this option when using Auto-Scheduled mode is rarely a good idea because it will result in scheduling that ignores calendars.

 
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