How to Easily Make a Gantt Chart in Excel
Excel was traditionally created to be a data analytics and number crunching tool, but 60% of spreadsheets today contain no formulas. Its usage has now evolved to serving as a project management tool.
While you can coordinate basic work tasks and manage lists, creating a Gantt chart in Excel, from scratch, can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. Unless you want to spend up to an hour manually tweaking Excel to look professional and presentation-ready, an Excel template is the easiest way to make a Gantt chart.
A template is especially helpful if you don’t have a lot of experience making a project timeline. All you have to do is enter your project information into a pre-made table and the Gantt chart will automatically reflect the changes.
With so many available timeline templates in Excel, how do you know which one is the easiest to use? We’ve sorted through them all and found the best Gantt chart template for Excel.
This article will walk you through the steps to using a Gantt chart template for Excel with your own project information. You’ll also see how to create a Gantt chart template in Smartsheet, making this process far easier and offering more robust project management features.
How would you like to create your Gantt Chart?
How to Use the Gantt Chart Excel Template
Using this timeline template is very straightforward. All you have to do is add your own project information in the table and your data will be automatically reflected in the Gantt chart.
Here’s how to fill in an Excel template with your own project information:
1. List Tasks in Your Gantt Chart Excel Template
Your tasks will make up the foundation of the Gantt chart. Break up your project into bite-sized chunks or phases, these will be your project tasks, and prioritize the tasks in the order they need to be completed.
- Download and open our Gantt Chart Excel Template for Excel 2007, 2010, or 2013.
- Add the list of tasks to the table, under the Task Name column.
- If you need to delete a row, right-click on the cell in the row you’d like to remove. Click Delete and then select Entire Row.
2. Add Start and Finish Dates to Your Project Timeline
Now you need to provide start and finish dates for each task you’ve added.
In this template, enter the date in numerical values for the month and the day (January 16th would be 1/16). If you would like to change the date format, right-click on a cell with a date and select Format Cells. A box will appear and on the left-hand side, select Date. Now, you can choose the date type you would like.
- In the Start column, enter the date that your task will begin (month and day).
- In the End column, enter the date that you task will be completed (month and day).
- Enter the start and end dates for all the other tasks.
Note: When you add your own dates to this table, the Gantt chart will add a lot of white space to the beginning of the chart and will still show dates much earlier than the ones in your table. You can fix this in step 5 under "Customize Your Gantt Chart Excel Template."
3. Calculate Duration for Each Task
Based on your start and end dates, Excel will automatically calculate the duration for you with a formula.
Customize Your Gantt Chart Excel Template
You now have a Gantt chart reflecting the information you just added. Here are some customization options to make your timeline look presentation-ready.
1. Add a Title to Your Gantt Chart
Name your project timeline.
- Click on the current title Gantt Chart Template for Excel. A box should appear around the text.
- Click again, inside the box, and your cursor will appear.
- Delete the current title by highlighting the text and pressing Delete on your keyboard.
- Enter your new Gantt chart title.
2. Changing the Title Text and Color
- Click on the title. A box should appear around the text.
- Right click and select Font.
In the pop-up box, you can change the font, font style, font size, and font color.
3. Change the Colors of the Task Bars in Your Gantt Chart
Adding color to your Gantt chart can help you visually organize tasks. For example, if you have a set of tasks around marketing, make them the same color.
- Click twice on the task bar whose color you would like to change. Make sure the individual task bar is selected, not all of the bars.
- Right click and select Format Data Point.
- In the pop-up box, on the left, select Fill.
- Choose the color for the bar in the drop-down menu and adjust the transparency (if you’d like).
- Repeat these steps for the other task bars.
4. Widen the Task Bars
The width of the task bars is a matter of taste and depends on what you want your Gantt chart to look like. Thickening the task bars will also reduce some of the white space in your timeline.
- Click on the first task bar and select Format Data Point.
- In the pop-up box, on the left, choose Options.
- Adjust the percentage in the box labeled Gap width.
