How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making a Gantt Chart in Excel

I like Excel. I use it daily. In companies and homes all over the world, people use Excel for everything – from a makeshift calculator to tracking massive projects. Given the software's omnipresence, it’s no wonder so many people try to repurpose it for tasks that Excel was never meant to do.

To demonstrate, I created this How to Create a Gantt chart in Excel tutorial. I'll show you how to create an Excel Gantt chart, then I'll demonstrate how the Smartsheet online Gantt chart software makes this far easier.

 

How would you like to create your Gantt chart?

- or -

Manually create a Gantt chart in Excel

Time to complete: 30 minutes

 
 

What Is a Gantt Chart?

Gantt charts make it easy to visualize project management timelines by transforming task names, start dates, durations, and end dates into cascading horizontal bar charts.
 

Excel


How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel

1.     Create a Task Table

List each task in your project in start date order from beginning to end. Include the task name, start date, duration, and end date.
 

 

Make your list as complete as possible. Because of Excel's limitations, adding steps or extending out may force you to reformat your entire chart.


2.     Build a Bar Chart

On the top menu, select Insert, and then click on the Bar chart icon. When the drop-down menu appears, choose the flat Stacked Bar Chart, highlighted in green below. This will insert a blank chart onto your spreadsheet.
 

Add Start Date data.

  1. Position your mouse over the empty Excel chart and right click. Then, left click on Select Data. The Select Data Source window will appear.
     
  1. Under Legend Entries (Series), click Add. This will take you to the Edit Series window.
     
  1. Click in the empty Series name: form field first, then click on the table cell that reads Start Date.
     
  1. Click on the icon at the end of the Series values field. The icon is a small spreadsheet with a red arrow (the lower icon). This will open the Edit Series window.

 

 

  1. Click on the first Start Date, 3/2 in my example, and drag your mouse down to the last Start Date. After the right dates are highlighted, click on the icon at the end of the Edit Series form. The window will close and the previous window will reopen. Select OK. Your start dates are now in the Gantt chart.
     

Next, add the Durations column using the same procedure you used to add the start dates.

  1. Under Legend Entries (Series), click on Add.
     
  2. Click in the empty Series name: form field first, then click on the table cell that reads Duration.
     
  3. Click on the icon at the end of the Series values field. The icon is a small spreadsheet with a red arrow (the lower icon). This will open the Edit Series window. Click on the first Duration, it is 5 in my example, and drag your mouse down to the last Duration. After the durations are highlighted, click on the icon at the end of the Edit Series form. The window will close and the previous window will reopen. Select OK. Your durations are now in your Gantt chart.
     

Change the dates on the left side of the chart into a list of tasks.

  1. Click on any bar in the chart, then right click, then open Select Data.
     
  2. Under Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels, click on edit
     
  1. Using your mouse, highlight the names of your tasks. Be careful not to include the name of the column itself, Task.
     
  1. Click on OK.
     
  2. Click OK again.
     

Your Gantt chart ought to look like this:
 

 

 


3.     Format Your Gantt Chart

What you have is a stacked bar chart. The starting dates are blue and the durations are orange.

Notice your tasks are in reverse order. To fix this, click on the list of tasks to select them, then right click over the list and choose Format Axis. Select the checkbox Categories in reverse order and Close.
 

 


 

 

To give your Gantt chart more space delete the Start Date, Duration legend on the right. Select it with your mouse, then hit delete.

Hide the blue portions of each bar. Clicking on the blue part of any bar will select all of them. Then, right click and choose Format Data Series.

  1. Click on Fill then select No fill.
     
  1. Click on Border Color then select No line.
     

You're almost finished. You just need to remove the empty white space at the start of your Gantt chart:

  1. Click on the first Start Date in your data table. Right click over it, select Format Cells, then General. Write down the number you see. In my case it is 42064. Hit Cancel because you do not want to actually make any changes here.
     
  1. In the Gantt chart, select the dates above the bars, right click and choose Format Axis.
     
  2. Change the Minimum bound to the number you recorded.
     
  3. Change the Major unit to 2, for every other day. You can play with this to see what works best for you.
     
  1. Select Close.

 

If you want to make your Gantt chart look a little nicer, remove most of the white space between the bars.

  1. Click on the top orange bar.
     
  2. Right click and select Format Data Series.
     
  3. Set Separated to 100% and Gap Width to 10%.
     

 

You are finished. Your Gantt chart should look like this:
 

 

 

An Easier Way

This is a lot to remember.

While your Excel Gantt chart may look clean, it is not exactly serviceable.

  • The chart does not resize when you add new tasks.
  • It’s hard to read. There is no grid or daily labeling.
  • You cannot change a start date, duration or end date and have the other values adjust automatically.
  • You cannot share the chart with others or give them viewer, editor, or administrator status.
  • You cannot publish an Excel Gantt chart as an interactive web page which your team members can read and update.
Smartsheet

It is possible to create more complete Gantt charts in Excel, however, they are more complicated to setup and maintain. The things that make Gantt charts useful, sharable, and collaborative cannot be accomplished with Excel.

   

How to Create a Gantt Chart in Smartsheet

In Smartsheet, to make a Gantt chart:

  1. Select Create a New Sheet
     
  2. Select Project Sheet
     

Create Your Gantt in Smartsheet

Smartsheet will prompt you to name your sheet with the Gantt chart. From there, you're good to go. You can start entering your task list.
 

 


 

 

Add task names for each task, two of either the start date, duration, or end date. When you enter two of these, Smartsheet populates the rest. From here, when you change any of the three variables, the other two will automatically recalculate.

