Using a Task as a Note

Copper Contributor

I am trying to set up a series of subprojects overseen by a master project.  I'd like to have some "reminder guidelines" for when I (or more importantly someone else) open the master project, such as settings to check/define when creating a new subproject.


In Excel, I'd simply set this up as notes in the first rows, and I'm trying to find a similar approach in Project.  My thought was to assign a few "tasks" containing these guidelines, but then how to make it readily visible?  Is there a way to dynamically assign the date of the task to start "today" every time I open the project?  That would put the first tasks visible at the right, correct?

Am I overlooking a simpler approach?

5 Replies


First of all if you haven't used master/subproject constructs in Project before, I'll warn you that they are prone to corruption if not created and maintained with utmost care. Never rename, move, overwrite or "save off" to another location any of the files in the structure. Ideally, all files should reside in a single directory on a local drive and not be operated over a network. The structure will not work with SharePoint.


Given that, Excel has a lot more flexibility than Project when it comes to notes. Any cell in Excel can have a very large amount of text (I don't know the actual limit). In Project the Notes field can also contain a very large amount of text, but, when viewed anywhere other than the Notes tab of the Task Information window, is limited to 255 character or the first line feed, whichever comes first. So, if your "guidelines" are short single statements of less than that number of characters and no line feeds, you can put that info into the task Name field or the Task Notes field or even one of the 30 extra Text fields.


You mention wanting to see the guidelines each time someone opens the master. For that you could set up an Event driven macro that runs everytime the master is opened although that may become a bit of a pain if the master is accessed frequently. Another option might be to put the guidelines in a Word or Excel file and then set up a Hyperlink to that file in the first task line of the master (note: I haven't tried that).


The last part of your post mentions something about having the date of a task start "today" every time the project is opened. Sorry, I don't understand what you mean. Please clarify.


Finally when you ask if there is a "simpler approach", approach to what? Maybe a little background on exactly what you are trying to do would help.





Thanks for responding! This particular question is a part of a larger story, so I'll go through the whole of it (apologies for the length)


I work at a prototyping shop where a lax scheduling and project management structure is causing problems in my department. Since I can't fix the outside world, I'm working on organizing my internal one.


Each project has a lead engineer, and often secondary ones, depending on the scope. That effort may be focused on a singular complex projects where several engineers are tasked in a collaborative sense, or there might be many simple projects each handled by a single engineer under the lead (or the lead themselves). There are handoffs to other departments with internal deadlines. When slips happen at any level, I need to understand the impacts better so that I can communicate to project management how those impact the overall schedule. I am trying to work out a process to resource leveling and scheduling to ensure that a) everyone is equally loaded, b) the deadlines get hit on time or before, and c) the lead engineers can grow to take on some of the scheduling responsibilities as they become familiar with the system.


So, back to the present...


Since I'm considering different people with different experience, my gut wants to put a reminder of basic practices (what settings to confirm, do you work in the subproject or master, etc). As a first thought, I was considering putting in a series of tasks at the very top (Row 1/2/3/etc) with these instructions. However, I saw the possibility that as time rolls on, those tasks (and the cautions they provided) would roll off to the left and so effectively vanish from the user's attention. To fix that, I wanted a way of Project to automatically update the start date of those tasks to the day it happened to be when the project was opened. That would push the tasks into visibility, which would make it (slightly) harder to overlook.


I'm still trying to decide if that's the best approach. It may be that this all gets recorded in an SOP, but that's a separate sheet of paper that may or may not be referenced. It may be easier to set up a warning as a VBA/macro popup window when a particular event is attempted.


Other questions on my mind relating to this:

  • If I set priorities in one subproject, and pull that subproject into a master project, how do the priorities propagate? Do all 500-level priorities in the sub project get treated equally? If I set priorities in the master project, does that set up a relative comparison where it first prioritizes by subproject, and then treats the priorities in a given subproject independently (so a 500-level in one subproject could work independently of a 200-level priority in another subproject)?
  • If I make an adjustment in a master project, does that propagate down to the subproject?
  • You imply that SharePoint will be a problem, which is unfortunate for me. I'd hoped to deploy in a SharePoint environment. Given the whole of the story, and hopefully a better vision of what I'm trying to do, are there some workarounds I should explore? Should I instead focus on a single project file instead of master/subprojects? I'd hoped to use the master as an overview of what was going on in my department on a week/week basis for tracking effort/load, and set up each subproject individually. That way, I could have a series of subprojects with specific start and end dates (and limiting priorities for organization) but show alllll the subprojects in the master as they come on and off in their own unique way.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading and again, thanks for your advice!

