Project 2010 introduces a fantastic new view called the Timeline. This view is really intended to convey just some of the details you choose from the Gantt Chart view, and present those details in a simple, elegant way. It's one of my favorite features in 2010.
Tubular Bells (and Whistles)
One of my pet peeves is running across obsolete timelines of projects for which I'm a stakeholder. Specifically, I’m referring to the Visio "tubular" timelines like this one:
TIP Click the screenshot image to see a larger view.
These timelines are relatively easy to create, but too easy to overload with details until they become cumbersome to decipher. Worse, unless you're pretty adept with Visio, they are difficult to update.
Too Much Information (TMI), Project
I know plenty of Project users who create such Visio timelines. Why do they do this? Here's my theory: until 2010, it was very difficult in Project to produce a simple view of just the details you want. You could for example show summary tasks, but not summary tasks and just some subtasks and milestoneswithout also showing other subtasks. And in any case not everyone likes the Gantt Chart format. I mean, can you tell what really matters in this snapshot from Project?
What's needed was a simple way to create a good-looking summary view and give you the Project user extensive control over what details to include. Answer? The Timeline view, new in Project 2010 Standard and Pro.
Keeping It Simple
Like the Task and Resource forms, the Timeline is part of a split view. However there's very little schedule editing you can do in the Timeline view itself--it's really intended to give you a "project at a glance" snapshot in Project or for copying to another program as a graphic image. Here's a Timeline view showing just a few select details from the complex project plan below the Timeline:
I can then copy the Timeline view as a graphic image and paste it into an e-mail message, presentation, document or what-have-you.
You Have To Work At Your Relationship
Where the Timeline view really trumps the Visio diagram is when I need to update my schedule. Once an item (summary task, task or milestone) is added t to the Timeline view, it gets updated instantly whenever the original item is rescheduled. For example, when I update durations and reschedule several tasks, the change is reflected instantly in the Timeline view.
A Visio-based timeline doesn't have an underlying schedule on which it is based. The Visio timeline is basically a static diagram; I can jiggle the dates and other details on the timeline, but the evidence I've seen suggests people tend not to do this often. Of course, people have been known to stop updating Project schedules from time to time.
What Say You?
What do you think of the new Timeline view feature in Project 2010? Is this something you would use? Let me know via a comment.