Example of a Gantt chart from Smartsheet. Learn more about Smartsheet for Project Management.
Show off your project plans with Smartsheet’s interactive Gantt chart software. Smartsheet’s online project management tool takes the best power-features of project planning software like MS Project, marries it with the ease of use of an online spreadsheet, and then layers in team collaboration and time-saving automation features. It’s the easiest way to visualize your project!
What Is a Gantt Chart?
A Gantt chart is a timeline view that makes it easy to see how a project is tracking. You can visualize project tasks and see how they relate to each other as projects progress over time. Use this tool to simplify your tasks and details with a visual project timeline by transforming task names, start dates, durations, and end dates into cascading horizontal bar charts.
With a Gantt you can plan out all of your tasks, so complex projects are manageable and easy to tackle. You can use a Gantt to figure out the minimum delivery time for your project and to schedule the right people when they’re available to get your project finished efficiently.
Why Use Gantt Charts?
A Gantt chart is one of the most important tools in a project’s managers arsenal. It helps organize complex projects, improve project visibility, and keep everyone on track.
Here are five reasons why you should use Gantt charts in project management:
- Determine all necessary tasks: When you set up a Gantt chart, you’ll be forced to think through all the tasks involved in your project. This process allows you to better understand and define the scope of your project and all the necessary tasks, rather than just jumping into the project with no clarity.
- Identify when tasks need to be completed: Adding predecessors and dependencies to your Gantt chart will help you determine which tasks need to be completed before others can start. This understanding can help prioritize work and resources.
- Discover the critical path: Once you have created a Gantt chart, you can then identify the critical path. The critical path allows you to identify the most important tasks in your project that, if missed, will impact your whole project. Finding the critical path can add clarity to your project and helps you meet deadlines.
- Keep your team informed of progress: You can use Gantt charts to replace meetings or improve status updates. The visual nature of Gantt charts let you quickly communicate your team’s progress and show which tasks have been completed.
- Simplify complex tasks: If you’re managing a project with hundreds of tasks, a Gantt chart helps you handle and organize the chaos. It’s also much easier to understand and digest a visual than a written list of tasks.
Other Ways to Use Gantt Charts
While Gantt chart are most commonly used in project management, they can also be used for almost any other usage, including:
- Construction: Construction projects can be difficult to manage by nature. Gantt charts organize all the details of your construction project in one place. You can use a Gantt chart to make a construction timeline, helping you identify risks early and ensuring that the project is completed within the time specific in the contract.
- Employee Rostering: Simplify your employee work schedules with a Gantt chart. You can easily track shifts and vacations with the visual timeline, showing who is available and when.
- Event Planning: Event planning requires that you keep clients, producers, staff, and vendors all in the loop. A Gantt chart creates one go-to place for all event details. You can use a Gantt chart to visualize your event planning tasks and your day-of task tracker.
- Scheduling: A daily, weekly, or monthly schedule can help you manage your time, reduce stress, and prepare for the unexpected. You can use a Gantt chart to visually communicate your events, to-dos, or travel.
How to Make a Gantt Chart
To get started making your own Gantt:
- list out all of the tasks in your project
- identify the earliest start date for each task
- determine the amount of time you need to accomplish each task
With these basics detailed, you can make a simple Gantt.
If your project is more complicated, with tasks that are dependant on others and a few key dates before your final deadline, you can make your Gantt more complex by adding these elements to your timeline:
- Dependencies These are tasks that are dependent on each other – task A needs to happen before you can start task B.
- Predecessor tasks These are used to create dependencies between tasks.
- Milestones These are key dates that are important to highlight in your project plan.
Your Gantt can tell a powerful visual story. Color code the bars to highlight different people on your team or specific resources.
Traditionally made with graph paper, then spreadsheets, then MS Project, then Smartsheet.
How to Make a Gantt Chart in Excel
You can make a Gantt chart in Excel using a bar chart. First, you need to create a table in Excel listing each task, its start date, duration, and end date. Once you have this information, you can build a horizontal bar chart to visualize the timeline. You need to add one legend entry for the start dates and another one for duration. Then, with some manual tweaking, you can add the right axis label, display the tasks in the right order, and format the Gantt chart. Click here for a tutorial on how to make a Gantt chart in Excel.
