There are many tools out there to help you get organized. Project management software offers features of all kinds to assist you in planning your work. We’re focusing on a particular way of organizing tasks in this tutorial on how to use a Gantt chart.
We’ll explain what a Gantt chart can do for you, then look at how things work on a couple of platforms. First, we’ll look at a simple example in monday.com, which you can read about in our monday.com review. Then, we’ll go through a more advanced example with TeamGantt, which you can read about in our TeamGantt review.
Gantt charts are sophisticated. If you’d prefer something simpler, take a look at our how to use a kanban board article. Our Trello review discusses a great example of a kanban tool.
What Is a Gantt Chart?
There are lots of tools that let you add and arrange tasks and view them in different ways. Gantt tools offer a big advantage over others in that they allow you to add and manage dependencies, so you can make one thing happening dependent on another.
That means you can see what needs to be done before each task is completed. If you need your potatoes delivered before you can make french fries, you can create that relationship in a Gantt chart. If there’s a problem with your delivery, you can see what the effect will be by following the dependencies forward.
You can also calculate what effect a delay will have. In this case that sounds trivial, but in a complex project many tasks may be dependent on one another. A Gantt chart will enable you to easily calculate the knock on effects of any problem.
A Gantt chart typically shows a particular time frame, such as a week or month, and allows you to flip or scroll the dates, as with most calendar-based tools.
Gantt Chart Creator
The first Gantt chart was invented by Polish academic Karol Adamiecki in 1896. It didn’t make much of a splash, though. Henry Gantt, for whom the system is now named, published his version in 1910.
Early charts showed the start and end dates of the tasks making up a project. Dependencies were added later, even though they’re key to Gantt charts’ usefulness.
Gantt Charts and Working with Dependencies
Creating tasks is usually straightforward. You add a name and perhaps a description. If you’re working in a team, tasks can be assigned to people. They can be categorized and prioritized. Often, you can leave comments or attach files to them. Those things will depend on the tool you use.
With Gantt chart-based tools you’ll also want to set a start date, as well as an end date or estimate of how long the task will take. That way, tasks can appear in the correct position on your calendar, showing when things will happen, or at least when you hope they will.
To create dependencies between them, you typically click and drag from the end of one task to the beginning of another. That makes the second task dependent on the first. You can use Microsoft Excel to make Gantt charts, but using a dedicated program is usually a lot easier.
Some tools have a button that lets you create dependencies by filling out the details in a pop-up window. In complex projects, that may be easier than the drag-and-drop method.
In some tools, you can adjust task lengths, move them around and change the start and end dates individually. The tools that let you do all those things can be trickier to use, though, because it’s harder to find the handles to create dependencies.
Practice makes perfect, but it’s worth pointing out that just because you find one implementation doesn’t suit you, there may be another that does.
Gantt Chart Issues
If a task is scheduled to start before those it depends on finish, you have a problem. Gantt charts will inform you when that’s the case, allowing you to fix it. You can do that manually by dragging tasks to reschedule them or changing their estimated lengths.
Some tools will update your schedule automatically to keep it workable. That means if a task is dependent on another, its beginning will adjust automatically if the task it depends on isn’t finished in time. It can get complex, but making that complexity manageable is what Gantt charts are for.
Many platforms will also let you know if you have a dependency loop. If task one is dependent on task two, try making task two depend on task one and see what happens. It’s an impossible situation, but, again, Gantt charts can spot those relationships among complex webs of tasks and save you scheduling headaches.
How to Make a Gantt Chart the Simple Way: monday.com
monday.com has timelines, which are similar to Gantt charts but don’t include dependency management. The timeline allows you to set start and end dates for tasks.
You can move items around by dragging or changing their start and end dates. You can assign tasks to people, too, as well as see who is doing what. It allows you to visualize what needs to be done and lets you spot problems.
Planning a project is much easier with tools like that. For large projects with many interdependent tasks, though, working visually and intuitively might not be good enough. That’s where dependencies can help.
monday.com has a fantastic interface (you can read our monday.com tutorial to get started), as well as excellent security features to protect you from cybercrime. Keeping safe is critical when working in the cloud, so monday.com’s commitment to online security makes it a strong choice for managing your projects.
