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A simple guide to creating a Gantt chart in Excel, and other alternatives

monday.com 7 min read
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If you’re like most project managers, you frequently find yourself in a deep Excel hole, frantically looking for a way out.

Spreadsheets are fantastic for a whole bunch of reasons, but visualizing a project isn’t really one of them.

Unless, of course, you can turn all of that data into a sexy little Gantt chart.

Which, conveniently enough, is exactly what this article is about: a brief guide to creating Gantt charts in Microsoft Excel.

So, grab a coffee, give yourself five minutes reprieve from the depths of your Excel spreadsheet nightmare, and learn how to convert your columns of data into an easy to read Gantt chart.

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Quick note before we start: The fact of the matter is that Excel is a less-than-great option for creating Gantt charts. A project management platform like monday.com is so much better it’s not even funny, plus you get about a couple dozen other project management, tracking, and collaboration tools along with it.

If you’re still insistent, and we can’t dissuade you quite yet, here’s how to do it…

How to create a Gantt chart in Excel

Let’s do a quick step-by-step.

#1. Create an Excel table with your project schedule data

To get started creating your Gantt chart in Excel, you’re going to need to add all of your project schedule information into a table.

Add the start and end dates of each task, the task duration in days, and a brief note that outlines what the task at hand is.

Make sure to sort them in order of start dates, with the earliest first.

Here’s what that’ll look like:

project data in excel

#2. Turn this data into a Stacked Bar chart

Now, let’s turn this data into an Excel chart.

Click on any empty cell, head up to the Insert tab, and find the drop-down menu for bar charts.

You’ll want to select the second option under the 2-D Bar header, which is the Stacked Bar chart:

creating a bar chart in excel

This will give you a blank rectangle. Right click it, and hit Select Data.

selecting data in excel chart

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#3. Add your task start dates

In the pop-up window, click the little + icon to add a new data series:

setting dates in an excel chart

In the Name box, add the text “Start Dates,’ place your cursor in the Y values text box, and click.

Then, select all of the dates in your Start Dates column from top to bottom:

setting dates in an excel chart

Hit OK, and you should have a bar graph that looks like this:

making an excel gantt chart

#4. Add the duration of each of your tasks

Back in the Select Data window, repeat these steps for your task durations.

setting durations in excel chart

At this point, you should have a Stacked Bar graph that looks like this:

stacked bar chart in excel

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#5. Add tasks descriptions to your Gantt chart

Now we want to add some context to this chart by adding the names of each task.

In the Horizontal (category) axis labels box, select the data you added for your task names.

excel chart labelling

Now we’ve got some context as to what each bar represents.

stacked bar chart in excel

#6. Format and style your Gantt chart

At this point, you’re probably thinking, this doesn’t really look like a Gantt chart. So let’s make that happen now.

Right click on your bar chart and hit the Format Chart Area option.

formatting an excel chart

Click on any of the blue bars in your chart. In the Format Data Series panel, set the Fill and Border options to No fill and No line.

formatting an excel chart

You’ll now have a chart that looks like this:

gantt chart in excel

Close to a Gantt chart, except in the reverse order.

To fix this, simply click on the list of Tasks on the left hand side of your chart, which gives you access to the Axis options on the right hand pane.

formatting an excel chart axis

Click on the little bar chart icon, open the Axis Options drop-down menu, and select the Categories in reverse order box.

Now your chart looks like a real Gantt chart, with the dates at the top and tasks formatted from earliest to latest start date.

gantt chart in excel

Okay, that was exhausting. We did it, but I’m not happy about it.

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What about dependencies?

So there’s a wee problem with using Microsoft Excel to create Gantt charts (apart from the fact that it takes half an hour and the final result looks like it was done in 1998).

Static charts, like the one we’ve just created are pretty straightforward. But if you want to create a true Gantt chart, with task dependencies and the ability to quickly edit tasks and add updates, things get a whole lot more complex.

Showing task and project progress requires the use of conditional formatting. Automatically updating dependent tasks means you need to build complex formulas.

In short, it’s pretty painful, and it can get pretty buggy, even for expert PMs.

There’s some good news, though (phew): there’s a much simpler way to create Gantt charts that you can actually use to manage a project.

A better approach to creating Gantt charts

Okay we get that “better” may be a bit aggressive, but we can back it up.

Creating a Gantt chart in monday.com is (instead of requiring 20 steps, like our walkthrough above) extremely straightforward.

Head into the default table view and add all of your project data, including each task’s status, timeline, priority, name, and owner.

adding data in monday.com

All of these functions can be color-coded to your own preferences, and you can set as many Status or Priority types as needed.

Next, you’ll create a Task Dependency column with all of your task dependencies. These are simple and straightforward to set.

adding dependencies in monday.com

Turning all of this data into a Gantt chart is (and we hate this cliche but it’s true) as simple as the click of a button!

Just head up to the Views menu and click Gantt.

gantt chart view in monday.com

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You can easily create automation sequences and dependency updates using monday.com’s Board Automations.

adding automation in monday.com

Working with Gantt charts in this manner is a whole different ball game from Excel charts, allowing even the most inexperienced project manager to create and edit them quickly.

gantt chart in monday.com

Once you’ve created your Gantt chart, you can filter your data, use monday.com’s simple drag and drop functionality to edit your tasks, and even access a Split Screen view to visualize tasks in the Table and Gantt formats simultaneously.

split screen view in monday.com

If you’re interested in learning more about using monday.com to create Gantt charts, check out our informative article: Gantt charts with monday.com.

Conclusion

Microsoft Excel sure has its strengths, but let’s be honest:

Gantt charts are not one of them.

As you’ve just learned, it’s entirely possible to create a static and simple Gantt chart using Excel, but it’s not the most intuitive or user-friendly process.

Plus, and this is a biggie, adding dependencies, progress, and automatic task updates becomes an absolute nightmare, and you’ll probably spend more time trying to get your Gantt chart to work properly than actually managing your project!

If you’re ready to get started straight away with a more modern solution, check out our work plan creation template for a quick start to project planning.

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