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Naturally, in a project timeline the scale is based on dates. With think-cell, you can quickly change the visible date range. The appearance of the scale is initially automatic, but can be manually modified if needed.
When inserting a new project timeline, the calendar is initially scaled to show some time before and some time after the current date. There are two ways to change the date range that is shown.
You can open a calendar and select the dates you want:
Alternatively, if you only need to adjust the beginning or the end of the range, you can simply change these values with the mouse:
While dragging the handles, they snap to integral units of the selected scale. You can quickly expand the chart to cover a large date range by dragging the handles of a scale with large units (e.g., years or months).
When changing the date range or the size of a chart, some scales as well as vertical separator lines may appear or disappear. Based on the range you select, together with the chart size and font size, think-cell suggests appropriate scales and separators to show. To make good use of this function, you should first select the desired date range before manually adding or removing scales or separators.
Altogether, there are five scales available in the project timeline chart: Years, quarters, months, weeks and days. In addition to showing or hiding scales, think-cell supports several options to change the look of the calendar. All of these settings are available in the menu Scales, located in the floating toolbar of the Gantt chart or one of the currently visible scales.
The Scales menu offers the following options:
Each scale supports various ways to display date information, e.g., the months scale may show month names like “September” or numbers like “09.” You probably want to choose the appropriate format depending on the available space.
To do so, select the scale with the mouse and use the floating toolbar that appears to select the desired format. Since the dropdown menu is actually a date format control (see Date format control), you can also type in arbitrary date format strings.
Note: As with other labels, you can add arbitrary text to the scale labels, such as footnote markers or short comments.
Each scale supports an optional label and optional separator lines. To use these features, open the context menu for the desired scale with a right-click.
Note: Primary and secondary separator lines are automatically assigned different styles.
The scales’ context menu offers the following buttons:
An example for a typically used scale label is to write “Week of” to the left of the week scale if the first day of each week is shown in the scale labels:
A project timeline is made up of rows, each representing a certain activity that is named in the label to the left. The rows, in turn, contain timeline items such as bars, milestones and brackets.
You can explicitly select an entire row to change its look, add or remove labels, drag it to another location or use Shift+Alt and the cursor keys ↑ and ↓ to move it.
Note: There is a special row below the chart reserved for the most important milestones. You cannot add bars to this row, you cannot move it by drag-and-drop, and you cannot delete it. Otherwise, it is just an additional activity row which is always there.
To insert a new row, select an existing row and use the Insert Row button in the think-cell context menu. Alternatively, press Alt+Insert. If all other rows are deleted, there is still the extra row left at the very bottom of the chart which you can click to open the context menu and create new rows.
The keyboard shortcut Alt+Insert also inserts new rows while editing labels, and the first label of the newly inserted row is automatically selected. This way you can add rows and keep typing without reaching for the mouse. Likewise, you can use Alt and the cursor keys ← → ↑ ↓ to move the cursor across labels.
You can also use the Delete button in the think-cell context menu to delete an entire row. The keyboard shortcut for deletion is Delete.
Each row not only contains timeline items – bars, process arrows, milestones, brackets – but can also have up to three labels, a horizontal separator line, and row shading. The labels and decorations are added and removed using the think-cell context menu. To open the menu, move the mouse outside of the chart’s date range area and right-click on a row when it highlights.
Note: When you right-click a row inside the chart’s date range area, another menu opens that allows for insertion of new timeline items. Refer to Adding items for more information.
The row’s context menu offers the following buttons. You can apply all of these buttons to one or multiple selected rows:
Each row supports up to three labels, resulting in up to three text columns next to the actual timeline. The default headlines for the three columns are language dependent (see Language dependency), with “Activity,” “Responsible” and “Remark” used as the default English headlines. You are free to overwrite or remove them if necessary.
The labels to the left are intended for names of activities. These labels are shown by default and each label belongs to exactly one row. If you already have the text for the labels available in some other place where you can copy them to the clipboard, you can quickly paste an entire label column (see Pasting text into multiple labels).
Note: Unfortunately, selecting multiple shapes in PowerPoint or labels in another Gantt chart does not work in this regard. Lines of text in a word processor, text editor or email or multiple cells in an Excel worksheet can be copied to the clipboard and pasted into activity labels as described above.
You can organize activity labels in a hierarchy using PowerPoint’s Decrease/Increase List Level buttons in the Paragraph ribbon group on the Home tab or hold down Shift+Alt and use the arrow keys ← and →. The vertical space between indented labels is reduced to show that they are grouped.
You can add up to two more columns if required. The labels for the headlines are automatically added when a column is created. The labels in the additional columns can refer to multiple rows (see Labels spanning multiple rows).
