Gantt Chart 101: What Are Gantt Charts Used For?

How to use a Gantt chart

Just started using Gantt charts and you’re still unsure how they work and what’s the best way to use them? You’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ve gathered everything you need to know to get started with Gantt charts and manage your projects successfully. That includes all the basics, from what are Gantt charts to what are the benefits of using Gantt charts, and 5 common scenarios where using a Gantt chart is highly recommended.

What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a bar chart commonly used in project management to plan and schedule tasks and track progress. It has a vertical axis where the project tasks are represented in the form of bars and a horizontal axis with their start date, duration, and end date.

The main purpose of a Gantt chart is to simplify complex information and transform it into step-by-step project visuals that are easy to understand for all team members and key stakeholders.

There are many essential details you can view at a glance when using a Gantt chart for your projects, including:

  • The project schedule from start to finish
  • When each task starts and when it’s supposed to be finished
  • When the project starts and when it’s scheduled to be delivered
  • The dependencies and overlaps between tasks
  • Who is responsible for each task
  • Crucial milestones and deadlines for each phase of the project
  • The critical path of the project
  • The project’s overall progress

A brief history of Gantt charts

We’ve come a long way since the first handwritten Gantt charts. Imagine having to redraw the chart each time a change occurs in the schedule. Not exactly what a manager would like to spend his entire day doing.

Fortunately, these days, modern Gantt chart software allows you to define dependencies, highlight the critical path, monitor progress in real time, and update your chart with just a few clicks. Not to mention, the charts are an absolute pleasure to look at.

But let’s take a quick look at how it all started, shall we?

In the 1890s, Polish engineer Karol Adamiecki created the harmonogram, the first known project chart of this type. However, his authorship received little recognition in the English-speaking world as his findings were only published in Polish and Russian.

Almost 15 years later, Henry Gantt, an American engineer and management consultant, came with his version of Adamiecki’s chart to help manufacturing supervisors visualize their work schedule and progress.

Ultimately, Gantt’s work became widely known in western countries and, long story short, the chart was named after him.

What are the main benefits of using a Gantt chart?

Gantt charts are a useful project management tool if you want to:

  • Break complex projects down into achievable tasks and set accurate deadlines and milestones
  • Estimate the time and resources required for each task
  • Identify overlapping activities and task dependencies
  • Visualize your project plan and get a big-picture overview of what tasks need to be done, when, and in what order
  • Highlight the critical path and immediately spot any issues that might delay the project delivery
  • Monitor progress and present updates to key stakeholders in a visually appealing & easy to comprehend format
  • Enhance team communication and accountability
  • Organize and track multiple projects at the same time

And now comes the best part: you don’t have to make your charts from scratch anymore. No more endless hours spent trying to get the design right in Excel or struggling to get the hang of Microsoft Project.

Save time and create beautiful project graphics directly in PowerPoint with pre-designed Gantt chart templates. Pick your favorite, customize it and get ready to present.

How to use a Gantt chart for your projects

Apart from being a great way to visualize and communicate the project schedule, there are many other reasons teams from various industries such as marketing, software development, event planning, manufacturing, healthcare, and construction choose to use Gantt charts.

We’ve put together a short list of the most common use cases below. To make it easier for you, we’ve also added the best Gantt chart template for each situation.

1. Communicating project status updates to stakeholders

Apart from managing all the aspects of a project and monitoring progress, a project manager also needs to prepare regular status reports. These reports are used to communicate how things are going to clients and executives.

Having a clear picture of where a project stands can help managers identify potential bottlenecks and take corrective action where needed to get back on the right track. That’s why you must keep your status reports easy to follow and engaging.

The best way to present how the project progresses against the original plan is by creating a Gantt chart. You can use this project status report template to provide your audience with a simple visual representation of progress across different tasks and stages.


EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE


2. Creating a software development roadmap

If you’re managing a software development project, one of your biggest challenges is to keep the team, clients, and other relevant stakeholders on the same page at all times.

To set realistic expectations regarding deliverables and deadlines, you need to have a project plan that presents the duration of each task, key milestones, overlapping activities, and resources allocated to each activity.

When it comes to software development projects, Gantt charts can help you communicate the project schedule and updates to non-technical stakeholders in an easy-to-understand format.

Moreover, you can use a software development Gantt chart template like the one below at any phase in the life cycle of your project to minimize risks and deliver the final product on time, on budget, and within scope.


EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE


3. Building a content calendar

As a marketing manager, planning and scheduling what content your company wants to share and promote across multiple channels can be a monumental task.

Not only every member of your team needs to have a clear understanding of their tasks and deadlines, but you have to track various content types, authors, publish dates, and status updates for each key distribution channel. Not to mention, make quick adjustments whenever plans change.

To keep all your content marketing initiatives organized in one place and improve team collaboration, you need to create a content calendar. And what better way to build one than using a Gantt chart.

This editorial calendar template provides you with a straightforward visual representation of your marketing strategy where each task, deliverable, and due date can be easily seen at a glance. Turn building a strong online presence for your company into a cinch and efficiently communicate progress and results to high-level audiences.


EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE


4. Presenting a construction schedule to clients

Simply put, a construction schedule outlines deliverables and important milestones and tracks progress to ensure the successful execution of the project within the set timeframes.

Without a clear schedule to act as a roadmap for the construction process, the project risks exceeding its budget and not being completed on time. Moreover, as a construction manager, you’ll have little to show your clients when presenting the progress report.

Communicating the project schedule to clients requires you to keep the information as simple as possible. The easiest way to do that is by using a construction schedule template designed for high-level presentations and includes all the phases, tasks, and milestones of your project.


EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE


5. Planning and organizing an event

Being organized is the key to planning successful events. And you can’t stay organized without a plan.

There are so many details to take care of when you’re managing an event. You have to set the date, find the perfect venue, make the list of guests and send the invites, order the food, hire a band, and so on.

Having a visual schedule of your event helps you organize project tasks into stages, identify the relationships between activities, delegate each task to a team member and keep track of progress along the way.

To create the schedule of your event and track how each phase is progressing, you can use a simple Gantt chart template.


EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE


Create your next project schedule with Gantt charts

Let us share some quick project management wisdom with you: behind every successful project, there’s a professional Gantt chart slide.

If you want to learn how to make impressive project visuals in less than 3 minutes, check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to create a Gantt chart in PowerPoint using the Office Timeline add-in. We also have a list of tips and tricks that you can use to create amazing Gantt charts for your PowerPoint presentations.

Last but not least, to download and customize any of the Gantt chart templates presented above, you first need to go and install the Office Timeline Pro+ free 14-day trial version.


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Pro+ free for 14 days.

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Introducing the Office Timeline Pro+ Edition

Discover Pro+ Edition

Hi and welcome to Office Timeline, the one-stop-shop for all your Gantt chart, roadmap and timeline needs! I’m Tim, CEO and co-founder at Office Timeline, and I’m delighted to introduce our latest product, the Pro+ Edition of our PowerPoint add-in.

For those of you who are new to Office Timeline, let me just say: if you're looking for a solution to help you quickly create amazing presentations that will impress even your most demanding clients and execs, then you’re definitely in the right place. So, what exactly does the Pro+ Edition bring to the table?

A better way to organize tasks and milestones

Let’s start with a look back to 2018, when the Pro Edition of Office Timeline introduced swimlanes, which are essentially horizontal rows that help you arrange the items on your graphics based on logical categories. For instance, when the workload of a project is assigned to multiple teams, using swimlanes makes it much easier to see who oversees specific tasks or what milestones are relevant only for a specific department. The same goes for multi-phased projects or programs.

The massive popularity of this feature made us brainstorm new ways to improve the functionality of swimlanes. Previously, you could either use them to define either the teams handling certain tasks OR split the project into phases, but not both – not at the same time. And we came up with a solution to this issue many of our users were facing.

Introducing sub-swimlanes, a Pro+ Edition specific feature that offers users even more control over how the items on their graphic are organized. It’s now easier than ever to visually organize multiple-project portfolios and showcase your work to stakeholders. Here’s a sample of a timeline that has sub-swimlanes:

Product Release Planning Swimlane

Still, you might be thinking that an extra set of swimlane headers could reduce the available space for tasks and milestones in each lane. No worries, we took that into account! It took a bit of fiddling with the design, but we came up with a solution for it: you can now flip the swimlane header titles vertically and, as you can see, it takes up almost no space at all.

Rotate Swimlane header option in Pro+ Edition

Create a timeline from scratch without ever typing in a date

The Timeline View has always been a favorite of our users and it received several major overhauls in the recent years. New functionalities were added to this interface, like the ability to create, duplicate, hide or delete tasks and milestones.