Free Gantt Chart: Step by Step with TeamGantt
Next, we’ll look at TeamGantt, which, as the name suggests, is built around its Gantt view. It has a free tier that lets up to three people use it for nothing. That means you can probably test it without having to twist the boss’s arm too much. Beyond that, there are paid plans with additional features.
Let’s take a look at how to get started with it. After signing up, it’ll ask you a few questions and, if you describe yourself as a beginner, show you an introductory video. After that, it’s time to create your first project.
We’re going to show you how to start from scratch, but there are templates. They’re quite basic and include a sample project that’s good for learning your way around TeamGantt. There’s also a basic project with a few tasks and groups set up for you to use or rename as required.
Click “my projects” in the left-hand pane if you aren’t there already, then click the blue “new project” button on the right. You’ll see the following screen.
There, you can give your project a name, pick a template as discussed above and even select the days of the week to be used in your project. Select all seven days if you’re the busy type, five if you’re like most of us or two if you prefer a more casual approach to life.
Then, click the “create new project” button to bring your project into existence. You’ll need to watch a quick video first, so feel free to make a quick coffee and come back two minutes later.
Here’s how your project looks right after being created. There’s a single group containing a single task. Groups let you organize your tasks into categories. You can name them what you like.
First, let’s create a new task, then we’ll modify our groups before looking at dependencies.
To create a task, click the “task” text next to the plus button underneath the provided first task. The “milestone” and “group of tasks” texts lets you create those.
Your new task will appear, highlighted and with the cursor in the name field so you can call it what you like, as we’ve done here. Press return or click the mouse and the task will be ready.
There are other things you can do with tasks. With TeamGantt, you can assign each one to a user, mark how much of it has been done or add a checklist of subtasks to break it into easier chunks. We’ll forget all that for now, though.
Tasks and groups contain a little pen icon that you can click to edit them. There’s also a cross to delete them. They’re visible if you move over the task or group with the mouse.
Click the edit button and a window will pop up allowing you to edit the task details.
We’ve added a few tasks and a new group and renamed our project. It’s now the culinary classic, boiled egg and soldiers.
Now we’re going to create a dependency. You’ll need to put the water in the saucepan before boiling it. The second task is dependent on the first. We can add that relationship to TeamGantt. That way, we can’t accidentally schedule the second task to start before the first.
That’s obvious in this case, but may not be in large projects.
To create the dependency, we move the mouse over the “boil water” task. As we do so, little dots appear on either side of it. We then click and drag from the dot to the left, to the “put water in saucepan” task. When we release the mouse, the dependency is created.
We could’ve dragged the dot to the right of “put water in saucepan” and dragged to the “boil water” task. Either way, the effect is the same. What matters is that you use the dot on the left to make that task dependent on something else and the dot on the right to make something else dependent on it.
If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice the line is red. That shows that our schedule isn’t possible. Both the linked tasks are scheduled at the same time. Clearly, in this case, one has to finish before the other can start. If we drag the “boil water” task to the right, everything will be fine and the line will change color to show that.
If you need a tool that can reschedule dependencies for you so you don’t have to drag them around yourself, have a look at our ClickUp review.
Now you understand the basics of dependency management and can create and connect tasks of your own. TeamGantt and monday.com have free trials, so check out what you can do with them.
There are many platforms that include a Gantt chart. We cover them regularly in our project management articles. Gantt charts tend to feature in the more business-focused tools, but as we’ve seen, they don’t have to be hard to use. Get the hang of this powerful technique and you can improve your workflows and keep everyone on your team busy.
To see what our favorite platforms can do, take a look at our best project management software roundup.
Looking beyond monday.com and TeamGantt, one of our favorite tools, Wrike, does a great job of dependency management. Read more about it in our Wrike review. If you prefer to work locally, check out our GanttProject review to learn about an old-fashioned desktop software that’s suitable for office use.
If you’ve used any of the Gantt tools here or know about others we haven’t mentioned, please share your knowledge in the comments below. Thanks for reading.