A Beginner’s Guide to Using Visual Reports in Microsoft Project

Article by: Avantix Learning Team | Updated May 16, 2016

Applies to: Microsoft® Project® 2010, 2013 and 2016 (Standard and Professional)

Visual Reports offer a useful alternative for reporting compared to reports created within Microsoft Project. You can export data to both Excel and Visio using Visual Reports. These reports first appeared in Microsoft Project 2007 and are available in Project 2010, 2013 and 2016. In this article, we’ll focus on getting started with Visual Reports and sending data to Excel using the templates that are shipped with Project.

The obvious benefit of Visual Reports is that data can be sent to Excel. Although many business users have Microsoft Excel installed, significantly fewer have a copy of Microsoft Project. As a result, sharing Project information can present a problem in many organizations. The Visual Reports button appears on the Project tab in the Ribbon in 2010 and in the Report tab in 2013 and 2016.

Below is the Project tab in 2010:

Microsoft Project 2010 Project tab on the Ribbon.

Below is the Report tab in 2013:

Microsoft Project tab on the Ribbon in 2013.

When a Visual Report is sent to Excel, both a PivotTable and PivotChart are created for the built-in templates. Once the report has been sent, you can customize it in Excel.

Recommended article: 10 Timesaving Shortcuts in Microsoft Project’s Gantt Chart View

Accessing Visual Reports

To access Visual Reports:

  1. In Microsoft Project, click on the Report tab (2013 and 2016) or the Project tab (2010) on the Ribbon.
  2. Click on Visual Reports. A Create Report dialog box appears with the default Visual Report templates.

Microsoft Project Create Visual Report dialog box.

Visual Report templates

The default templates that are shipped with Project appear in the Create Report dialog box and are separated into categories. You can click on a category at the top or click on the All tab to view all report templates and then select the Excel button or checkbox at the top of the dialog box to view only Excel templates.

Excel Visual Report templates include:

  • Cash Flow Report
  • Earned Value Over Time Report
  • Resource Cost Summary Report
  • Resource Work Availability Report
  • Resource Work Summary Report
  • Resource Cost Summary Report
  • Resource Work Availability Report
  • Resource Work Summary Report
  • Baseline Cost Report
  • Baseline Work Report
  • Budget Cost Report
  • Budget Work Report
  • Earned Value Over Time Report
  • Resource Remaining Work Report

Creating an Excel Visual Report using a template

To create an Excel Visual Report using a template:

  1. In Microsoft Project, click on the Report tab (2013 and 2016) or the Project tab (2010) on the Ribbon.
  2. Click on Visual Reports. A Create Report dialog box appears (usually with the default Visual Report templates).
  3. Ensure that the Excel checkbox at the top of the dialog box is selected.
  4. Click on the All tab and then click on the report you want to create.
  5. Select an option from the Select level of usage data drop-down menu. You can select Years, Quarters, Months, Weeks or Days. By default, Project sets the level of usage data to a recommended level for the project’s size (which is usually weeks). If you change the level of usage to a more detailed level such as days, this may decrease the report performance and slow down the generating of the report.
  6. Click on View to generate the report and open it in Excel. This may take a minute or two. The Excel report opens with tabs at the bottom of the workbook for a PivotChart and a PivotTable.

Below is the Resource Work Summary report in Excel 2010:

Visual Report in Excel 2010.

Below is the Resource Work Summary report in 2013:

Resource Work summary report in Excel 2013.

Editing a Visual Report in Excel

Visual Reports sent to Excel appear in Compatibility Mode in 2010 and later versions and can therefore be read by older versions of Excel (the templates were originally created for 2007). You may want to save the report in the newest Excel format to take advantage of new features such as Sparklines. Eventually, you may even want to save your own templates in Excel.

To edit a PivotChart in a Visual Report in Excel:

  1. Click in the PivotChart in Excel that was created during the generation of the Visual Report.
  2. Click on the PivotChart Tools Design, Layout, Format or Analyze tabs (depending on your version of Excel) and choose the desired options to modify the PivotChart.
  3. Click in the PivotChart Field List and select any fields you wish to add to the PivotChart.
  4. You may want to click on the File tab on the Ribbon and select Save As, then select Microsoft Excel as the format (if you want to use new features), enter a name for the file and click on Save.

To edit a PivotTable in a Visual Report in Excel:

  1. Click in the PivotTable in Excel that was created during the generation of the Visual Report.
  2. Click on the PivotTable Tools Design, Options or Analyze tabs (depending on your version of Excel) and choose the desired options to modify the PivotTable.
  3. Click in the PivotTable Field List and select any fields you wish to add to the PivotTable.
  4. You may want to click on the File tab on the Ribbon and select Save As, then select Microsoft Excel as the format (if you want to use new features such as Sparklines), enter a name for the file and click on Save.

In this article, we used existing templates to create Visual Reports. You can also modify a Visual Report template and create a new Visual Report template.

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Recommended Microsoft Project training courses

You may be interested in our Microsoft Project: Introduction course, our Microsoft Project: Intermediate / Advanced course or the Microsoft Project: Introduction to VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) course.

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