How to Create a Gantt Chart with SmartDraw

Managing a project in SmartDraw is simple and intuitive. If you haven't already, read about the basic steps to managing projects with a Gantt chart. Next, watch this short video about how to create a Gantt chart in SmartDraw.

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Getting Started

Start by opening a Gantt chart template you can find under the Project Planning category under New Document on the dashboard.

The framework for the Gantt chart is already in place with a few tasks in place. To the left of your work area, you'll find the SmartPanel with specific tools and shortcuts to help build your project chart.

Choose the Gantt chart template from the Project Planning dashboard

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

Set the timeframe of your Gantt chart

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.

Adjust the time scale of your Gantt chart

Add a Task

You can modify the few tasks on your basic Gantt chart template and add your own. Simply click in the cell that says "Task" and replace it with a description applicable to your project.

To add a new task, hit 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 a Gantt chart 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 View as Mind Map button in the SmartPanel.

View your project chart as a mind map

Adding Sub-Task in 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 use [CTRL] and the right arrow key to add a sub-task. You can also use the yellow Quick Action Buttons to add tasks in the direction of the yellow arrow clicked. 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.

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

Add sub-tasks in mind map view

Switching Between Views

When you're done, switch back to the project chart view using the tab at the bottom of your work area or the View as Gantt Chart button on 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.

Switch views to see changes reflected

Adjust Task Due Dates

There are three ways to adjust the duraction of any given task.

  • Type in a new start or end date for the task in the corresponding row of the Gantt chart. The bar representing the task will be automatically changed to match the new dates.
  • Type in a new duration length for task in the Duration column. The bar will automatically reflect the change.
  • You can also adjust the duration of a task using the bar itself, just grab an end with the mouse and drag.
Adjust task due dates and duration

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 and adds a line connecting them. Continue on with your estimates and due dates, adding dependencies where necessary.

Add a dependency between tasks

Define Working Days and Holidays

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

Adjust options for your projects like working days and holidays

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.

Group tasks

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.

Tracking task progress

Connect Your Project Chart to Trello®

Connecting your project chart to Trello® allows you to create full accountability. You can turn any task into a Trello card and assign team members.

Select any task and click the Create Trello Card button. You'll be asked to login to Trello, choose any of your existing boards, select the lane the task belongs on, and assign a team member.

Changes to the Trello® cards are reflected in your project chart the next time you open it. So when a team member marks a Trello® card as complete, the project manager will see this in the SmartDraw project chart. Likewise, changes to the project chart, like task due dates, are reflected in the Trello® card in real time.

Create a Trello card from any task

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.

As we dicussed earlier, SmartDraw lets you switch any project chart into a mind map view with a single click and back. This allows you see the hierarchy of the project at a glance.

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. All at a glance!

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.

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

Convert your project chart to a mind map for a project status meeting
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