How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel in 9 Simple Steps

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How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel in 9 Simple Steps

Key Points

  • Gantt charts are a convenient way to visualize project tasks and their relationships, and were developed in the 1890s by Karol Adamiecki.
  • Gantt charts help keep projects organized and running smoothly by allowing you to see task durations, overlaps, and deadlines at a glance.
  • Gantt charts show how tasks relate to each other, overlap, and when they start and end.

If you’re part of a team working on a project or even managing the team itself, it’ll be fairly easy to see the benefits of using a Gantt chart to visualize your progress and organize the workload. But the process of creating one of these charts may not be as obvious. While they have their uses, Gantt charts can be rather counterintuitive, especially if you’re not too familiar with spreadsheets. In this article, we’re going to explore what Gantt charts are, why they’re useful, and explain in plain English how to create a Gantt chart in Excel.

What Are Gantt Charts, and What Are They Used For?

Gantt charts are a convenient and easy-to-follow way to visualize the tasks involved within a project, including how they relate to each other, overlap, and when they start and end. They were developed a long time ago, in the 1890s, by an engineer called Karol Adamiecki. However, 15 years later, Henry Gantt came up with his own version, which became more popular and the name stuck.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of your project is critical to its overall success. It’s easy to miss a deadline, forget a task, or start one too late, especially if many people are collaborating together on the same project. The last thing you want is for your productivity to suffer. One of the best ways to keep your project organized and running smoothly is by using a Gantt chart.

In simple terms, the tasks involved are listed along the vertical axis on the left of the chart, while the duration of each task is listed along the horizontal axis at the top. In essence, a Gantt chart is a type of bar chart, so each task or activity is represented by a horizontal bar.

How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel in 9 Simple Steps

Using a Gantt chart, you can quickly see all the tasks within a project when they start and finish, and how much they overlap with each other. So, without further ado, let’s get into how to create one.

Step 1: Open Excel and Enter Your Data

The first step is to open Excel and enter and format your data. The easiest way to do this is by listing all your tasks in one column, the start dates in a subsequent second column, and the durations in a third and final column. It’s simplest at this point to enter your start dates as numerical values, e.g., 0 for the first date, 6 for the fifth date, and so on.

entering data for Gantt chart in Excel
To begin making a Gantt chart, you need to enter your data in Excel.


Step 2: Highlight Your Data

Next, you need to highlight your data, starting with the tasks column (including the heading) and ending with the last cell in your durations column.

highlighting data for Gantt chart.
Highlighting your desired data is key to creating a Gantt chart.


Step 3: Create a Stacked Bar Chart

After that, click the “Insert” tab along the top, then navigate to the chart section. Click the drop-down arrow to reveal more options, and select “Stacked Bar.”

choosing chart type for Gantt chart.
To create a Gantt chart, you need to start by making a stacked bar chart.


Step 4: Enter Your Chart Name

It’s a good idea at this stage to pick a name for your chart so that its purpose is clear. You can do this by double-clicking on the title field of your chart and typing the desired name.

changing title of Gantt chart
Change the title of your Gantt chart to make it clearer.


Step 5: Reverse the Task Order

By default, the order of tasks will be in the wrong order, with the last task coming first. To rectify this, double-click on your chart to bring up the formatting sidebar. Open the “Vertical Axis” tab, and click the checkbox for “Categories in reverse order.” This will reverse your tasks so that they make sense.

reversing order of vertical axis for Gantt chart
Reverse the order of your vertical axis labels to make the Gantt chart more intuitive.


Step 6: Remove the Unnecessary Bar

We used a stacked bar chart so that the proportions of the durations would be correct, but we don’t actually need to see the start date bars, as this just complicates matters. To remove these, double-click on the bars to open the “Series ‘Start Date’” tab. From here, click the “Fill” button, and select “No Fill” at the bottom. This will make the bars disappear.

Removing unnecessary bars from Gantt chart.
Remove the unnecessary start date bars from your Gantt chart for clarity.


