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Making GANTT Charts with MS Access

written by: Debasis Das•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 12/7/2009

From a project management perspective, Gantt Charts are a crucial way of visualizing project schedules. The fact that they are pretty much an industry standard also means that they are important from the perspective of universal understandability. But how does one make Gantt Charts using MS Access?

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    Gantt Charts are an industry standard method of representing project schedules and workload distributions, in a manner that is logical and intuitive. A Gantt Chart is a bar type chart, with bars representing the amount of time (spent in doing a particular task, spent by a particular person to perform a particular task, the degree of completion of a specific task, etc.). Arrows can also be used to show dependencies between various tasks, personnel, and teams (for example testing on a project may not begin until a prototype or product version is ready). They can be used for almost any kind of project.

    Can one create a Gantt Chart using MS Access? Well, the simple answer is yes and no. No, because there is no direct method of doing it. Yes, because there are a host of indirect methods.

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    Using a Gantt Chart Builder Software

    There a number of third-party solutions (including shareware, and trial versions; example: Gantt Chart Builder System) that can be used to make a Gantt Chart using MS Access. These are usually an add-in to MS Access and once installed can be used to build an appropriate Gantt Chart. This is obviously the expensive solution because one has to shell out some money to buy this additional software, but for project managers who need it this may be worth the investment. One should be satisfied with a trial before moving on to a paid version.

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    Using other MS Office tools

    OK, having said the thing about it being worth buying a Gantt Chart Builder System for a Project Manager, I take it back. Actually, it isn’t. This is simply because if one has MS Access, this implies that one has MS Office, and the Office suite offers a number of solutions to one seeking to create a Gantt Chart, all of which are not on MS Access. If it is necessary for you to have the Gantt Chart in Access, there are ways to port from other MS Office software. Here are some options:

    1. Using Excel: The genius that is Excel – In the world of productivity suites, Excel seems to be a productivity suite in itself (remember back in the day, Office ’97 had the embedded Flight Simulator as well; and a host of other tricks that come up every now and then). It’s almost infinite capabilities never cease to surprise me. So. it is not surprising that there should be a (fairly) simple way of creating Gantt Charts within it. See this tutorial for step-by-step instructions for creating a Gantt chart in Excel.
    2. Using Visio: It is most likely that a lot of Project Managers have access to Visio as well, another excellent tool. It’s natural penchant for drawing makes it an easier-to-use as well as efficient choice for building Gantt Charts. In Templates look under Schedule and there it is. Exporting to Access is possible with a little effort.
    3. Using Project: The best option of all, because MS Project is designed for this very thing. The great news is that you can export (or save) directly into Access (format).
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    Quick & Dirty Methods

    If you don’t have any of those luxuries, then you may have to resort to an inelegant solution. One is, of course, to use the tabular structure of Access itself (in the grid/tabular view) and shading boxes according to need (this would be one of the dirty methods for Excel as well). For dependencies you can have a convention that where one ends and another begins is essentially where a dependency arrow would have been. A slightly better way is to use drawing tools (while creating reports) and pretty much all you need for a Gantt Chart can be easily drawn.