Calm down dear!

I challenge anyone reading this not to (at least secretly) adopt a Winneresque accent when reading the title of this blog.

For the benefit of those not in the UK, this is the catchphrase used by Michael Winner (a 70’s film director turned restaurant critic and bon vivant) in an annoying TV advert for insurance. The fact that I remember the catchphrase and have no idea of the name of the insurance company says a lot I suppose.

Anyhow, back to the purpose of this posting. I sometimes used to feel like shouting this phrase when approached by a disgruntled project manager who, when opening their MS Project plan, claimed to have lost most of their tasks or milestones.

I usually bit my tongue, and in the same way I’d put my arm around my upset 7 year old son to cheer him after falling off his scooter, I’d sympathetically smile and offer to take a quick peak at the plan to see what’s happened, safe in the knowledge that the items haven’t disappeared at all but that the plan has fallen foul of a recurring problem (or feature if you work for Microsoft) that often throws people.

I’m going to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here and say that there are probably good arguments to support the way that MS Project works in this particular scenario.  I don’t think it’s some Machiavellian plot by the developers to have a laugh by confusing the standard user (in the same way my older brother once handed me a piece of paper with “Please turn over” written on both sides when I was 5 year old).

The overriding issue is that MS Project simply will save the project plan as the user last configured it – i.e. with the views and filters etc. that were in use when the user saved the file.  Someone else comes along, not familiar with how it’s been left and it appears that the plan has been decimated and needs a Poirot like deduction process to work out what has happened.

There’s several widely used functions of the software that can change what you see – stuff like Task Filters and Show / Hide Outline Levels, autofilters etc which are essential to managing the plan, but which can really bamboozle the user who opens the file cold.  Throw in the ability to sort by fields other than the usual ID and you have a recipe for your brain exploding.

I’ve managed to avoid the need to adopt a grey wig, and big cigar (these are the essential Winner props by the way), by adding in a simple macro to my plans that will automatically reset the filter to “All Tasks”, show all the outline levels of tasks, turn off the autofilter and sort by tasks ID when it’s opened.  This basically gets the plan into a state that most users expect it to be in when they open the plan.

It’s a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but at least it keeps the project manager sane (ish).

If you’re interested in getting the script, submit a comment, and I’ll get it over to you.

PS  It would be nice though, for those Microsoft developers to add in an option feature that you could select to do this automatically, (and find something else with which to trip us up).

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