Task

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Introduction

Before we go into the creation and uses of tasks let's take the time to explain what they are. Tasks are simply a part of a project. Think of a large project and divide this project into several separate well... tasks. Now a task can have some data associated with it like start and end date and estimated amount of time needed to complete it. This brings up the question about status. If a task can be finished, it can also be not started yet or started but not finished. Well, let's go ahead and start making our own first task.

The first thing we have to do to create a task is to bring up the project of which this is to be a task. I assume you are by now familiar enough with the system to bring up the screen with the project details for the "The Ultimate Documentation Project" we made earlier (see next picture).

The project details screen

Now would be a good time to discuss some of the options shown in the upper left part of the menu. Below "Project" the links "Search", "New", "Modify", "Delete", "Printable" should be pretty clear by now (search for a project, define a new project, modify the current project, delete the current project, show a printable version of the project details). The options below the "Tasks" heading a new and subject our story.

  • Tasks Overview: Display all list of all defined tasks
  • Gantt diagram: Show a Gantt diagram of the project and its tasks.
  • Task Create: Create a task
  • Import CSV: Import an external project definition file.

Now we will discuss these options in more detail. First is the "Task Create" option. More about this option in the next section.

Create

Creating a tasks starts by clicking on the "Task Create" link in the upper left part of the menu. A screen will be shown similar to the one in the next picture.

The task create screen

As you can see, a task has three mandatory fields. The first is the "Name" of the task. Furthermore, a task must have some "Todo" list that normally contains a list of things todo (duh). And last but not least, a task must be allocated to someone who is responsible for completion of the task. Further fields and their meanng are:

  • Name: As said earlier, the mandatory name of the task.
  • State: Here you can select the state of the task. In a standard TUTOS configuration these options are:
    • Pre: Work on this task has NOT been started.
    • Ongoing: Work on this task is underway.
    • Finished: This task is finished.
    • Overdue: This task is overdue.
  • Subtask of The Ultimate Documentation Project 1.0: A reminder of which project this is a task.
  • ToDo(*): Here you can enter an elaborate description of the work involved in completing this task.
  • Assigned to (*): A pulldown list where you can select and consequently assign the work to.
  • Work Volume hours: Here you can enter an estimation about the amount of work it will take to complete this task.
  • Volume done hours: Here you can enter how much work has already been done. (actually the number you enter here will be used to create a timetrack record related tot his task, but that is something for a later chapter).
  • Resources: Clink on the resources involved in completing this task.
  • scheduled start: Enter scheduled start date for this task. Use the Minical tool to enter dates easily.
  • scheduled end: Enter scheduled end date for this task. Use the Minical tool to enter dates easily.
  • Input OK ?/Reset: Confirm the entered data or reset the form to its starting position.

For now we will add a couple of tasks to our system to demonstrate some of the other possibilities of TUTOS. So please enter the following tasks:

  • Name: Write documentation, Todo: write a lot of stuff, Assigned to: Gero, Work Volume: 80, Work Done: 40, Scheduled start juli 1st, 2002, Scheduled end, august 1st, 2002
  • Name: Debug major OS, TODO: fix 13600 bugs, Assigned to: Bill Gates, Work Volume: 8000, Work Done: 5, Scheduled start, July 14th, 2002, Scheduled end, October 1st, 2002

For now, these two entries should be enough. When you are done entering task 1 and click on the "Enter" button you'll see a screen similar to the one in the next picture:

The task detail screen

As you can see below the details is a small graph to show you how far the task is from being completed. The first option in the menu to your left is called 'new'. Don't be fooled here. This menu-option is used to make a new subtask of the current task. Yes, it is possible to make subprojects of projects, and subtasks of tasks and even subtasks of subtasks of subtasks of..... Well, I think you get the picture. To use as an example we will define a random subtask of the first task we entered. So we go to the detail screen of the first task we entered (remember? Via the Products & Projects page). And click on the 'New' menu option (if you are in doubt look at the statusbar of your browser. It should say 'create a new subtask of Write Documentation'). We will name the subtask 'get pencils', enter some descriptive todo text and assign this to Gero. The next picture shows our input.

The enter subtask screen

After entering all relevant data and clicking on the "Enter" button the screen is displayed as shown in the next picture.

The subtask details screen

In the next section we will tell you more about getting a perspective of all defined tasks.