Step 7: Scale the Chart to the Finish Date

Your chart will probably have a horizontal axis that’s unnecessarily long. To correct this, double-click on the horizontal axis to open the “Horizontal Axis” tab. Next, change the number in the “Maximum” field under the “Bounds” section to your last numerical date plus whatever the duration of this task is. In our example, our last task has a start date of 19 and a duration of 1, so we’ve entered 20 here. This will shorten the horizontal axis so that the finish time of the last task lines up with the end of the axis.

changing maximum bounds of horizontal axis of Gantt chart.
By changing the maximum bound of your Gantt chart’s horizontal axis, you can maximize the chart size and remove unnecessary time units.


Step 8: Delete the Legend for Clarity

Naturally, Excel charts automatically populate themselves with a legend, representing the titles of each axis. However, we don’t really need one to see what the Gantt chart is about, and it just makes the rest of the chart smaller. To remove the legend, simply double-click it and press the delete or backspace keys.

deleting legend from Gantt chart.
By deleting the legend of your Gantt chart, you can visualize your chart more easily.


Step 9: Change Minimum Bounds to Visualize Dates

The last step is a little tricky, but will make your chart a lot easier to understand. As a quirk, Excel calculates its first-ever date as January 0, 1900. To change your start duration to the correct date, you need to calculate how much past Excel’s first date it is numerically.

For our example, our start date is July 1, 2023, which is 45108 days after January 0, 1900. Therefore, we enter this in the “Minimum” field under the “Bounds” tab, and this changes our horizontal axis to the correct dates. Since you know July 1, 2023 is equal to 45108, you should be able to adjust this to your date relatively easily, i.e., by adding 365 for each year, or 30, 31, 28, or 29, depending on the month. After that, simply add the remaining days to get to the correct day of the month. It should be noted that you don’t need to change the maximum bound at this stage, since it’s already correctly proportioned in relation to the minimum bound.

changing date labels of your Gantt chart.
By changing the numerical value of the minimum bound of your Gantt chart’s horizontal axis, you can accurately reflect the start and end date of your tasks.


Wrapping Up

To summarize, creating a Gantt chart in Excel is a relatively simple process, once you know what steps to follow. It’s crucial to organize your data correctly, as well as choose the stacked bar type of chart. By removing unnecessary elements, i.e., the legend and the start date bar, and by formatting the dates, you can easily visualize your project at a glance. Using Gantt charts is a great way to keep an eye on the duration of the tasks in your project, how they overlap each other, and when the overall project is completed. You can adjust your durations as time goes on, as well as add new tasks as and when you need to. Understanding how to create Gantt charts in Excel will help you keep your projects organized and your teams working together effectively.

How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel in 9 Simple Steps FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How do I create a Gantt chart in Excel?

To create a Gantt chart, you need to enter your tasks in one column, start dates in another, and durations in a third column. Then, highlight these fields, and create a stacked bar chart. After that, remove the start date bars, choose a title for your chart, and adjust the minimum and maximum bounds of the horizontal axis to reflect the start and end dates of your tasks and project accurately.

How do I change the timeline of my Gantt chart?

You can change the axis settings to adjust the time units used in your chart. One way to do this is to change the minimum bound to reflect the start date of your first task, as a numerical value occurring after January 0, 1900.

How can I customize the appearance of a Gantt chart?

You can change the bar thickness and color, change the titles of your axes, add or remove gridlines, and add milestones and labels to each bar.

Can I update a Gantt chart as a project progresses?

Yes, you can adjust the durations column to change the task durations, add additional tasks to the tasks column as they crop up, or even remove tasks you don’t need. It’s a good idea to track the progress of your project regularly, and check the accuracy of your chart by communicating with your team.

Can I use a Gantt chart to manage several projects?

Yes, technically, you can use one chart for several projects, although the formatting is more complicated. You can do this by entering your data into separate sheets and combining the data into a single data range. However, this may be visually complex, so it may be a better idea to create separate charts so that you don’t confuse your projects and tasks.

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