How To: Create a Gantt Chart Project Plan using GanttProject 2.5.4
A Gantt chart is a form of bar chart used by project managers to define project schedules. Gantt charts show the beginning and end of a project, as well as the beginning and end of all the individual tasks and phases that a project is comprised of. Gantt charts are useful because they allow the project manager to plan for multiple workstreams and reschedule tasks that are dependent on previous tasks that have gone over schedule.
Microsoft Project is a well known tool for creating project plans and viewing them as Gantt charts, but there are other tools that can do this, at a much lower cost - some of them are even free, such as the excellent cross-platform, open source GanttProject.
Access the related download link for this article to acquire the Windows version of GanttProject. The tool is also available for OS X and Linux platforms on the official download page here. Once you have downloaded the installer file for your operating system, follow the normal procedure to install it on your system.
Launch GanttProject using any of the shortcuts added to your computer during installation (e.g. the desktop or within the Start menu for Windows computers or Applications folder for OS X based machines). The lightweight interface appears shortly after the program is launched. Click Close to exit the tip of the day window.
Click Project and choose New to get started. Fill out the New Project form, entering the name, organisation, web link and description of the project. Click OK to proceed, then click File and Save to store a copy of the blank project on your hard drive. Select a location and filename.
You are now ready to start defining tasks for your new project. Double click anywhere in the left hand task panel. This area is currently empty, but it will be used to list all the project tasks, which will then be plotted on the Gantt chart to the right.
Enter the task name. The begin date and the end date are set by default to today's date and tomorrow's date respectively, but in almost all cases this will need editing. Note the blue bar that has been added to the Gantt chart - this is the task you have just added. Click the blue bar to open the task properties for editing, then use the date pickers to enter the actual planned begin and end date for that task.
Whilst the task properties window is open, you can also set a colour for the selected task (this is helpful if the project plan is going to contain many multiple workstreams). If the task is to be a milestone, check the Milestone box.
Repeat steps 4-6 for every task that has been defined for the project. The Gantt chart will start to build in size with each task that is added, eventually providing a detailed breakdown of all the project workstreams. If a task is dependent on a previous task, then select the Predecessors tab in the properties panel, then select the previous task from the dropdown.
Once the project plan has been completed, you can export it as an image file to share it with team members that do not have GanttProject installed, or add it to a web page or collaboration tool such as Basecamp. Click Export, then choose PNG or JPG as the output format.
Tips & Advice
- Remember, a project plan should not be fixed, but should rather evolve with the project itself. Tasks may slip, or be deemed out of scope, new tasks may be added and the delivery date of the project (or any of the individual tasks) may change.
- Use GanttProject to modify the project plan and keep it representative of the "real" plan, by modifying the tasks where appropriate, then saving the plan as an image file that can be communicated to all stakeholders. Don't forget to save the GanttProject project file as well!