When you build a new project plan, you specify whether you want to schedule your project from a 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 from a 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.), and then you set that date.
What do you want to do?
Learn more about scheduling from a start date or finish date
Nearly every project should be scheduled from a known start date. Even if you know the date by which a project must be complete, scheduling from a start date gives you the maximum amount of flexibility.
There are a few cases, however, in which it might be best to schedule from a finish date. For example, it is usually a good idea to schedule from a finish date when:
- You want to identify the date when a project must start in order to finish on a specific required date.
- You are not sure when your project will begin (if your start date depends upon your receipt of work from another source, for example, and the arrival date for that work is not yet known).
- Your project management methodology requires you to schedule from a finish date.
When you are working with a project that is scheduled from a finish date, keep in mind the differences in the way that Microsoft Office Project handles some processes in such projects. In a project that is scheduled from a finish date:
If you change a project that was previously scheduled from a start date so that it is now scheduled from a finish date, Office Project automatically removes all leveling delays (leveling delay: The amount of time that an assignment or task is to be delayed from the original scheduled start date as a result of resource leveling or of manually entering a leveling delay.) and leveling splits (split task: A task whose schedule is interrupted. For example, a two-day task that does not require contiguous work might be split so that the first day of work is scheduled for Monday, and the second day is scheduled for Thursday.) from tasks and assignments.
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Schedule your project start date or finish date
- On the Project menu, click Project Information.
- Do one of the following:
In the Start date or Finish date box, enter the date that you want to schedule from.
- To schedule from the start date, click Project Start Date in the Schedule from list.
- To schedule from the finish date, click Project Finish Date in the Schedule from list.
- If you choose to schedule from the finish date because you want to identify the latest date that you can start the project and still finish by that finish date, it is often still a good idea to switch back to scheduling from the start date when work on the project begins. This helps you to clearly see the progress of your project, and to keep track of factors and situations that might cause the finish date to change.
- A project can only be scheduled from the project start date or from the project finish date at any one time. It cannot be scheduled from both dates simultaneously. When scheduling from the project start date, the project finish date is automatically calculated as your project changes. When you schedule from the project finish date, the project start date is automatically calculated. To change the automatically calculated date, you must either change to scheduling the project from the currently-calculated date, or make modifications to the tasks in your project that will adjust the date calculation.
- If the finish date doesn't change after you change the start date, then one or more tasks may have a date constraint (constraint: A restriction set on the start or finish date of a task. You can specify that a task must start on or finish no later than a particular date. Constraints can be flexible [not tied to a specific date] or inflexible [tied to a specific date].) applied. Review the constraints in your plan to make sure that they are all necessary and appropriate. (To view a task's constraints, select the task, and then, on the Tools menu, click Task Drivers.)
- If the start date doesn't change after you change the finish date, one or more tasks may either have actual (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.) progress reported or have a date constraint applied. Review the constraints in your plan to make sure that they are all necessary and appropriate. (To view a task's constraints, select the task, and then, on the Tools menu, click Task Drivers.)
- You can change the project start date or finish date whenever you want to, even after you build the project plan. For example, if you are trying to meet a specific finish date and your schedule currently extends beyond that date, you can manually set the start date earlier to automatically adjust the finish date. To move the project start date or finish date, click Adjust Dates on the Analysis toolbar. This macro changes the task dates in relation to the new start date or finish date for the project.
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