But it still felt like there’s room to grow. With the launch of the Pro+ Edition, Timeline View enables you to add and manage swimlanes and sub-swimlanes as well.

Timeline View in Pro+ Edition

What this means is that, when you’re starting out a schedule without any pre-existing data, you can essentially build it using the intuitive drag & drop controls. The biggest advantage of this approach? You’ve got a real time view of your graphic while you’re making it!

You don’t have to settle for a single timescale anymore!

More often than not, your projects will have long, medium and short term objectives and activities, represented as tasks and milestones. The addition of sub-swimlanes also made it possible to create full-fledged programs, further increasing the complexity of timelines and the number of items they can be made to include.

So how can you keep track of the long term project calendars without losing sight of activities scheduled for next week? By activating up to 3 fully customizable timescales that can display your plans across years, quarters, months, weeks or days. Here’s a snapshot of the new Timescale settings:

Timescale settings in Pro+ Edition

And something to get you started…

Not sure how to make the most of these features? Let our designers lend you a helping hand with these professional templates that can easily adapt to any type of project scenario.

Timescale templates in Pro+ Edition

Whether you’re releasing a new product, developing an E-commerce program, creating a project portfolio, or anything else you have in mind, check out the timeline and Gantt chart templates that are built-in the app and we guarantee you’ll find the inspiration you need.

Recap and conclusions

The Pro+ Edition is the latest and most powerful version of our PowerPoint add-in, an excellent tool that will make your life so much easier and turn up the dial on your presentations. In addition to already popular features like swimlanes, drag & drop interface and highly versatile Style Pane, Office Timeline now includes:

  • Sub-swimlanes, for better organizing your tasks and milestones;
  • Multiple timescales, for viewing both the long and short term scheduling on the same graphic;
  • A bunch of professionally designed templates that take advantage of these new features.

And we’re not planning to stop anytime soon! At Office Timeline, we’re keeping our finger on the pulse to build the best possible timeline maker in accordance with our users’ feedback. We want to offer you the tools to impress your audience with amazing presentations built in record time, so you can focus your efforts towards new and exciting things. Check out the Pro+ Edition or give the free version a try first and enjoy the fast-track to success!


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Pro+ free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

Best 5 Free Gantt Chart Templates for PowerPoint

The fastest way to create a Gantt chart and visualize project plans and progress is to use a pre-designed Gantt chart template. Period.

Whenever I have to quickly generate a Gantt chart in PowerPoint for a project review or another upcoming executive meeting, I feel more relaxed knowing that I can count on a ready-made template with editable graphics to help me deliver powerful presentations every time.

And the best news is that since these templates are designed directly in PowerPoint, which most professionals already use, it’s super easy to get my team members to collaborate on my project visuals.


Office Timeline free trial

Top 5 free Gantt chart templates for your next presentation

Here are 5 free Gantt chart templates you can effortlessly customize for your projects:

  1. PowerPoint Gantt chart template
  2. Basic Gantt chart template
  3. Project outline template
  4. Project status report template
  5. Project management plan template

1. PowerPoint Gantt Chart Template

A simple yet powerful template every project manager should have in their management tool kit. This PowerPoint Gantt chart template offers you full customization of colors, fonts, shapes, and designs so that you can make it the perfect match for your projects.


PowerPoint Gantt chart template

EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE



2. Basic Gantt Chart Template

Get a Gantt chart template that includes all the essential elements you need when planning and communicating a project at a high level so that non-project people can quickly check if things are on the right track.


Basic Gantt chart template

EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE



3. Project Outline Template

This template breaks your project down into main stages, steps, and milestones, providing you with a detailed visual sketch to serve as the basis of your strategy. In just a few clicks, you get an easy-to-follow overview of your project that ensures all stakeholders are on the same page.


Project outline template

EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE



4. Project Status Report Template

Summarize the project progress at a glance with this project status report template that lets you keep team members, executives, and clients updated on critical tasks and project milestones.


Project status report template

EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE



5. Project Management Plan Template

Optimize your stakeholder communication strategy with project management plan visuals that help you make things clear for everyone involved. This Gantt chart template enables you to lay out your project plan and monitor progress while presenting only the information that’s relevant for clients and executives.


Project management plan template

EXPLORE AND DOWNLOAD TEMPLATE


Stunning PowerPoint presentations with little effort

One thing I’ve learned over the years while preparing hundreds of presentations for executives and clients is that Gantt chart templates are a project manager’s best friend.

