How to show and style the critical path

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Overview

On timelines with dependencies, Office Timeline Pro+ can calculate the critical path automatically and highlight it at the click of a button, so you can track and prioritize tasks more easily. This guide will show you how it works.

You’ll learn:

A) What is the critical path?

B) How to show the critical path on your slide

C) How to style the critical path

D) How to hide the critical path

Read the full guide or use the links above to jump to the section you’re interested in.

 

A) What is the critical path?

The critical path is a series of interdependent activities (or sometimes a single one) that directly affect a project’s finish date. If any of the activities on the critical path is late, the whole project will be late.

Therefore, you can use the critical path to quickly show which tasks and milestones are crucial to the project’s completion, as well as what activities can be rescheduled without impacting the final deadline.

B) How to show the critical path on your slide

Note: The critical path can be activated only on timelines where dependencies are enabled.

There are 2 places where you can activate and show the critical path on your timeline: either from the Timeline View or from the Style Pane.

  1. Timeline View. From your slide, click the Edit Timeline button in the Office Timeline ribbon to open the Timeline view, and the switch the Critical Path on from the Dependencies drop-down in the top-right corner:show-the-critical-path-office-timeline.png

  2. Style Pane. Select a dependency link on your slide to open the Dependency Options in the Style Pane. From there, navigate to the Critical Path tab and switch on the visibility toggle:
    show-critical-path-style-pane-office-timeline-pro%2B.png

 

Once activated, the critical path will work as follows:

  • It will highlight at least the latest scheduled item (task or milestone) on a timeline, since delaying that item would also delay the project’s completion. In our example below, the only task we have on the critical path is highlighted in pink:
    latest-task-as-critical-path-if-not-connected-through-dependency.png
  • If the latest scheduled activity is linked to other items (tasks or milestones) through dependencies, the critical path will highlight any items where even the smallest delay would push out the final activity’s end date.
    series-of-dependent-tasks-on-the-critical-path.png

Note: By definition, the critical path has no slack. Tasks that have scheduled lag time, however, can be part of the critical path.

Definitions:

  • Slack = also called float, slack is the amount of time an activity can be delayed without causing a delay in subsequent tasks or the project’s final delivery date. Slack is not directly added to the project, but it’s rather a result of how various tasks are scheduled.

  • Lag = a set amount of time a successor will be delayed with respect to its predecessor. Lag time is directly scheduled into the project.

 

C) How to style the critical path

By default, Office Timeline Pro+ will highlight the items that are on the critical path by “masking” their original colors with a pink color and a red border, and their dependency links with red. However, you can easily change these customizations to suit your preferences.

  1. From your PowerPoint slide, select any dependency link on your timeline and go to the Critical Path tab in the Style Pane. critical-path-tab-style-pane-customizing.png

  2. Here, use the checkmarks to select or deselect the styling properties that will highlight the critical path on your timeline.
    critical-path-styling-checkmarks.png

    In our example above, critical tasks and milestones will be highlighted through Color and Outlines, and dependency links that are part of the critical path will be highlighted through Color. Title colors and dash types will remain unaffected.

  3. Then, simply choose your styling preferences for each property you’ve selected.
    change-styling-critical-path-style-pane.png

 

 

D) How to hide the critical path

Hiding the critical path is just as easy as activating it. Simply go back either to the Timeline View or the Style Pane and switch off its visibility toggle:

hide-critical-path.gif

If you need further help or have any questions about the critical path in Office Timeline Pro+, don’t hesitate to contact us at support@officetimeline.com. We’ll be glad to help!

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