Editor’s Note: Google has stopped supporting all gadgets associated with Google Spreadsheets. As of August 5, 2013, all gadgets will be deleted.
Recently, I was asked to help a client put together a project plan and they are frequent users of Google Docs, so it seemed it would be appropriate to adopt the Google Gantt Chart for this piece of work. I thought it might be useful to summarise my experience and share some learning points.
The spreadsheet comprises two parts: data entry and the Gantt Gadget. The data entry sheet looks like this:
There is inevitably a trade-off between usability and functionality so, while this template enabled us to show dependencies, it will only allow one per activity. Milestones are displayed as 1-day activities, but we could annotate all Milestones with an “M” so they are more obvious, or use the “% complete” field to turn them into “black” data points on the chart (which is what we did).
What were the positive aspects of using this template?
- Easy to set up the spreadsheet and to make changes
- Everyone is familiar with a spreadsheet, so the “leap” to a Gantt Chart is easy to make and it’s not as “scary” as introducing people to MS Project (which they probably don’t have on their desktop PC anyway)
- Easy to share with people on the team
- Ability to allow “edit” or “read-only” access
- It’s free
What were the downsides?
- Displaying Milestones needs a work-around (as described above)
- The Gadget won’t let you print the Gantt Chart (which can be a bit of a problem if it gets too big to see on one screen – you could take screen shots and join up the jpgs but it’s a bit of a fiddle)
- It’s in the Cloud, so you need internet access (but in an office rather than mobile environment this is not an issue)
- The Gadget won’t work in every browser; Chrome, Opera and Firefox are fine, but Internet Explorer won’t display the Gadget
- Google Docs is hopeless in Safari (and other browsers I’ve tried) on the iPad!
Would I use it again?
Yes, if the client needed to be able to show dependencies and didn’t have more than 40-50 activities. If the client didn’t need to display dependencies, I’d probably stick to one of my Excel templates, or consider the highly visual and easy to use Tomsplanner.
You can find the Google Gantt Chart Gadget if you search for “Gantt” in the spreadsheet templates gallery of Google Docs.
You can learn the basics from Microsoft here.