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Microsoft Project 2010 : Linking Tasks (part 7) - Creating Links by Using the Mouse,Working with Automatic Linking Options

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10/3/2014 9:32:12 PM

Creating Links by Using the Mouse

You can use the mouse to link taskbars on the timescale side of the Gantt Chart view, in the Network Diagram view, or in the Calendar view. You can also use the mouse to edit the linking relationship in the Gantt Chart view or the Network Diagram view.

To link tasks with the mouse in the Gantt Chart view, center the mouse over the predecessor task until the pointer changes into a four-arrow icon. Then click and drag the pointer (which should then turn into a linked-chain icon) over the center of the successor task. Hold the mouse button until Project interprets your action as creating a link. The pointer changes into a linked-chain icon, and displays the Finish-to-Start Link information box (see Figure 10).

Figure 10. Drag the mouse pointer from the predecessor to the successor in the timescale side of the Gantt Chart view to create a dependency link.

Caution

The mouse pointer is designed to perform a number of actions on tasks, so be careful when creating links by using the mouse. It is easy to accidentally move the task or mark the task as being partially complete. You must watch the shape of the mouse pointer carefully to ensure that you are doing exactly what you intend to do.


Using the mouse for linking is the most convenient when you can see both tasks you are trying to link onscreen at the same time. If only one taskbar is visible, you have to drag offscreen, and Project begins rapidly scrolling the tasks. You can probably do better with one of the other methods of linking the tasks, as described earlier in this chapter, such as selecting the two tasks (select the predecessor first) and using the Link Tasks tool.

Tip

If you start using the mouse to link tasks and then want to cancel the linking procedure, simply drag the mouse up to the menu or toolbar area of the Gantt Chart view or the Calendar view and release the button. In the Network Diagram view, you must return the mouse to the task you started with before releasing the mouse button, or you will create a new successor task.


Note

In the Network Diagram and Calendar views, you must drag from the center of the predecessor task’s box or taskbar, and the pointer is the plain white cross, not the four-arrow shape you look for in the Gantt Chart view. In those views, the four-arrow shape appears when the pointer is over the border of the task box or taskbar, and means that you will move the task if you drag the border. In all cases, make sure that the mouse pointer is the linked-chain shape when you are over the successor task before you release the mouse button.


The dependency type created with the mouse is always a Finish-to-Start relationship. You can change the link type, add a lag or lead, or delete the link by displaying the Task Dependency dialog box with the mouse in the Gantt Chart or Network Diagram view.

To display the Task Dependency dialog box, scroll to display any portion of the linking line between the predecessor and successor tasks. Position the tip of the mouse pointer on the line connecting the tasks whose links you want to edit. A ScreenTip should appear, with the details of the link. Double-click the linking line, and the Task Dependency dialog box appears, as shown in Figure 11. The From task in the dialog box is the predecessor, and the To task is the successor. You can change the dependency type with the drop-down list in the Type field. Choosing None removes the link, as does clicking the Delete button. You can redefine the lag or lead in the Lag field. Click the OK button to complete the change.

Figure 11. Edit the dependency link in the Task Dependency dialog box.


Note

You cannot change the names of the linked tasks in the Task Dependency dialog box, nor can you change which task is the predecessor and which is the successor.


Working with Automatic Linking Options

If you use only simple Finish-to-Start links in a project, Project’s Autolink feature (which is enabled by default) can help you maintain the dependency link sequences when you move, delete, or insert tasks within a linked sequence of tasks. However, Autolink works only if the affected links are Finish-to-Start links, and are in the middle of the linked sequence (Autolink does not apply to the first or last task in a linked sequence).

When you change the order of tasks, and thus their ID numbers, in a task table (such as the one in the Gantt Chart view), you create a break in the link sequence chain. Autolink repairs the break in the following ways:

  • If you cut or delete a task from within a chain of Finish-to-Start linked tasks, Autolink repairs the break in the chain by linking together the former predecessor and successor of the deleted task. In essence, it mends the gap created in the chain by the deletion.

  • If you insert a task in a chain of Finish-to-Start linked tasks, Autolink breaks the former link between the tasks. The new task is inserted between the existing tasks, and then the newly inserted task is linked to the task above and below it to keep the linked sequence intact.

  • If you move a task from one Finish-to-Start sequence to another, Autolink repairs the chain at the task’s old site and inserts the new task into the chain at the new site.

In the Network Diagram and Calendar views, Autolink behaves this way only when you delete a task or insert a new task, because you cannot cut, copy, or move tasks to a different ID order in those views.

Note

If you insert or remove a task from the beginning or end of a linked chain, instead of in the middle of the chain, Autolink does not include the new task in the chain. Inserting a task at the beginning of a series of linked tasks, or after the last task in a linked sequence, does not cause Autolink to extend the chain to include the new task.

To include a task in a sequence, when the task has been added either to the beginning or end of the sequence, you must link the tasks yourself, using one of the previously discussed methods.


By default, Autolink is enabled, but you can disable it by changing the status of the Autolink option. Select the File tab, Options, Schedule. Clear the Autolink inserted or moved tasks check box. To set the option status as a default for all new projects, choose All New Projects from the Scheduling Options for This Project drop-down. Otherwise, the change you make affects only the active project document.

Tip

If you have disabled Autolink and need to insert or paste tasks into a Finish-to-Start sequence, you can quickly reestablish the sequence to include new tasks. Select the tasks, starting with the row above the insertion and including the row below the insertion, and use the Unlink Tasks tool to break the original link. Then, with the tasks still selected, use the Link Tasks tool to include the new tasks in the sequence. If there was a lead or lag included in the old link, you need to decide which of the new links should include it.

If you delete or cut tasks from a Finish-to-Start sequence, select the rows above and below the deleted rows and click the Link Tasks tool.


Caution

As convenient as Autolink can be when editing a simple task list, it can cause problems in large or complex projects by creating unintended task links when you insert tasks. You should double-check the links to ensure that they are as you intended for the project. Unintended task links can become a troublesome problem in a project schedule.

If automatic linking is enabled and you rearrange an outline, you should carefully review the links that result each time you move a task or group of tasks in the outline. You might have to edit the links to reflect exactly the relationship you want defined.


Tip

Many project managers leave Autolink disabled because it makes changes without asking for approval. Sometimes they do not notice an unintended change in the linking for their task lists—a problem you should take care to avoid.

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