Explore the Microsoft Office Project Add-in for Outlook

Applies to
Microsoft Office Project Server 2003
Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003


Being able to make Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003 tasks (task: An activity that has a beginning and an end. Project plans are made up of tasks.) more accessible in everyday applications (application: A computer program that is used for a particular kind of work, such as managing projects or word processing. This term application is used interchangeably with program.) is what stakeholders (stakeholders: Individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project or whose interests may be affected by the project.) want, especially team members required to report their actuals (actual: Information that shows what has actually occurred. For example, the actual start date for a task is the day that the task actually started.). Well-managed tasks help meet the goals of a project, and what better way to improve task management than to give team members the ability to update their own tasks from within Microsoft Outlook® 2000 and later.

With the Microsoft Office Project Add-in for Outlook you can do this and more: You can customize its features to build the view (view: The combination of one or more views [Gantt Chart, Resource Sheet, and so on] and if applicable, a table and a filter. Use views to work with information in a variety of formats. There are three types of views: Charts or graphs, Sheets, and Forms.) you want and specify how updates are sent back to Microsoft Office Project Server 2003. This article explains the benefits, installation process, use, and customization options of the add-in.

Task management made easy

Team members import task assignments (assignment: A specific resource that is assigned to a particular task.) to their Outlook calendars from Microsoft Office Project Web Access 2003, the Web user interface to Project Server data. At the click of a button, they can easily send task updates back to Project Server, or set options to have them sent automatically.

The project manager must then approve those updates in Project Web Access, after which time any accepted changes are first reflected in Project and Project Web Access, and then in Outlook the next time you import (importing: Transferring data into Project from a source program, such as Excel. When you import data, you choose a map that defines how the data in the source program should be mapped to information in Project.) assignment information.

Data about time reported for tasks flows back and forth from Outlook, PWA, and Project.
Figure 1: Information exchanges between Project Web Access and Outlook, and Project Web Access and Project Professional to synchronize task information

In Outlook, tasks are represented as calendar appointments, and, as a team member, you can see them along with your other time-driven entries. This is useful if you are required to report actuals and prefer to manage all your work items in Outlook.

Who benefits from the add-in?

Since the vast majority of people who use Project Web Access also use Outlook, any Project user who is assigned tasks could benefit from using the add-in. It is designed primarily for team members who report on the time that they work.

Even if you want to update your tasks by working directly in Project Web Access, you can still benefit from the add-in, because it provides a single view of all your work items. And after installing the add-in and importing your tasks, you can then view them offline (offline: In reference to one or more computers, not being connected to a network.) in Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access or even on certain hand-held devices, such as a Pocket PC (with limited functionality as described later in this document).

When tasks are made more accessible by the add-in, they become easier to manage, and this frees up time for team members to use more productively elsewhere. In this way, all project stakeholders benefit from the integration with Outlook.

With that said, however, the Project add-in is not intended as a replacement for working in Project Web Access. For example, all task deletions that you want reflected in Project should be done in Project Web Access (deleted Outlook tasks simply appear back on your calendar the next time you import).

How are Project Professional tasks represented in Outlook?

Though they share a generic name, tasks that you import from Project Web Access do not become Outlook tasks, they become Outlook appointments. Furthermore, Project tasks are viewable in the Outlook calendar only, not in the Outlook task list.

Additionally, if you have a task duration (duration: The total span of active working time that is required to complete a task. This is generally the amount of working time from the start to finish of a task, as defined by the project and resource calendar.) of five days, that task will be displayed continuously across five days. It is represented in the Outlook calendar according to duration, and not on a per-day basis indicating hours dedicated to that task. By default (default: A predefined setting. You can accept the default option settings, or you can change them to suit your own preferences.), the allocated time is displayed as free (free: Free time appears with a clear availability indicator and is seen as available when others view your Calendar. An appointment of zero duration, while visible in the selected block of time when viewing days, shows as free time to others.), not busy (busy: Blocks of time that are marked busy appear with a solid availability indicator and are shown as unavailable when other people view your Calendar.).

Project Professional tasks are displayed as free appointments along the top of the Outlook calendar.
Figure 2: Tasks in Outlook are displayed as free appointments in calendar view

In the preceding screen shot (Figure 2), two Project tasks run along the top of the calendar view and are not tied to time per day. The white vertical line that resembles a left border on the Day view indicates that the tasks are showing as free time. This is a default setting and can be changed.

Multiple Computers     If the add-in is installed on one computer but not all, and you’re using Microsoft Exchange Server, your tasks will be displayed on the computer without the add-in. However, you can only update your tasks from the computer where the add-in is installed. Subsequently, if you have installed the add-in on multiple computers, you can send updates to Project Server from each of those computers.


Project Add-in for Outlook: Where to get it?

Applies to:
Project 2003