Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gaunt from Charts

I've never really cared for Gantt charts. I've seen them but never really studied them, because they invariably represent the graphical representation of something entirely fake (such as time-lines of work in grant applications). Indeed, they've always seemed mildly worthy of suspicion. When 37signals got into some trouble for refusing to support them in Basecamp, that just confirmed my opinion that 37signals was a slightly eccentric but righteous organization.

Two weeks ago I was scheduling the dates when homeworks would be assigned and due in my course this semester (programming languages), and I wanted to check on the distribution of homeworks and ensure there were never more than two homeworks out concurrently. I set the dates in a calendar and tried to view multiple months at a time, but the result was somehow unsatisfying. I thought for a moment about how I'd like the information presented. What I really wanted, I thought, was a picture—a picture of the homeworks stacked as bars—

Oh wow. I wanted a Gantt chart. (As is so often the case, wisdom follows from necessity.)

Now nothing spells corporateness like a Gantt chart, and nothing spells corporateness like Microsoft, so I figured it to be an ideal match. (Besides, I already knew there was no point trying to do this via 37signals.) Creating a table of the dates in Excel was trivial, so all I needed was to find the Gantt chart mode....

This is how Microsoft wants you to create a Gantt chart (short of buying Microsoft Project, I guess). It's startling to think someone actually wrote those instructions with a straight face. For what it's worth, there's a fine YouTube video that explains this process interactively. Reading the comments is interesting: compared to the usual drivel that people post, just about everyone here is focused, on-topic...and damn grateful.

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