Using ready-made templates lets you cut your learning curve while enabling you to create eye-catching project visuals in just a couple of minutes. Plus, you get no more death stares from your audience when getting to that Gantt chart slide.

Office Timeline was designed to help professionals like you and me effortlessly create roadmaps, timelines, and Gantt charts in PowerPoint and communicate complex project information in the best way possible. To edit the PowerPoint templates presented above, simply go and install the Office Timeline Pro+ 14-day trial version.

Check out Office Timeline’s entire collection of free Gantt chart templates and pick your favorite.


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Pro+ free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

Guest post: Why stakeholders regularly ignore your project reports – and how to fix that

by Peter Taylor

The #1 way to improve the success probability of your project is to nail stakeholder buy-in - but how do you do that? The #1 way to nail stakeholder buy-in is to give them uncomplicated visual project updates so they actually understand your project – but how do you do that?

Project Gantt chart

To effectively communicate something requires all four of the following to be correct, providing the right information, providing it to the right person, delivering it in the right way, and delivering it at the right time.

Get any of these wrong, and you will fail to effectively communicate. For example, deliver the right information to the right person, in the right way but at the wrong time, then you have failed to effectively communicate. Or deliver the right information in the right way, and at the right time but to the wrong person, then once again you will have failed to effectively communicate.

I was taught a truth in my early project management days – reporting is not communicating! The fact that the critical facts and important truths are buried somewhere in a report that the right people may be in possession of does not, in any way, mean that they have received the message.

This is a harsh reality all of your busy, busy project managers out there. The fact you can produce the most wonderful 16-page report with graphs and diagrams and every single data point included, designed with beautiful font layouts, a rainbow of colours, and high-definition images, and you email it every single stakeholder (and their best friend) actually means you have probably effectively communicated to absolutely nobody!

Why? Because you have failed to deliver the right information, to the right person, in the right way, and at the right time.

The Project Reporting Challenge

When I was leading some very substantial PMOs, global in nature, hundreds of project managers around the world, leading thousands of projects on an annual basis, we had this fundamental issue of effectively communicating to a whole range of stakeholders but particularly to the executives inside the organisation. All of my project managers were incredibly busy and yet they all had the challenge of how to represent the key aspects of their projects to the business executives, who in turn were busy people who did not have a lot of time and who were overseeing many, many projects at any given time.

Every project manager was being asked to share information with people internally, people externally, clients, sponsors, internal executives, and, of course, the PMO on a regular basis. The risk was that the project managers could so easily have been consumed by regular and disparate reporting demands and had no time to actually manage their projects.

The key here was to both make sure that the project manager did not waste their time and the executives (and other report consumers) received accurate, up-to-date information that they could act on.

We learned that this could be achieved by visually representing the information in the simplest way possible, and in a consistent format for easy reference and understanding. Most often this format was PowerPoint. Our stakeholders were familiar with PowerPoint, comfortable receiving reports this way and very often they wanted to roll-up our project slides into the information they presented to their executives.

Now, on a day-to-day basis, the project managers were typically working with something like Microsoft Project, so they had a detailed project plan but the executives neither had the time nor the inclination (or often the understanding) to look at such a plan, such detail. The reports were complicated, did not get read, or worse led conversations down a rabbit hole.

What we needed was a more simplified timeline and a much-simplified visualisation of where the project was, what was the progress, what were the challenges, what were the issues, what were the constraints, and therefore, what were the decisions that these executives had to make to support the project managers in being successful. And we needed it in PowerPoint.

Strategic Roadmap

The Picture Superiority Effect

There is a thing called the ‘Picture Superiority Effect’, something that I use regularly in my own lectures and keynotes. Simply put, picture superiority refers to the phenomenon where people remember pictures better than they remember the corresponding words. Put in another way, pictures are superior to words when it comes to recalling and recognising information…they get more attention than text or lists.

Picture superiority effect

Taking this knowledge and acting on the principle in regard to project reporting means that you need to represent your project timeline in a clear, simple, and compelling visual in order to get the attention and understanding of your executives, and other stakeholders.

We learned that it is all about delivering the right information, at the right time, to the right person and in the right way. In this case, the right way is a visual way.

Which brings us back to my opening arguments: It is all about improving the success probability of your project by nailing that stakeholder buy-in, and my advice is to give them uncomplicated visual project updates, so they actually understand your project.