Task Overview

As you saw earlier, it is possible to make a task which is a subtask of task 'Write documentation' which is in itself a task of 'The Ultimate Documentation Project 1.0'. Not impressed yet. Wait till you see this! Click on 'The Ultimate Documentation Project' link to jump to the project page. Now click on the 'Tasks Overview' link in the project details screen. You should see something like this:

The tasks overview screen

There a couple of things I would like to talk you through. In the upper left corner of the screen (next to the menu) you see the total amount of workhours estimated for completion of the project. Below that you can see the amount of work already done. To the right of both of these you seen the total start date and end date for this project and the calculated percentage of work done. Below these headings are a number of rows with the following information. In the first field you see the sublevel of a task. Level 0 means that these are tasks linked to the project itself. Level 1 tasks are subtasks of the aforementioned tasks, etc. To speedjump to a task detail screen we can click on the task name which is also clearly a link. Next to this you will see the percentage of completion of this task as well as the amount of workhours already spent on completion. Next is the tasks start date, a graphical representation if it's status and the end date. The meaning of these colors in the graphical presentation are as follows:

  • White: No meaning, just a fill color.
  • Red: Amount of work still left to be done.
  • Green: Already finished part of the task.

The next column marked 'new' is an easy way to add a subtask to this task. The last column contains a checkbox you can use to easily change some aspects of the selected tasks. You click on the tasks you would like to change and then select the type of change in the dropdown listbox at the bottom of the screen. Select the correct type, enter a number if appropriate and click on 'OK'. The screen will be redrawn with the new data in place. You can choose from the following list of options:

  • do nothing: Hm, how can I possibly explain this....
  • Delete: Delete all the selected tasks (WITHOUT CONFIRMATION!).
  • Set State to pre: Change the state of these tasks to 'pre'.
  • Set State to ongoing: Change the state of these tasks to 'ongoing'.
  • Set State to finished: Change the state of these tasks to 'finished'.
  • Set State to overdue: Change the state of these tasks to 'overdue'.
  • Reschedule: Enter next to it a numeric value off the number of days you want BOTH start- and enddate to shift.
  • Reschedule start: Enter next to it a numeric value off the number of days you want the startdate to shift.
  • Reschedule end: Enter next to it a numeric value off the number of days you want the enddate to shift.

Let's see how this works. Suppose we think that Bill is never going to make all his bugfixes in time so let's first click on the task and adjust the number of needed workhours to something smaller and even less realistic, say 80 hours. Next we return to this form and start shifting tasks around. So we select the 'get pencils' task and will shift it to a later date by, say, 30 days as shown in the next picture:

The task overview screen with some entered data

Now we click on the "OK" button and have a look at the results. As you can see in the next picture, the little red bar marking the total amount of time has shifted towards the right to indicate a later start and end date.

The changes tasks overview screen.

So far a small demonstration of possible graphics stuff in TUTOS but the next section will tell you an even better tale, the Gantt chart.

The Gantt diagram

One of the things project managers want the most is overview. And since the human mind is much more capable of understanding picture then learning dry stuff like Morse code we should try to make it for the project manager as easy and simple as possible. One of the tools TUTOS delivers is the Gantt diagram. This is a details graphic representation of tasks over time. You could also say that it is somewhat the same as the Task Overview Screen but than with more detail.

Displaying a Gantt diagram is very easy. In the project details screen as well as in the task overview screen is a menu option called 'Gantt diagram' that will display one. For our small demo project a Gantt diagram would look like the one in the next picture.

The Gantt diagram

Unfortunately as you can see, the screen is just to small to fit this graph on. So just for the sake of this demo, we will shorten the project and add a couple of subprojects to clarify the picture a little bit. The result is shown in the next picture. (off course is all resemblance to actual people, products and events purely coincidental).

A new Gantt diagram

Delete

The delete task confirmation message

By now you should be able to delete items blindfold but if you are a natural blond why take chances? :-) As you might have guessed it is possible to delete tasks. Simply go to the task overview screen and click on an individual task. In the screen that will appear you will see a 'delete' option in the upper left part of the menu. Clicking in it will present a confirmation box to you which you should accept if you would like to go ahead and delete this task. If there are more tasks to delete a better option would be to go to the Task Overview screen and select the tasks you want deleted. Select 'delete' from the list at the bottom of the screen and click on OK. No confirmation message this time so be sure about what you're doing.

Import CSV

There is one last option we haven't discusses yet and that is the 'Import CSV' menu option in the project detail screen. With this option it is possible to quickly load a lot of tasks into the system. Clicking on this menu item will bring up the screen shown in the next picture.

The import CSV screen

Just click on the 'Choose' button to select the file you want imported and enter the column names as they are used within the file. When done, click on the 'Import' button to go ahead and upload and import the file into the TUTOS system.