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Make It Easier to See External Tasks in the Team Planner View

By Dale Howard, MVP, Sensei Project Solutions

In the Microsoft Community user forum, dedicated to questions about Microsoft Project, a user complained that it is hard to see external tasks in the Team Planner view because the color of their task bars is an extremely light gray color. For example, in the following figure you can see with your own eyes how difficult it is to spot the external tasks.

Figure 1. Team Planner view – default color for External Tasks

Figure 1. Team Planner view – default color for External Tasks

Before I tell you how I answered this user’s question, there are a couple of important facts you need to understand about the question itself:

  • The Team Planner view is only available in the Professional version of Microsoft Project 2010, 2013, and 2016. It is not available in the Standard version of the software.
  • An external task is a task in another project which is linked via a cross-project dependency to a task in the current project. The easiest way to create cross-project dependencies is to use a master project.

The user wondered if there was any way to make external tasks a darker color in the Team Planner view, thus making it easier to spot these tasks. Resolving this problem is pretty simple to do by completing the following steps:

  1. Open a project containing an external task and then apply the Team Planner view.
  2. Click the Format tab to display the Format ribbon with the Team Planner Tools applied.
  3. In the Styles section of the Format ribbon, click the External Tasks pick list button, select the Fill Color item, then select a dark fill color. For example, I selected the Orange, Darker 25% color as shown in the following figure.
Figure 2. Change the color of External Tasks

Figure 2. Change the color of External Tasks

The following figure shows the Team Planner view with the fill color changed to a dark orange color for external tasks. Notice that it is now much easier to spot the external tasks in this project.

Figure 3. Team Planner view – new color for External Tasks

Figure 3. Team Planner view – new color for External Tasks

After completing the preceding steps, keep in mind that no matter which color you select for external tasks, even very dark colors are always applied as a much lighter shade in the Team Planner view. This just seems to be a matter of how Microsoft Project applies colors in this view, and I am not aware of any way to force the software to darken the colors significantly.

About Sensei Project Solutions
Sensei Project Solutions, a Finalist for the 2015 Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Partner of the Year, focuses on bringing Instant Productivity to your team. Our mission is to help individuals and organizations be more productive so that they can achieve their greatest potential. As a Gold certified Microsoft Partner and Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) with the Project Management Institute (PMI®), Sensei offers a complete set of services and products for a successful Microsoft PPM deployment. Our guiding principles for Proactive PPM follow best practices and industry standards aligned with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and Gartner, enabling organizations to manage resource demand, obtain business intelligence that facilitates better decision making, increase business effectiveness by easily connecting people, and become self-sufficient with PPM processes and solutions. In short, Sensei helps organizations achieve Instant Productivity.

About Dale Howard, Director of Education, Sensei Project Solutions
Dale Howard is a seasoned training professional who is approaching 30 years of technical training experience. He has taught students how to effectively use every version of Microsoft Project beginning with version 4.0 for Windows 95, and every version of the Microsoft EPM tool beginning with Project Central in the year 2000. Dale possesses the coveted Project MVP title and is one of only 64 Project MVPs in the entire world. He is the co-author of 20 books on Microsoft Project and Project Server. Dale is known for high-energy, highly interactive style of presenting and teaching. He was voted the “Best Presenter” by conference participants at the Project Conference in 2012.

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