Making a Gantt Chart in PowerPoint or Microsoft Word
While you can make a Gantt chart in PowerPoint or Microsoft Word, it is costly and time consuming. For PowerPoint, there is no native way to make a Gantt chart; you have to use a third-party tool. Office Timeline lets you create Gantt Charts in PowerPoint, however it only works on Windows. And, while you can use a free trial, you have to purchase the software once the trial has expired.
Similarly, there is no easy way to create a Gantt chart in Microsoft Word. You have to add a table with all the rows representing tasks and the columns representing all the dates. Then, you have to manually fill in each cell with color under the appropriate date columns to make a Gantt bar.
How to Make a Gantt Chart in Smartsheet
Smartsheet's pre-built Gantt chart templates make it easy to create a project timeline. Just add your task name, and start and end dates, and the duration will be automatically calculated. Then, click the Gantt chart icon and a Gantt chart will automatically be created, no need for formatting or manual adjustments like in Excel. You can drag and drop the Gantt bars to change dates and duration, and the table will automatically update. And, when you're done with your Gantt chart, you can share it with anyone. Your team members can make edits or add information in real time, rather than sending out numerous, static Excel files whenever something changes. Click here for a tutorial on how to make a Gantt chart in Smartsheet.
History of Gantt Charts
The first Gantt chart was created in the mid 1890s by Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer who was interested in management ideas and techniques. He named it a harmonogram and only published the chart in Polish, which limited widespread use. It wasn’t until 15 years later that Henry Gantt devised his own version of Adamiecki’s project schedule and published it in English, making it available to a vastly larger population.
One of the first high-profile applications was by the United States during World War I. Since then, Gantt charts have been used in many large projects such as the construction of the Hoover Dam and the US Interstate highway network.
Originally, Gantt charts required preparation by hand -- meaning that whenever there was a project change, the chart needed to be edited or redrawn completely. Since projects often see dramatic change from start to finish, the usefulness of a Gantt was limited. In the 1980s, with the invention of the personal computer, widespread creation of complex and elaborate charts was finally possible. By the end of the 1990s, the advent of the internet as well as high rates of collaboration over networks encouraged Gantt charts to become a popular feature of many web-based applications and tools.
Tips for Choosing the Right Gantt Chart Software
Choose a Tool That Integrates with Your Daily Workflow
Make sure your Gantt chart software can import, export, and integrate with the other tools and programs you use every day. For example, if you use Google Apps for Work, check to see if the Gantt chart software integrates with Google Sheets and Google Calendar, and lets you log in with your Google credentials. If you use Office 365, make sure your tool integrates with OneDrive and is compatible with any version of Excel, like Excel 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016.
Simple Drag-and-Drop Gantt View
Save time and look for a tool that lets you drag and drop Gantt bars to automatically adjust start dates or end dates, or build dependencies between tasks. As your Gantt chart gets more complex, you shouldn't have to redo your chart if you want to add or remove tasks, or change dates. With a drag-and-drop feature, it's easy to add tasks or change details with the click of a mouse.
Schedule Projects, Get Real-Time Updates
Look for a tool that allows you to share the project with your team and collaborate in real time. Reduce project bottlenecks by allowing all team members to make edits at the same time and set automatic reminders for important deadlines. Ensure your Gantt chart software allows multiple people to make changes at the same time and allows you to share your chart with anyone.
Customizable Gantt Chart
Make sure you can customize your Gantt chart to tell the most visually compelling story. For example, when you assign team members to work on tasks, add a rule with conditional formatting to show their tasks bars on the Gantt chart in the same color (e.g. all of Ted's task bars are blue). Or, show at-risk tasks in red.
Manage Projects on Every OS
Choose an online, 100% web-based tool, compatible with MacOS, Linux, Windows, on your laptop, your Android smartphone, your iPhone & iPad.
Be sure to pay attention to mobile capabilities. You want to be able to update your Gantt chart wherever you are, even if when you're not at your desk.
Edit in Multiple Modes
The most flexible Gantt chart software options allow you to see and edit your task information in different views. For example, you could add task information in a spreadsheet-like, grid format, and switch to a Gantt chart to visualize the timeline. Or, view your project in a calendar to see how your month stacks up.
Quickly Share Your Gantt Chart with Your Team
Check to see if you can set your project sheet to be automatically sent to your team on a recurring basis (like every week). Other sharing options could include embedding your Gantt chart in a PPT, printing it in full color, or exporting it as a PNG or PDF and attaching it to an email.
