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Microsoft Project 2010 : Linking Tasks (part 4) - Entering Leads and Lags, Creating Links by Using the Menu or Toolbar

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10/3/2014 9:27:51 PM

Entering Leads and Lags

Entering leads and lags is done the same way whether you use the Task Information dialog box mentioned previously or other dialog boxes or forms. When entering lags and leads, bear in mind that both are entered in the same Lag box; there is no separate Lead box. Use positive numbers to represent lag time and negative numbers to represent lead time.

You can enter a lag or lead as a number followed by one of the regular or elapsed time code letters you use for entering duration time: minutes=m or em, hours=h or eh, days=d or ed, weeks=w or ew, and months=mo or emo. Lead time is entered as a negative lag. For example, you enter 4d to define a four-day lag and -8h to define an eight-hour lead. You type 4ed to schedule a lag of four elapsed days (four full, real-time days, as opposed to four working days, which would not include weekends or holidays). If you type a number without a time unit, Microsoft Project attaches the default duration unit (which is days by default).

You can also express lag or lead time as a percentage of the predecessor’s duration. If you want a task to start when its predecessor is within 20% of being finished, you can enter a Finish-to-Start link with a 20% lead, entered as FS-20%. Microsoft Project schedules the task to start so that it overlaps the last 20% of the predecessor task duration. Using percentage lags and leads enables the amount of lag or lead to vary with changes in the duration of the predecessor. Thus, the longer the duration of the predecessor, the more time a percentage lag or lead would entail.

Tip

If changes in the schedule occur as the project develops, a percentage would likely give you a more preferred successor start date than a time duration, because the time duration might not accurately reflect that changed schedule. Creating this relationship works well in outlining company methods and templates in which the scaling of the project is dependent on the relationship delay or overlap, not a specified duration.


When you use percentage lags and leads, Microsoft Project uses the start or finish of the predecessor (as specified in the link type) for the starting point, and offsets the start or finish of the successor from that point by the lag percentage multiplied by the duration of the predecessor. For example, if the predecessor has a duration of eight days, a Start-to-Start lag of 25% causes the successor’s start to be scheduled two days after the predecessor starts. A Finish-to-Start lead of 75% produces the same start for the successor—as long as the duration of the predecessor remains unchanged. Changes in the duration of the predecessor, however, cause these two links to result in a different start date for the successor.

Linking Summary Tasks

Summary tasks roll up the information from the working tasks that are executed to complete the summary tasks. Standard practice is to link subtasks and not to link summary tasks. However, summary tasks can be linked to each other, or to subtasks under other summary tasks. Project will not let you establish an explicit link between a subtask and its summary task because summary tasks are implicitly linked to their own subtasks.

Subtasks are bound to many of the same attributes as their summary tasks. If the summary task is linked to a predecessor, the predecessor relationship dictates when the summary task—and therefore its subtasks—can begin. Likewise, if the summary task has a date constraint, its subtasks are effectively constrained to that date also. If the summary task has no link or date constraints, its start date is derived from the earliest start date of any of its subtasks, and its finish date is derived from the latest finish date of its subtasks.

Tip

Linking summary tasks is not a good practice. This is because summary tasks do not define the activities where work gets done; they summarize data from the component tasks that are subordinate to the summary. For example, the summary start date is the earliest start date in the summary’s subordinate tasks. “Planning the Move” is a summary task, and “Calculate Moving Expenses” is one of its subtasks. Links should generally reflect the scheduling requirements of the tasks where work is done.

But there are always exceptions, and Project is a flexible application. Linking summary tasks might be useful if a summary task represents a self-contained group of tasks that have a logical relationship to subtasks under another summary task. In that case, linking the summary tasks has the advantage of enabling you to change the subtasks within each group without worrying about redefining the link between the summary tasks.


If you create a task link that involves a summary task as the dependent (or successor) task, you can only use the link types Finish-to-Start and Start-to-Start. Microsoft Project does not let you establish the other link types; it does not allow you to link the summary task’s finish date as a dependent task. However, if the link involves a summary task as the predecessor to a subtask, you can use any of the four possible link types. These same rules apply in both fixed start-date and fixed finish-date projects.

Note

If you select all tasks and let Microsoft Project link the tasks in an outlined project, Microsoft Project links all tasks at the first outline level to each other, whether they are summary tasks or not. It then links the next level of subtasks within any summary task to each other, and so forth, until all outline levels in all summary tasks are linked at their own levels. All links are the default Finish-to-Start link type. Linking tasks in this manner is not recommended.


The following sections describe the various methods of linking tasks. Some processes are more complicated than others, but might provide greater compatibility. It is recommended that you try all the following methods as you read about them, and decide which method you prefer.

Creating Links by Using the Menu or Toolbar

There are several ways to link tasks. One option is to select the tasks and then click the Link Tasks button in the Schedule group on the Task tab. Another way is to select the tasks and press Ctrl+F2. These links are always the default Finish-to-Start links, without lag or lead. You have to edit the links if you want a different link type or if you want to add lag or lead. In Figure 6, four tasks are selected and have been linked in series with the Link Tasks button on the Task tab.

Figure 6. There are multiple ways to link tasks, and you can link more than two tasks at a time.

There is no limit to the number of tasks you can select for linking with the Link Tasks tool. You can link just one predecessor and one successor at a time, or you can link all the tasks in the project with the same operation.

If you select adjacent tasks by dragging the mouse pointer or by using the Shift+down arrow or Shift+up arrow key combination, Microsoft Project links the selected tasks from the top down. In other words, tasks higher on the list (that have lower ID numbers) are predecessors for the tasks below them (that have higher ID numbers). The same concept applies if you select all tasks by clicking one of the column headings, such as Task Name.

Tip

You have the same options to remove a task link as you have to create links. To remove a link, select the linked tasks and either click the Unlink Tasks tool or press Ctrl+Shift+F2. To remove all links to a task, including all the task’s predecessors and successors, select just the task itself and use the Unlink Tasks toolbar button or command.


If you build the selection by using Ctrl+click (holding down Ctrl and clicking on the tasks you want to link) to add tasks, Microsoft Project links the tasks in the order in which you added them to the selection. The first selected task is the predecessor to the second, and so forth.

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