Microsoft Project effectively records task durations in hours and the value of the duration in days is calculated from a parameter entered in the Options form.

This article is an extract from the book Planning and Control Using Microsoft Project 2013, 2016 & 2019 by Paul E Harris and explains how the duration in days is calculated, click here to read the article.

To see more explanations like this then buy Paul Harris’ Microsoft Project book by which is available in paperback, spiral, Kobo, Kindle and iTunes from:

These books are intended to be used:

  • As a self-teach book and a two-day training course handout.
  • Instructor PowerPoint slide shows are available for purchase and free pdf versions are available to educational organisations.

Eastwood Harris Pty Ltd,

Planning and Scheduling books and training material:

  • Microsoft Project,
  • Oracle Primavera P6 and
  • Elecosoft (Asta) Powerproject

Accelerate your understanding of scheduling software to advance your scheduling career and be able to prepare better schedules with Eastwood Harris books, online videos available through Udemy and training material on:

Details at

Paul E Harris

Director Eastwood Harris Pty Ltd


How to Make Calculation Options Work in Microsoft Project

ms project tips and trick - how to make calculations workWhy Do Calculation Options in MS Project – Move End of Completed Parts…Not Work?

These new functions were introduced in Microsoft Project 2002 intended to assist schedulers to place the new tasks as they are added to the schedule in a logical position with respect to the Status Date. This function is difficult to use and some practice is required to make it work properly.

Here are some tips if you are unable to get it to work:

  • Select the Tools, Options…, Calculation tab and these options are found under the Calculation options for ‘Project Name’:
  • If the Status Date has not been set then the Current Date is used.

For all these options to operate all four of the following parameters must be met:

  • The Split in-progress tasks option in the Schedule tab must be checked, and
  • The required option on the Calculation tab must be checked before the task is added or edited, and
  • The Updating task status updates resource status option on the Calculation tab must be checked, and
  • The Task MUST NOT BE assigned Task Duration Type of Fixed Duration.
  • These options may NOT be turned on and off to recalculate all tasks. The options only work on new tasks when they are added to a schedule or when a task is updated by changing the % Complete.
  • This function will ignore constraints even when the Schedule Option Tasks will always honor their constraint dates has been set.
  • This function may not be applied to existing schedules, but only to new tasks if the options are set before the tasks are added or when a task % Complete is updated.

This function has some restrictions:

  • Existing schedules may not be opened and the function applied.
  • When the Move start of remaining parts before status date forward to status date is used, it will change any Actual Start date that you have entered prior to entering a % Complete. Changing an Actual Date is not a desirable event.

Note: This option should be used with caution and users should ensure they fully understand how this function operates by statusing a simple practice schedule multiple times.

Paul Harris writes training manuals for MS Project and Primavera P6 and Delivers Project Management Training Courses Throughout Australia and the world.  His books are available on Amazon and Kindle.

MS Project Training Tips – How to Reduce the Column Width

99 Tips and traps for microsoft project - ebookReducing Column Widths in MS Project

It is useful to reduce the width of columns so more data may be displayed on screen and in printouts.

There are several ways to reduce column widths via MS Project Settings:

– To prevent the Task Name from indenting, select the Tools, Options…, View tab and uncheck the Indent name option.

– To reduce the width of the Duration column, select the Tools, Options…, Edit tab and under View options for time units in ‘Project 1’:

  • Minutes:, Hours:, Days:, Weeks:, Months:, Years: – From the drop-down boxes, select your preferred designators for these units. Change “days” to “d” and “hr” to “h” to make the duration columns narrower.
  • Add space before label – Places a space between the value and the label; uncheck this to make duration columns narrower.
  • Change the column title from Duration to Dur:
  • Change the date format to a shorter format in the Tools, Options…, View tab.

change column width in ms project

Eastwood Harris Supplies Project Management Training Manuals, Project Management Training Presentations and Consulting on Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project 2010 across Australia.

Related Articles

MS Project Training Tips – How to Set Up Start and Finish Milestones

99 Tricks and Traps for Microsoft projectUnderstanding Start and Finish Milestones in Microsoft Project

A Milestone is created by assigning a task a zero duration:

–  A Milestone is a Start Milestone when it has no predecessors.

–  A Milestone is a Finish Milestone if it has one or more predecessors.

–  A Start Milestone is at the Start of a Time Period, for example, 8:00 am.

–  A Finish Milestone is at the End of a Time Period, for example, 5:00 pm, see Task 3 and 5 below.

ms project set up start milestones

– A task may also be made to look like a Milestone by checking the Mark as a milestone in the Task Information form General tab, see Task 2 below.

The Milestone may be set to display at the Start or Finish of the Tasks by editing the From and To fields of Milestones in the Bar Styles form:

start milestones in ms project

Note: Unlike some other scheduling software it is not possible for the user to assign a Milestone as either a Start or Finish Mile Stone in Microsoft Project.

Converting a Finish Milestone into a Start Milestone

Sometimes it is important to have a Start Milestone with has a predecessor. For example, Task 5 in the picture below may be required on Friday morning not Thursday afternoon:

ms project - converting finish milestones 1

One workaround to achieve this:

–  Assign a short duration to the intended Start Milestone. The duration is not important, say I min.

–  Check the Mark as a Milestone in the General tab of the Task Information form.

– Ensure all successors of the Start Milestone are Start to Start, otherwise all successors will span 1 day longer than their assigned duration:

Without a Start to Start successor:

ms project converting finish milestones 2

With a Start to Start successor:

ms project converting finish milestones 3

Eastwood Harris Supplies Project Management Training Manuals, Project Management Training Presentations and Consulting on Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project 2010 across Australia.