How We Added Picture Superiority to Project Reporting

One solution my team found useful is the Office Timeline add-in for PowerPoint. My project managers found it valuable for quickly creating project slides that our VPs and executives loved. The visuals were uncomplicated and impressive and the automation saved our PM’s lots of time.

In fact, originally it was one of my project managers who started using the tool and shared their positives experiences with the rest of their colleagues, and myself, to the point that we standardised on it for executive reporting.

Try out Office Timeline to improve project planning and communication with clear, convincing timelines, Gantt charts and swimlane diagrams that are easy to follow, but hard to forget.


Peter Taylor
Speaker, Consultant, Trainer and Coach, Peter Taylor is the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’. He has built and led some of the largest PMOs in the world with organisations such as Siemens, IBM, and Kronos. In 2020 he was awarded the PMO Global Alliance ‘PMO Influencer of the Year Award’.







Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Pro+ free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

Mandalorian Timelines

Mandalorian Timeline

Mandalorian Timeline

As the final installment in the second season of “The Mandalorian” was released on Disney+ in late 2020, countless fans took to the internet searching for information about the future of the show. We’re not going to spoil the Mandalorian season finale for those who have yet to see it. It suffices to say that a surprise guest’s appearance both resolves and further complicates the main plot. Don’t worry, though, we haven’t seen the last of beskar-clad space cowboy.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be a while before we find out where Din Djarin’s story is headed. Jon Favreau – the creator of the series – announced that production on the Mandalorian season 3 will only commence after the completion of the spin-off titled “Book of Boba Fett”, which is teased in the post credits of the second season’s finale. The series following Boba Fett’s adventures is the third Mandalorian spin-off announced by Disney, in addition to “Ahsoka” and “Rangers of the New Republic”.

The appearance of these already established characters – Anakin’s former padawan and the heroic pilots flying New Republic colors – confer the Mandalorian series consistency in the otherwise complex and twisted chronology of the Star Wars universe. Naturally, the delightfully misbehaved 50 year old baby Grogu – the only other creature from Master Yoda’s species known to exist so far – and the vitriolic, Darth Vader-like Moff Gideon help complete the picture.

The cat and mouse game between Moff Gideon and Din Djarin who ends up looking after “baby Yoda” (we don’t learn Grogu’s real name until Chapter 13) takes place 5 years after the Empire crumbles, when Emperor Palpatine takes a deep dive down an elevator shaft. Palpatine’s demise is not the swansong of Sith, who re-emerge 25 years later in the shape of the First Order.

It’s worth noting here that the Star Wars universe has a Current Era / Before Current Era timekeeping system. Year 0 is marked by the Battle of Yavin, more commonly known as “that time when Luke made an impossible shot through the thermal exhaust port of the Deathstar and the planet-killer ship exploded”. Therefore, Din Djarin and Grogu’s journey are set in year 9 After the Battle of Yavin (ABY).

It is a time when the Rebel Alliance’s New Republic seem to hold all the cards. However, the Empire has not yet been completely defanged. Isolated pockets of Empire loyalists like Moff Gideon continue to probe for chinks in the New Republic’s armor and constantly hatch schemes that would allow tipping the scales of power. And let’s not forget about the various Mandalorian factions that have their own stakes in the conflict.

Unsurprisingly, the show also offers us various glimpses of Mandalore’s history as the main storyline’s events unfold. It is a history marked by war, foreign occupation and suffering that culminates with the eerily named event known as “The Purge”. Not a great deal is known about it, except that we’re talking about a mass extermination at the hands of the Empire that leaves most surviving Mandalorians with exile as their only option.

Some Mandalorians, however, like Bo-Katan Kryze – whom we also see in Star Wars: The Clone Wars – refuse to lay down their weapons until the shackles of the Empire are cast off and their proud warrior civilization is restored to its former glory. It’s likely that the spin-offs will shed more light on their story and personally, we can’t wait to see them!

About the Mandalorian Timelines

To celebrate the end of the second season for the multiple award winning show, we have created two timelines showing both how the story arc fits with the movies and the major events in the history of the Mandalorians using Office Timeline Pro. Office Timeline is a powerful yet easy to use PowerPoint add-in for project management that can create stellar visuals for your data in no time. Try out the free version or explore the Pro Edition, which comes with extra features for those who need more advanced applications.



Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning timelines, roadmaps and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Pro+ free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL