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Show the critical path of your project in Project

Every task is important, but only some of them are critical. The critical path is a chain of linked tasks that directly affects the project finish date. If any task on the critical path is late, the whole project is late.

The critical path is a series of tasks (or sometimes only a single task) that controls the calculated start or finish date of the project. The tasks that make up the critical path are typically interrelated by task dependencies. There are likely to be many such networks of tasks throughout your project plan. When the last task in the critical path is complete, the project is also complete.

Learn more about critical path analysis.

Show the critical path in the Gantt Chart view

The Gantt Chart view will likely be your most used view for showing the critical path.

  1. Choose View > Gantt Chart Format.

  2. Choose Format, and then select the Critical Tasks check box.

Critical Tasks check box on the ribbon and highlighted Gantt bars in Project 2013

Tasks on the critical path now have red Gantt bars.

Show the critical path in other task views

You can see the critical path in any task view by highlighting it.

  1. On the View tab, pick a view from the Task Usage group.

  2. Staying on the View tab, select Critical from the Highlight list.
    The critical path shows up in yellow.

  3. To see only the tasks on the critical path, choose the Filter arrow, then pick Critical.

Critical path highlight in Project 2013

Tip: In a Network Diagram, tasks on the critical path automatically show up in red. No highlighting is needed.

Video: Show the critical path

This video demonstrates how to display the critical path in your project, in both the Gantt Chart view and other views.

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View the critical path in a master project

When you’re managing a master project, whole subprojects can be on the critical path. You can see if this is true by telling Project to treat the subprojects like they are summary tasks.

  1. Choose File > Options.

  2. Choose Schedule, and then scroll down to the Calculation options for this project area.

  3. Make sure the Inserted projects are calculated like summary tasks box is selected.

Tip: This setting does not affect other projects. That is, it only applies to the master project you’re working on.

Change what tasks show up on the critical path

Typically, critical tasks have no slack. But you can tell Project to include tasks with one or more days of slack on the critical path so you can see potential problems coming from farther away.

  1. Choose File > Options.

  2. Choose Advanced, and then scroll down to the Calculation options for this project area.

  3. Add a number to the Tasks are critical if slack is less than or equal to box.

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Show multiple critical paths

You can set up your project schedule to display as many critical paths as you need to keep tabs on your project.

  1. Choose File > Options.

  2. Choose Advanced, scroll down to the bottom, and then select the Calculate multiple critical paths checkbox.

  3. Select OK.

  4. Choose View > Gantt Chart.

  5. Choose Gantt Chart Format, and then select the Critical tasks checkbox.

By default, Project shows only one critical path, the one that affects the project’s finish date. But you might need to see more than one for a couple reasons:

  • To make sure each subproject of a master project is on time.

  • To track the progress of different phases or milestones.

  • To keep an eye on any series of tasks for any reason.

Project management tip: When viewing multiple critical paths, don’t forget that there's still only one main critical path. If it falls behind schedule, the whole project falls behind schedule. Try these tips to make better use of multiple critical paths in a project once you’ve set them up.

Try this

Here’s how

Work with multiple projects in one schedule

  1. Choose File > Options.

  2. Choose Schedule, scroll to the bottom, and then select Inserted projects are calculated like summary tasks.

Show only critical tasks

On the Gantt Chart, choose View > Filter > Critical.

To display all tasks again, select No filter in the filter list.

Group critical tasks

On the Gantt Chart, choose View > Group By > Critical.

To display all tasks again, select No Group in the group list.

More about critical path analysis

If you have saved a baseline for your project, the critical path can show you if your project will finish on time and where the danger points are. To get the most out of critical path analysis:

  • Regularly view the critical path. Be aware that the critical path can change from one series of tasks to another as you progress through the schedule. The critical path can change as critical tasks are completed or as other series of tasks are delayed.

  • Closely monitor critical tasks. Any task on the critical path is a critical task. Monitor these tasks regularly to see if any of them slip. If a critical task slips, so does your finish date. Save a baseline and use the Tracking Gantt view to see slipped tasks.

  • Review series of tasks that may become the critical path. If a non-critical series of linked tasks slips its dates enough, that series of tasks will become the critical path. You can view other potentially risky tasks by showing multiple critical paths in a project.

  • Protect yourself by viewing tasks that can slip without affecting the critical path. By default, the critical path shows the tasks that cannot slip at all or the project date will slip. You may want to view tasks that currently can slip by a day without affecting the critical path, because if they slip by more than a day, they will become critical tasks. Viewing these tasks with slack helps alert you to tasks that are becoming critical while you still have some buffer.

Tip: To change the sensitivity of critical tasks, choose File > Options > Advanced. In the Tasks are critical if slack is less than or equal to list, enter the number of days under which a task will be considered critical.

When you display the project's critical path, Project shows only a single, overall critical path, which is the only critical path that controls the project's finish date. However, you can set up your plan so that you can also see an additional critical path for each independent network or each series of tasks. You might find this useful for keeping track of each of the subprojects within a master project, or of each phase or milestone of a project that is divided into multiple phases.

By knowing and tracking the critical path for your project, as well as the resources that are assigned to each critical task, you can identify the tasks that can affect your project's finish date and thus discover whether your project will finish on schedule.

Learn more by reading Manage your project's critical path.

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In Project for the web, you can view the critical path by using a filter.

  1. In your project, select Timeline.

    Select Timeline

  2. Select Filters.

    Select Filters

  3. Turn on the toggle Show Critical Path.

    Turn on Show Critical Path

When Show Critical Path is on, you'll see the critical path for your project highlighted red in the timeline.

Highlighted path

Learn more

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