The other thing Smartsheet adds automatically are your horizontal bars. Unlike in Excel, there is no need to format anything. Smartsheet does it for you.
 

 


 

 

Another well-designed feature, when you use your mouse to click and drag either end of  any green bar, Smartsheet changes the matching dates and durations in the task table. From here you can add additional Gantt data such as predecessors and task groups.

You can even switch to Smartsheet's calendar view.
 

 


 

Already your simple Smartsheet is far more functional and responsive than an Excel Gantt chart, and you're just getting started. Watch our video to learn even more.
 



See for yourself. If you don't own a Smartsheet account, try one on us. Get a free 30 day trial with nothing to install.

 

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Comments

I have a serviceable gantt chart in a spreadsheet thanks to you .. and now I know about another solution for a better tool that *isn't* MS Project. I will be evaluating smartsheet! thanks again!

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi there, If the working days for your project are M-F, your task starts on Monday and the duration is 6, that task should finish on the following Monday. Please email support@smartsheet.com to troubleshoot if you're running into a different scenario, happy to help out! Thanks, Kelly

I have same query(If the working days for your project are M-F, your task starts on Monday and the duration is 6, that task should finish on the following Monday.) in my sheet please help me out. How to resolve this in excel?

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi Charlie, The Smartsheet Gantt chart doesn't support time tracking in hours and minutes, but I've shared your enhancements with our product team. Thanks, Kelly

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi there, You can export your work in Smartsheet to Project, Excel or Google Spreadsheets, but not Word. Best, Kelly

Hi did you found the solution for to weekly tasks? regards

Emily Esposito's picture
Hi Joaquin, unfortunately there is not currently a way to automate recurring tasks. You could set recurring update requests so you can at least be notified on a weekly basis of row content, then you can change the row dates to be the dates of the new recurrence. I have also submitted this feedback to our Product team. Best, Emily

Thank you! I was looking for a tool to display my milestones and read about Gantt chart during my studies for CPLP. I search the web for instructions and yours were the best. I did it in no time. Thanks for the sharing of knowledge.

thanks for the great tutorial. Also, good to know there are options to MS Project. I added shading for weekends to the background. Select chart, right click and "format chart area" - change properties to "don't move or size with cells" - change fill to "no fill" - resize the columns behind the chart and style as needed

great tutorial. was able to plot lots of times to a table. question, lets say i have a task that goes for a certain duration, stops, then starts back up again. instead of showing in two different timelines, how do i make them appear on the same line: what i have now: task 1 ------------- task 1 -------------------- what i want it to look like: task 1 ------------- -------------------- thanks

I've been doubling my work by doing project plans in excel and gantt charts in MS Project (which I can't seem to get the hang of). This is so helpful!

Needed to create a Gantt chart for my proposal - had an idea but these details are very useful -an excellent site. Thanks!

Thanks a lot for this explanation; I will use it definitively for small projects, instead of MS Project

Hope do i show hours versus days on the gantt chart?

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi Steve, Today in Smartsheet, days are the smallest unit of time available for scheduling, though we do have partial days in our sights to add in the near future. Thanks, Kelly

This is great, thank you. I have tried and failed to do Gantt charts in Excel before, so this has really helped me out. The instructions are very east to follow and the process is very quick. Also, if you want the chart to automatically update, you can include additional empty rows when you select the data. This means the chart will have empty space at the bottom of it, but it will then automatically update when new data is added.

thanks for a clear tutorial on creating these graphs. it's really useful!

Hey thanks for the intro to the Gang sheet. I just wanted to find out for how long can you access the sheet for free. 2. Can you export the sheet out into excel? 3. Can you save any project plan in smart sheet?

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi Moj, You can sign up for a free, 30 day trial of Smartsheet. You can export your sheet to Excel – or Microsoft Project or Google Sheets. And yes, you can save any project plan in Smartsheet. Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions! Thanks, Kelly

i can only export the part containing the task .... i m no able to export the results or the calender plz reply as soon as possible ty

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi Eddy, Please email us at support@smartsheet.com so we can help you out – we'll need to know what product you're exporting to. Thanks, Kelly

I am what I would consider an excel formula expert. I have taken lots of classes and am almost done with an MBA program. I use Gnatt charts alot. I always used Thinkcell which is a paid program to create them because I could not figure out how to do this in excel. This is a great tutorial!

This has made me to feel confident in preparing Gaantt Chart in Excel. many thanks for such a useful tutorial

Where would the Gannt Charts created in Smartsheet be saved?...Are they saved to the Cloud, your servers, or locally here at our company?

Kelly Anthony's picture
Hi John, Yes, your Gantt charts in Smartsheet are saved and available in the cloud. You can export a snapshot of your Gantt chart as a PDF, or use our integration with Office Timeline (http://www.smartsheet.com/apps/officetimeline) if you're looking to use a version of your Gantt chart in a Power Point presentation. Thanks, Kelly

Thanks for this tip to create Gannt charts in Excel. It opens up quite a few new possibilities. This is much easier, and all-together better than conditional formatting.

Can we generate automatic emails to respective departments on completion of tasks? Emails will be generated whenever a task is completed and next department in line will pick up the baton....

Emily Esposito's picture
Hi AJ -- In Smartsheet today, you are not able to auto-trigger an email based on completion of tasks. A possible workaround could be setting a reminder to go out the day that the task is due. However, we do hear you and we know that email integration is important. I've passed your feedback to our Product team for future consideration. Thank you for sharing! Best, Emily

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