See what's driving the project finish date (critical path)

To see why a project is starting or finishing on a specific date, view the critical path. The critical path is the series of tasks (or even a single task) that dictates the calculated start date (start date: The date when a task is scheduled to begin. This date is based on the duration, calendars, and constraints of predecessor and successor tasks. A task's start date is also based on its own calendars and constraints.) or finish date (finish date: The date that a task is scheduled to be completed. This date is based on the task's start date, duration, calendars, predecessor dates, task dependencies, and constraints.) of the project. Viewing project information in this way is sometimes referred to as the critical path method of project management.

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Learn more about critical path analysis

If you have saved a baseline for your project, the critical path can show you if your project will finish on time and where the danger points are. To get the most out of critical path analysis:

 Tip   To change the sensitivity of critical tasks, on the Tools menu, click Options. On the Calculation tab, under Tasks are critical if slack is less than or equal to, specify the number of days under which a task will be considered critical.

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Highlight the critical path

You can show the critical path in the Detail Gantt view.

  1. On the View menu, click More Views.
  2. Click Detail Gantt, and then click Apply.

You can also show the critical path with the Gantt Chart Wizard.

  1. On the View menu, click Gantt Chart.
  2. Click Gantt Chart Wizard Button image.
  3. Follow the Gantt Chart Wizard instructions to format the critical path.

By default, the critical task Gantt bars (Gantt bar: A graphical element on the chart portion of the Gantt Chart view representing the duration of a task.) and link lines (link line: On the Gantt Chart and Network Diagram, the line that appears between two tasks to indicate a task dependency.) are red.

 Note   This format change overrides any direct formatting changes that you might have already made to bar styles or individual bars. This formatting of critical tasks only applies to the current Gantt Chart view in the current project. To save this formatting, use the Organizer (Organizer: The tabbed dialog box in which you can copy custom views, tables, filters, grouping definitions, calendars, reports, forms, toolbars, maps, field attributes, and VBA modules to other documents and to other users.) on the Tools menu to copy the formatted Gantt Chart to another file.

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Show only the critical path

  1. On the View menu, click Gantt Chart.
  2. In the Filter list, click Critical.

To display all tasks again, in the Filter list, click All Tasks.

 Tip   To quickly see the list of tasks on the critical path, in the current view, on the Project menu, point to Group by, and then click Critical. The critical path tasks are listed together under the heading Critical.

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Show a single critical path for multiple projects

When you have multiple projects inserted into a master project (master project: A project containing other projects [known as inserted projects or subprojects]. Also called a consolidated project.), you can see which of the inserted projects make up the critical path for the master project. To do this, you must configure the master project to calculate the inserted projects in the same way that summary tasks (summary task: A task that is made up of subtasks and summarizes those subtasks. Use outlining to create summary tasks. Project automatically determines summary task information [such as duration and cost] by using information from the subtasks.) are calculated.

Important     This procedure only works in a master project.

ShowI don't have a master project

  1. Open the project that you want to become a master project, or open a new blank project.
  2. On the View menu, click Gantt Chart.
  3. In the Task Name field, click the row below where you want to insert the subproject.

 Note   You can insert a project at any level of the master project's outline.

  1. On the Insert menu, click Project.
  2. Locate and click the project you want to insert.
  3. If you don't want the subproject to be updated with changes from the original project, or changes from the subproject to be shown in the original project, clear the Link to Project check box.
  4. Click Insert.

In the master project:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Calculation tab.
  2. Select the Inserted projects are calculated like summary tasks check box.

 Note   This is a project-level setting.

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Calculate multiple critical paths

You can choose to calculate and display a critical path for each independent network of tasks within the project. By default, Project sets the late finish date for tasks without successors or constraints to be the project finish date. If you choose to calculate multiple critical paths, Project sets the late finish date for these tasks to be their early finish date, making the task critical.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Calculation tab.
  2. Select the Calculate multiple critical paths check box.

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Applies to:
Project 2007