The lower the percentage, the thicker the task bars will be.
5. Adjust the Dates Displayed
When you add your own dates to the table, the bars will automatically be added to the Gantt chart, but the spacing will look off. There may be a lot of extra white space at the beginning of your chart, with dates that you did not enter. You can fix this by adjusting the spacing between the dates displayed at the top of your chart.
- Click on a date at the top of your Gantt chart. A box should appear around all the dates.
- Right click and select Format Axis.
- In the pop-up box, on the left, select Scale.
- Adjust the number in the box labeled Minimum. You will have to input numbers incrementally to adjust the spacing and get it to look the way you would like.
Make a Gantt Chart in Minutes with Smartsheet's Template
Smartsheet’s pre-formatted Gantt chart template makes it even easier to visualize your work. Duration is automatically calculated for you and the interactive template allows you to drag-and-drop task bars to adjust dates, also updating the information in your table. Layer in real-time team collaboration and time-saving automation features and you'll find Smartsheet to be a powerful project management solution.
Here’s how to use a Gantt chart template in Smartsheet:
1. Log in to Smartsheet or start your free 30-day trial
A pre-made template will open, complete with sections and formatted sub-tasks.
2. List Your Task Information
- Add your tasks under the Task Name column.
- Use the cells named Section 1, Section 2, and Section 3 to establish hierarchy (for more information on hierarchies, click here).
- If you need to delete a row, right-click on the cell in the row you’d like to delete and select Delete Row.
On the left side of each row, you can attach files directly to a task or start a comment around a certain task, adding more context to your project.
3. Provide Start and End Dates
Add start and end dates for each task. If you click and drag either end of a green task bar on the right, Smartsheet will automatically change the matching dates in the task table.
- Select a cell in the Start Date or End Date column.
- Click on the calendar icon and choose a date.
You can also manually enter a date in the cell.
4. Add % Complete and Assigned To Information
The % Complete and Assigned To columns provide more context around your project. In the Gantt view on the right side, the thin grey bars inside the task bars represent the percentage of work complete for that particular task.
The Assigned To column allows you to assign the task to a particular team member, giving visibility into who is doing what.
- In the % Complete column, enter the percentage of work complete for that task. Enter a whole number and Smartsheet will auto-fill the percentage sign.
- In the Assigned To column, choose a name from the drop-down menu or manually enter a new name.
Customize Your Gantt Chart Template in Smartsheet
Not only are Gantt charts easy to build in Smartsheet, they look good too. With just a couple clicks, you can customize the appearance of your project timeline.
1. Change the Colors of the Task Bars
- Right-click on a task bar and select Color Settings.
- A color palette will appear, letting you change the color of the bar.
- If you want to apply the same color to multiple task bars, click the task bars while holding down the Shift button. This will select all the bars. Then, release the Shift button, right-click on any of the selected bars, and click Color Settings.
How to Import an Excel File into Smartsheet
Smartsheet works with Excel, so if you already have your project information stored in Excel, you can easily import that directly to Smartsheet.
- Click the Home tab and click the grey Import button. Choose the Import from Excel File option.
- Click Select, choose the file you would like to import, and click Open.
- Click Continue and an Import Settings form appears.
- Select the row in the form that contains your column headers (it will probably be the first row) and click Import.
5. The imported file will appear as a new sheet within Smartsheet. Click on the sheet name to open it.
Turn Your Imported Excel Data into a Gantt Chart
- Open your imported file from Excel.
- On the left, in the toolbar, click the Gantt Chart button.
- A pop-up box will appear and will auto-fill your sheet’s column headers for start dates and end dates. Verify that this is correct and click Ok.
- A Gantt Chart will automatically be created on the right side of your sheet.
Choosing the Best Gantt Chart Template
There are many Gantt chart templates available, but make sure to choose one that will do the work for you (like templates with pre-formatting and auto-fill features). After all, a template should make your life easier, not harder.
Want more project management tips and best practices? Be sure to visit our Project Management Resource Hub for the latest articles, templates, videos, and more.