Microsoft Project – My top 5 favorite settings

For more than 10 years I have often heard Project Managers complain about Microsoft Project. 9 out of 10 times the issue is around how the tool calculates the duration and work of tasks. The typical respond to these Project Managers would be “you need some training”. On the other hand, even with training, Microsoft Project can be configured in so many ways that users tend to give up.

Overall, users should be aware of Microsoft Project´s calculation engine. This engine will not work for you unless you give it some basic info to calculate from. These input should correspond with how work is done in you office, organization og country, and the inputs can be given on the project, task or resource level. To truly master it all, you should read a book on the topic as many great Microsoft Project guides are on the market today.

If you are not the type who likes to read more than a one-pager, well then the below 5 steps will help you a lot and only takes 5 min to do.

The steps are my personal “must do list” every time I configure a new Microsoft Project client for personal or business usage. Except for “step 5”, all configurations can be made so that Microsoft Project remembers them, and will use them, when a new project is created.

The configuration is all done in the “backstage” meaning you should click on “File” and then “Options”:


Step 1: Date Format

Setup the way you want dates to be shown. Typically, you only want to see the dates and not the time



Step 2: Currency Format

Setup the way currencies should be shown



Step 3: Scheduling

Define how Microsoft Project´s calculation engine should work for you e.g.

  1. When does the Fiscal Year start
  2. Default Start Time
  3. Default End Time
  4. Hours per day
  5. Hours per week
  6. Days per month (this is set as project doesn’t know how long a month lasts if a task doesn’t start on the first of a month – tip: avoid using months as your planning duration)
  7. How should new tasks be managed (Scheduled or Manually)
  8. Define the default task type e.g. fixed duration, units or work (depends on the project type)



Step 4: Prompts, Rates and Summary Task

  1. Have Microsoft Project prompt you for info when a new project is created. This way you always remember to set the correct start or finish date
  2. Define the general resource rates for all resources you create (only if using Microsoft Project without connecting it to a server)


3. Set Project to always show the project summary task



Step 5: Roll Up Milestones

  1. Right click on the Gantt Chart and define the layout
    1. Choose to always roll up Gantt bars. This way your milestones are showed directly on the phase line which is great when collapsing all tasks to a higher level for reporting



  1. Oh no… I hope you didn’t change the ‘Hours per day’ value (Step 3, #4) without editing the working hours in your project calendar*. The ‘working hours’ settings are in kind of two places and over the years I’ve seen several cases where a user has changed only the other and eventually the scheduling does not match.

    (*An even better practice is to create a calendar for your own use and make it clear in which calendar you have to modifications.)

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