Ever wish you could sort all of your tasks and milestone by the Start date or Finish date? Have you tried before? If you have, you quickly noticed that the summary task structure gets in the way. The tasks and milestones can’t be sorted by their start or finish dates. They appear to be ‘stuck’ within their parent summary task structure. Let’s take a closer look at the situation before we discuss how to solve it…

Starting Point

Here we have a small sample schedule. In this schedule, we have three sets of summary tasks. No sorting is applied.

Sorting Applied with the Summary Task Structure Present

In the next screen capture I applied a sort by Start date to the same schedule. We see that the sort is first applied to the summary tasks and then to the tasks. The summary tasks are preventing the tasks from truly being sorted making it very difficult for us to really analyze how the work is being scheduled.

Sorting Applied with the Summary Task Structure Removed Temporarily

In the next screen capture, we see how we want our sorting by Start date to be applied. We want to sort the tasks by Start date without the summary tasks getting in the way.

The Problem is the Summary Tasks

As we saw in the above screen captures, the sort function doesn’t have the power to reorganize tasks or milestones outside the summary task structure. The summary task structure creates a protective border around subordinate tasks and milestones. We need to temporarily remove or hide this summary task structure. It is too restrictive. Fortunately, we can do this! We can temporarily remove the summary task structure in order to remove the control that the summary tasks have on their subordinate tasks and milestones. Let’s see how…

The Solution: Remove the Summary Tasks

Now that we understand the problem, let’s talk about how to solve it… It is actually pretty simple. We are going to modify our Quick Access Toolbar and add two powerful commands to it. These commands will allow us to temporarily remove the summary task structure and the indentation from task names. If you don’t know what the Quick Access Toolbar is yet, don’t worry. In a couple minutes, you will not only know what it is, but you will also know how to modify it…

Step 1a – Follow this step if you are working with Microsoft Project 2016 or older versions. If you are working with Microsoft Project 2019 or newer versions, go to Step 1b. Right-click your mouse anywhere in the ribbon menu. Once you do, you will see a pop-up box as shown below. Click on the ‘Customize Quick Access Toolbar’ option. You can now proceed to Step 2 for all versions of Microsoft Project.

Step 1b – This step is for users that are working with Microsoft Project 2019 or newer versions. In Microsoft Project 2019, the Customize Quick Access Toolbar…’ option is no longer available if you right-click in the ribbon menu. To get to the Quick Access Toolbar options, we instead have to click the ‘Customize the Ribbon’ option. This will then take us to the Project Options window. You will then click the ‘Quick Access Toolbar option. You can now proceed to Step 2 for all versions of Microsoft Project.

Step 2 – You should see the Project Options window. Next, choose the ‘All Commands’ option from the ‘Choose Commands from:’ dropdown menu.

Step 3 – Now we want to look for the ‘Indent Name’ command in the left-hand window. Once you find it, click on it.

Step 4 – Click Add. The ‘Indent Name’ command will then appear in the window on the right.

Step 5 – Scroll further down and find the ‘Show Summary Tasks’ or ‘Summary Tasks’ command. If you are using Microsoft Project 2013, it will say ‘Summary Tasks’. If you are using Microsoft Project 2016 or Microsoft Project 2019 or newer versions, it will say ‘Show Summary Tasks’. They do exactly the same thing. So just find the one in your list if you aren’t sure what version of Microsoft Project you are using. Once you find it, click on it.

Step 6 – Click Add. The ‘Show Summary Tasks’ or ‘Summary Tasks’ command will then appear in the window on the right.

Step 7 – Click on either command and then click the down button. Get that command to the bottom of the list. Once the first command is at the bottom of the list, do the same for the other command. It doesn’t make a difference what order they are in or which one you choose first. Simply get both commands to the bottom of the list.

Step 8 – Click OK.

Step 9 – Now we are ready to use our new commands. Uncheck both of the ‘Indent Name’ and ‘Summary Task’ commands. You will notice that the summary task structure is gone. Apply a sort by Start or Finish date. The tasks and milestones are no longer confined by the summary task structure!

Summary

These two commands are very useful, especially in large schedules. We can quickly and easily see how the work is distributed over future time periods. And who doesn’t want to see a graphic showing all the tasks and milestones sorted by the Start date. This is a very meaningful way of showing the upcoming workload…