Initially, a newly created label column is empty except for its headline. Move the mouse over the label column to discover label placeholders, which you can select just as any other features in think-cell. Use the placeholder’s context menu to create either a text label, or a checkbox, or a Harvey ball. To quickly create a text label, you can simply select a placeholder and start typing. Similarly, you can recreate the headline labels, if you deleted them.
The row label’s context menu shows the following buttons:
To remove a label, use its context menu or simply delete all text from the label – it will then disappear. To remove multiple labels at a time, it is often convenient to select all desired labels using the mouse together with Shift or Ctrl keys (see also Multi-selection). Then, choose the delete option from the context menu, or press the Delete key to remove all selected labels.
In both responsibility and remark columns, each label can refer to more than one activity. Drag the handles that appear next to the label when you select it, to determine the activities it refers to. You can only drag a label’s handles across rows that do not already have a label in the same column, and you cannot drag the handles across horizontal separators.
A bracket will automatically appear as soon as a label spans more than one row. In this case, you are free to remove the bracket by selecting it and pressing Delete, or via the bracket’s or the label’s context menu.
There are several types of items used in a project timeline to visualize periods of time and events. The following items are supported by think-cell:
To add an item to the chart, move the mouse across the chart’s date range area. A crosshair helps you to track the row and date you are pointing at, and a tooltip provides precise date information.
The dates that can be selected depend on the chart’s date range and size, and on your current zoom level. If days are too small to be pointed at individually, the crosshair snaps to firsts of weeks and firsts of months. If even weeks are too small to be distinctively selected, the crosshair only snaps to the beginning of months.
Wherever the crosshair appears, it is possible to insert a new item. When you move the mouse over existing items, the crosshair disappears and the tooltip reflects that item’s date or date span.
With the crosshair highlighting, click the right mouse button to open the context menu.
Note: If you want to open the row’s context menu to insert a new row or to add some row label or decoration, you must right-click on the row outside the chart’s date range area. Refer to Row features for more information.
The context menu for insertion shows the following buttons:
Note: You can also create new items by clicking and dragging existing items while holding down the Ctrl key. A copy of the original item is created at the new location.
There are several ways to move existing items to another date or row. Obviously, you can drag one or multiple selected (Multi-selection) items with the mouse. If exactly one item is selected, you can also drag its handle(s) to adjust the date, or anchor it to another item (see Anchoring items).
You may double-click an item to open the calendar dialog for easy date selection. The current date of the selected item is pre-selected. For bars, process arrows, brackets and shades, select a date range as described above (Modifying the date range). For milestones, simply click on the desired date; the calendar dialog will close immediately and the selected date will be applied.
Bars and process arrows are positioned to begin at 0:00h on the start date and to finish at 24:00h on the end date. The default position of milestones, however, depends on the currently viewed date range and the visible scales:
The default positioning of milestones is usually correct but can be overridden, if required, by the use of anchors (Anchoring items). Anchoring a milestone to the end of a bar, for example, will ensure that the milestone is always aligned with the end of the bar, regardless of the currently viewed data range or visible scales.
Using the handles of bars, process arrows, milestones, brackets and shades, you can attach these items to other items. When you click a handle with the mouse, the available anchors highlight. Drag the handle within the current row to set the selected item’s date manually, or drag the handle onto an anchor of some other item to attach it to that item.
Items remain anchored while they are being edited. For instance, when you anchor a milestone to the end of a bar, this connection enforces that the milestone is always at the same date as the end of that bar. In particular, whenever you move the bar afterwards, the location of the milestone will be updated accordingly.
For another example, inserting a shade implicitly creates an additional bracket which is anchored to the shade. When you move the shade, the attached bracket moves along. Still, you can detach the bracket, move it to a different location, or delete it.
Note: Items can be anchored across different rows. When you drag an item’s handle, the date changes but the item remains in its row. To move an item to a different row, drag the item itself, not its handles.
You can change the color of bars, process arrows, milestones and shades using the color control in the floating toolbar (Color and fill). The background color of the chart can be changed by selecting the whole chart and choosing the desired color from the floating toolbar.
By way of the context menu, you can further configure the appearance of timeline items. The context menu for timeline items comprises the following buttons (depending on the type of the selected item):
Bars, process arrows, milestones and brackets can have labels, while shades are usually labeled by means of an additional bracket below the shade. Use the think-cell context menu to add a label to one or more selected items. If exactly one item is selected, you can press F2 to add a label to this item or edit an existing label.
By default, an item label contains the item’s date or date span. This information is maintained in a text field (see Text fields) and is updated whenever the item is moved. You can add text to the label or replace the default content with custom text.
If you deleted the text field you can always re-insert it into the label. Select the label and choose the desired field from the label content control in the context-sensitive toolbar (refer to Label content).