You sound like the proverbial guy caught in the middle between a active work environment and a corporate structure stuck in the past. Your issue is not new.

I have a few general comments on your desired process.
a) ensure everyone is equally loaded - very desirable but understand that Project does NOT have any capability to optimize resources or schedules. I see (or more accurately hear from) users who wish/hope/expect Project will automatically do project management for them, but alas, that's not in the cards.
b) ensure deadlines are met - no question, that's the whole reason for effectively managing a project and Project is a good tool for helping do that.
c) engineers grow to take on scheduling responsibilities - I had to smile when I read that. My experience is that the last thing most engineers want to do is have anything to do with scheduling or having to work with a scheduling management tool like Project. Your best approach is to have a dedicated schedule manager that works with the engineers and management.

Wouldn't it be great if Project had a Freeze Panes feature like Excel. Then you could put the guidelines in the first few task lines and it would remain visible regardless of how much scrolling the user does. Matter of fact, I think that would be a great idea for the Project development team and you could certainly submit it via, File > Feedback.

Entries in the task Name field (or the Notes or any other Text field) will only "roll" off to the left if the user scrolls the view table (i.e. left side of the view). It has nothing to do with the entries in the Start or Finish fields. Scrolling the Gantt display (i.e. right side of the view) does not move the view table info. The issue is when the user scrolls down. When a file first opened, Project automatically sets the display starting at the beginning, unless the file was last saved in a filtered or grouped state. Of course if the file was last closed in a view other than the Gantt Chart view (e.g. Resource Sheet), that view will appear. However, as I noted a simple Open Event macro can set up a file to open in any configuration or even pop up a message. I did that for another user who wanted to see the status of deadlines each time he opened his plan.

With regard to priorities in a master/subproject structure. In a dynamic master, the subprojects are not actually part of the master, rather, the master contains pointers to each of the subproject files. You can readily see this by noting the ID sequence at master level, numbering re-starts for each subproject file. The only task elements in the master are summary line depictions for each subproject and of course any tasks that are created at master level. So priorities set at subproject level are for that subproject only, they don't propagate to a master level set of priorities.

There are different levels of priority. The most used is task priority but another level is project priority. Task priority is set via the Priority field on the Gantt Chart or Task Usage view. Project priority is set via Task Information. To get an idea on how it all interacts I suggest you read the Project help file.

On your question about propagating changes at master level down to subproject level, some things propagate down/up and other don't. For example, you can change dates, links, work, resources, etc. at master level and then have those reflected to the subproject via Save All. However, views and other display items are unique to the master. Those items must be propagated through the Organizer.

There are two types of master file. The default is a dynamic master which is a linked structure. By un-selecting the "Link to Project" option on the Insert Project window, you can create a static master. A static master is a single independent file that basically copies the contents of all inserted subprojects into the master. A static master is a snapshot in time so in order to update a static master it must be recreated, but that process can be automated with a macro, which can be a recorded macro. Of course, the other option is to put all the projects into a single file with each project its own summary group. This also works well if there are interactions between tasks in different projects. Inter-project links can also be done using external predecessors & successors between separate project files but that again creates a linked structure.

Lots of stuff to consider and this just scratches the surface. Whew!


It is quite a lot, but this discussion is helping (even if it's not a new problem. Hopefully I'm not wearing your fingers out...

If I'm reading your responses (and a variety of help files) correctly, my hopes that priority would help nudge things by leveling is flawed. However I am (not surprisingly) confused. In some cases, it seemed that changing priorities rearranged task order. But when I do a simple test with only two unrelated tasks with the same resource, all I can get Project to do is raise the flag the resource is overscheduled. Still haven't worked out the logic, but clearly I need to rethink the approach.

You'd mentioned that SharePoint had some issues with Project. Can you elaborate?



I am not "worn out" and don't worry whether your issue is a "new problem". I'd estimate that at least 10-20% of the issues brought up by users are subject matter that I, and others, have addressed more than once. The whole point of this forum is to help users, so that's what we try to do.


Project's leveling algorithm is complex so it does take some time to learn how it works, what it will do and what it won't do. Personally I've never used it as I prefer to have a more hands on approach to managing schedules and resources, mainly because there are so many variables involved (e.g. undefined task details, resource ability, etc.). But if you want to use leveling, I suggest you click the Help button on the Resource Leveling window if you haven't already. The help file gives a nice overall explanation of how leveling works and what the various options do.


I also do not use SharePoint but I found out long ago for colleagues that SharePoint does not support the linking structure used by Project. As far as I know that is the only Project issue with SharePoint. Understand that if you do not need a dynamic master, (i.e. decide that a static master will work fine for your needs), then you can host Project files, including the static master, on SharePoint.