Easy to Use and Learn
Look for an intuitive interface with pre-built templates to improve adoption and get your team up and running. You can also quickly get started with a new Gantt chart tool by evaluating the different importing options. For example, can you import a Microsoft Project file or an Excel sheet? By importing existing project information, you save time by not having to start from scratch.
Gantt Instructional Video
Smartsheet is a work management tool with powerful collaboration features. It also offers a simple, seamless way to visualize your projects with interactive Gantt charts. You can customize your Gantt chart with conditional formatting to highlight tasks, turn on critical path to see all tasks that impact your completion date, and share your Gantt chart with anyone.
Smartsheet's Gantt charts allow you to:
- Switch views based on your needs. You can switch from grid view to Gantt view to calendar view.
- Add sub-tasks. You can expand and collapse multiple levels of items.
- Instantly change dates and create task dependencies with drag-and-drop editing.
Try Smartsheet's Gantt Charts for free with a 30-day trial.
Gantt Chart Examples and Templates
It's easy to get started with Smartsheet. Whether you import an existing Microsoft Project (MPP) file or customize one of the many templates in our Template Gallery, you can create a visual timeline in minutes.
Basic Project Timeline with Gantt and Dependencies
This sheet helps you manage your project and provides an easy-to-understand visual Gantt timeline for your team and clients. Update tasks, manage dependencies, track progress, and store project files -- all in one place. You can set alerts for due dates and sheet changes, log conversations, emails, and notes, and even view your Gantt chart in a calendar view.
Gantt Project with Hard Deadline
If your project has a firm deadline, use this timeline template to help you work backwards to determine start dates for preceding tasks. You can set alerts to receive an automatic email reminding you of an upcoming deadline or use conditional formatting to highlight at-risk tasks. It's a huge time-saver when planning launches, events, or other projects with strict deadlines.
Sales in Process with Gantt Timeline and Dependencies
Track progress of multiple sales opportunities, from identification to close and follow up, with this Gantt timeline. Visualize team progress, complete with task dependencies, and share with your team in real time. You can also use symbols to convey opportunity status, store quotas, proposals, and contractors, or log customer details, emails, and notes.
Product Launch with Gantt Timeline
Seamlessly track and manage your product launch timelines. Enter your launch date and the template will automatically calculate start and due dates for the tasks. Then use the Gantt timeline view to see and adjust your dates. You can also view and update your project on the go with the mobile app and show priority tasks with a red exclamation mark symbol.
Web Project Timeline with Gantt and Dependencies
Craft a detailed success plan and timeline for your next website project. This sheet breaks down tasks into planning, design, and development sections, and includes a Gantt to see your timeline and milestones. A pre-made formula will automatically calculate each task's duration and you can assign task owners from your Smartsheet contacts list to promote accountability.
Construction Project Timeline with Gantt Chart
Collaborate with your team, subcontractors, and clients on your next construction project. Use the Gantt chart to create a visual timeline, track status, stay on schedule, and communicate with everyone involved. You can drag and drop the Gantt bars to set dependencies, show progress bars on the Gantt chart with % Done, and share with your team, clients, and subs.
Related News and Gantt Chart Resources
This blog post is a detailed walk-through of some Gantt basics. If you need to make your own chart in Excel, this is the post for you (hint: Smartsheet is MUCH easier).
Learn the 10 essential features to look for when choosing Gantt software for the Mac.
A lag day is a component in Gantt charts that affects the relationship between predecessor tasks. Learn how to use lag days to customize your plans when dependencies are enabled.
One easy way to mark key dates while planning a project is through the use of a diamond shaped symbol in your chart, the milestone. Milestones not only help your team stay on track, they are also useful to you as a project manager to more accurately determine whether or not your project is on schedule.
This post outlines a few different ways to customize your Gantt print-outs in Smartsheet.
A work-back schedule is a technique for project planning that is used when you have an end date or goal that you need to work backwards from. Here are four simple steps you need to take to build a project sheet backwards from an event date.
If you have multiple project sheets, learn how to use cell linking to create one master Gantt to roll together calendars and project schedules.
Learn how to use color strategically to make your Gantt easier to read, either with manual changes or conditional formatting.
Read how a digital consulting agency uses Gantt charts in Smartsheet to manage multiple projects at a time with a workforce spread across the country.