In particular, think-cell allows for large multi-line labels even in a relatively dense chart. All activities are automatically arranged to make the text fit. Moreover, most labels can be dragged to place themselves below or besides their respective item.
The Gantt chart can use dates stored in a datasheet. You can then anchor timelime items to those dates. If dates in the datasheet change, the anchored timeline items are updated accordingly.
This is similar to chart types which are based on numbers. In these chart types, the datasheet contains numerical values, and the chart is updated when numbers change. However, you also control the visualization of your data and add arrows and value lines in the chart, not in the datasheet.
Let’s say you want to create a Gantt chart with five activities that each have their result validated at a milestone a few weeks after completion. You want to store all dates in the datasheet to easily update them later in a single window.
You start by inserting a Gantt chart. Open the datasheet by clicking the Open Datasheet button in the bottom right corner of the Gantt chart.
The first row in the datasheet corresponds to the milestone row below the Gantt chart. Into the second row, you enter the first activity description and three dates: the start of the task, the end and the validation milestone, respectively.
Note: You need to enter the dates in a way that Excel recognizes as dates. If the cell content is right-aligned, Excel has recognized a date. Otherwise, Excel has only recognized your input as text, and think-cell will not be able to use it.
You will notice two changes in the Gantt chart:
Now it is time to anchor timeline items to the dates from the datasheet:
Note: If multiple timeline items are selected in different rows and a handle is dragged to an anchor from the datasheet, each item is appropriately anchored to the respective date from its own linked datasheet row.
Feel free to remove the other five standard rows that are not linked to the datasheet. Once you fill additional rows in the datasheet, corresponding activity rows will automatically be added to the Gantt chart as needed.
At this point, you finish entering activity titles and dates into the datasheet:
While you type in the additional tasks and dates in the datasheet, the Gantt chart is automatically updated:
You have quickly created a complete Gantt chart with five rows and two items per row.
After you have defined the general structure in the first row, subsequent rows have automatically followed this structure without any more inserting and anchoring necessary.
A Gantt chart can be linked to a range in an Excel file (see Excel data links). Let’s assume that the dates from the example above reside in an Excel file you received:
To create a linked Gantt chart, please
The range in Excel will be marked as linked:
The new Gantt chart will show your activity titles and the anchors for the dates in Excel, but no timeline items yet:
You can now insert timeline items like bars and milestones and link them to the anchors corresponding to dates in Excel.
To quickly populate the Gantt chart, please
Using drag & drop while holding down Shift and Ctrl you can quickly fill the Gantt chart with timeline items. If the dates in Excel change, the Gantt chart is updated as described in Updating a linked chart.
You can freely set the desired formatting for date values that appear throughout the labels of a project timeline. By convention, all item labels of a chart share the same date formatting, so when you change the formatting for one label, all others will change accordingly.
When you select a label that contains a date field, or select a date field within a label, the date format control appears in the floating toolbar. It works similar to the number format control (see Number format).
The dropdown menu facilitates one-click selection of the most commonly used date formats. Its contents depend on the feature that is selected, e.g., each scale offers a different set of predefined date formats.
The edit box reflects the current setting and allows entering of arbitrary date formatting. The format codes used by Excel and Graph are supported, and some more codes were added for the particular purposes of the project timeline (see table below). Also, up to four of your most recently used custom formattings are available in the dropdown box.
Date format codes are case-insensitive. You can insert a line break with the backslash character \.
You can mix the format codes with arbitrary text and delimiters. If your custom text contains characters that can be interpreted as format codes, i.e., d D w W m M q Q y Y \, you must enclose the text within single quotes '. It will then be displayed “as is.” To use the single quote character itself, type two single quotes ''.
The project timeline chart is language dependent: The display of full or abbreviated month names, as well as names for weekdays, the default headlines for the activity labels and the default text for scale labels, depend on the proofing language setting for Office. This setting’s value is used at the time when the elements are inserted.
You can alter the language used for language dependent elements as follows:
|d||day of month||5|
|dd||day of month (two-digit)||05|
|ddd||day of week (abbrev.)||Mon|
|dddd||day of week (full)||Monday|
|ddddd||day of week (single character)||M|
|w||week of year||7|
|ww||week of year (two-digit)||07|
|MM||month number (two-digit)||09|
|MMM||month name (abbrev.)||Sep|
|MMMM||month name (full)||September|
|MMMMM||month name (single character)||S|
|q||quarter (decimal number)||4|
|quarter (upper-case roman number)||IV|
|qqq||quarter (lower-case roman number)||iv|
|\ (Backslash)||line break, e.g., ddd\dd||
|'...'||Insert custom text, e.g., 'Quarter' qq||Quarter IV|
|''||The actual single quote character, e.g., 'W'ww''yy||W07'04|