How to Create a Gantt Chart with SmartDraw

Managing a project in SmartDraw is so simple and intuitive that it will make any manager look like a pro in no time. If you haven't already, read about the 5 basic steps to managing projects with a Gantt chart. Next, watch this short video about how to create a Gantt chart in SmartDraw.

Project chart video

Getting Started

Start by opening up a Gantt chart* from the list of templates on the home panel.

The framework for the Gantt chart is already in place with a week's worth of time set by default. To the left of your work area, you'll find the SmartPanel with specific tools and shortcuts to help build your project chart.

Gantt chart template

Select Timeframe to set the start and end points of your project and your chart will automatically reformat. You can also just simply type the start and end dates right into your chart.

Project timeframe

SmartDraw automatically formats your chart to fit on a single page and sets the scale appropriately. You can change this scale using the floating toolbar at the top of your chart by selecting weeks, quarters, or even years from the drop down.

Project time scale

Add a Task

Now you're ready to add a task. Just hit the Add Task button in the SmartPanel and type in a description for your task. You can hit Add Task again or simply hit the down arrow key and type to add another task. Repeat this until you've added all your main tasks to the chart. These are the big, over-arching tasks that need to get done. However, these larger tasks often cannot be completed until several smaller tasks are done first.

Add project task

Switching to Mind Map View

The best way to figure out each of these subtasks is to do so visually using a mind map. SmartDraw easily lets you switch to a Mind Map view of your project if you click on the Mind Map view in the SmartPanel or at the bottom of your work area.

Switch mind map view

Once in the mind map view, you'll see each of your tasks represented as a box on a mind map. Select one of your tasks and hit Add Right in the SmartPanel or use [CTRL] and the right arrow key to do the same. If you have one of the new subtasks selected, you can keep hitting [ENTER] to add more subtasks under the same task.

You can either use the SmartPanel buttons or simply the arrow keys to build out your entire project plan.

Add project sub-task

Use the arrow keys to navigate between tasks and use [CTRL] and the arrow keys to add more subtasks where you want to.

When you're done, switch back to the project chart view using the tab at the bottom of your work area or the Project Chart view icon in the SmartPanel. You can now see all of your tasks and subtasks neatly indexed into a hierarchy making it easy to start filling out estimated durations and assign responsibilities.

Project keyboard shortcuts Project tabs

Adjust Task Due Dates

To adjust how long a task will take, simply type in a start or end date on your chart and a bar representing the task will be automatically added to the chart. You can also adjust the duration of a task using the bar itself, just grab an end with the mouse and drag.

Adjust project task due date

Add Dependencies

If you have a task that can't begin until another is completed, you'll want to add a dependency. To do this, hold down CTRL and select the bar representing the task that you need completed and the bar representing the task that depends on this completion and hit Add Dependency in the SmartPanel.

You can see that it automatically resets the starting point of the dependent task. Continue on with your estimates and due dates, adding dependencies where necessary.

Add task dependency

Insert a Task

You can insert a task between two existing task by selecting the top one and hitting the [CTRL] and down arrow key or clicking the Add Task button. Your chart will automatically expand to make room for the new task.

Add task dependency

Define Working Days and Holidays

Define your work week and non-working holidays by clicking on the Project Options button on the SmartPanel.

Add task dependency

Group Tasks

As we discussed earlier in the mind map section, tasks can be grouped hierarchically so that the length of the parent task reflects the length of all the sub tasks below. You can create a similar hierarchy in your Gantt chart view by using the Indent Task command.

Indent Project Task

You can also "roll up" subtasks so that only the master task is shown-giving you a simpler view of your chart. To do this, click on the small minus button next to the master task. To expand the view again, click on the plus sign next to the master task.

So no matter how detailed your plan, you can instantly get a good idea of how major portions of the project are proceeding.

Master project task

Tracking Progress

Easily track the progress of your project by entering the percent complete for each task. Percent complete is shown visually on each task bar.

Track project task

Hide and Show Columns

The more complex the project, the bigger the project chart. SmartDraw makes working with even large project charts easy because it allows you to hide and reveal any column in your chart.

Though the project may be complex, your view of the chart can remain simple, because only what you need to see at the time is shown. To hide a column, click on the Project Options button on the SmartPanel and choose which columns you want to show on your chart.

Add project chart columns

Conduct a Project Status Meeting

Periodically, you will want to check in with your team to see the progress of tasks and discuss any changes or adjustments that may need to be made.

You could conduct such a meeting with a boring agenda, probably a list created in a word processor, or you could simply turn your existing project chart into a meeting agenda.

SmartDraw lets you switch any project chart into Assignment view with a single click. The Assignment view allows you see who is doing what at a glance. You can see the progress for each task, color coded to show when something is late or when a task is complete.

This view can serve as the perfect meeting agenda.

It will keep attendees focused and engaged because everyone can see all the topics and how they relate to each other and who is responsible for what. All at a glance!

Assignment project view

As you go through each agenda item, you can use SmartDraw to make changes and edits in real time. As new tasks come up, you can add them by using the SmartPanel commands.

You can also make edits to existing tasks. For example, you may want to mark the percentage complete on a task.

You may want to reassign a task from one person to another. You can simply drag and drop a task from one person to another.

This allows you to accomplish more work during the meeting. Clarity and consensus are achieved on the spot, eliminating the need to follow up.

Project task progress

View Your Project Chart as a Timeline

For an easy way to highlight major milestones, you can also view the chart as a timeline by clicking on the Timeline icon from the SmartPanel.

Project timeline view

Integration with Microsoft Project®*

Do you need to share your project chart with Microsoft Project® users? No problem. You can save your SmartDraw project chart in Microsoft Project® format. You can also import existing Project files.

You can also share your Gantt chart in a variety of common graphics formats, as a PDF, or export it to any Office® application in one click.

*Note: Gantt charts and full project management features are only available in the Enterprise Edition of SmartDraw for Windows.

MS Project integration