Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Using Microsoft Project in Multiple Sessions

Microsoft Project open on one monitor while Microsoft Outlook is open in the other

Are you familiar with the multi-session functionality of Microsoft Excel and Word? That is where you can open up different files in different sessions allowing you to compare them from one monitor to another. For those of you that use M.S. Project, have you ever tried to get multi-sessions to work within Project? After surveying a few colleagues, checking help, and Google, it seemed that nobody had done it before. This seemed rather odd to me.

Why would you want multi-sessions in M.S. Project? I had several different template schedules that I wanted to use to incorporate tasks into one schedule and this was my first thought of how to do it. It seems that a lot of people that are working with Project are only using one monitor, so they haven’t thought about having more than one session open. I’m usually working with my notebook’s screen as my primary monitor and I have an additional monitor, so I make use of two monitors. If you’re only using one screen or monitor then multi-sessions for Project probably doesn’t give you a lot of benefit. Within a normal single session of Project you can arrange multiple schedules vertically, horizontally, or in a tiled manner, in addition to looking at a single schedule at a time. Within a single session of Project, when I view multiple schedules at the same time they appear to small and you have to constantly dart around to see what you need to see. If you're only looking at one schedule at a time, then you have to jump from schedule to schedule. The problem that I saw with using a single session of Project was that you spend too much time going back and forth between schedules as opposed to comparing what you actually want compare.

One session of Project stretched over two monitors

After discussing my problem with one colleague, I tried stretching the Microsoft Project session across my two monitors. This ultimately was the answer to my problem. Now I could have the schedule open that I wanted to adjust open on one monitor, and look at another schedule for tasks that I wanted to add on the other monitor and I had the other schedules that I wished to look at in a smaller size that I could expand as I needed them. While this was not the multi-session solution that I was looking for, it did serve my purpose.

To set this up, you’ll need two monitors or screens. I’m currently using Microsoft Project 2003, so I have not tested other versions to see if they’re able to do this as well. Open Project up so that it is not maximized, then stretch it out over both screens. I would suggest that leave a little space on the bottom of your monitors, as a safety measure. Now you can put the two schedules that you wish to compare on separate monitors. See the second picture for an example of this in use. If you want to have other schedules open, reduce them so that you can easily grab them to expand as necessary. Note if for some reason you need to use another application while you have this set up, you’ll probably have to do some fine tuning to get it working properly again. I recently tried this Microsoft Powerpoint and it works there as well.

Using the expanded Project Session (my terms) allows you to quickly compare multiple schedules and to make changes to your schedules with more ease than the trying to cope with just one session on one monitor. Do you have any other tips for handling M.S. Project or schedules in general? If you have any other comments, I’d love to hear them. If you liked this article, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or email, share it on del.icio.us or on Digg and pass it on to anyone that you think might appreciate it. Thank you. :)

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