Custom Fields in Microsoft Project
Part two of a six-part series of blogs

Have you ever been frustrated when you can't find a suitable field for entering the data you want in a Microsoft Project plan? Well why not customise your own field and enter anything from simple text, to drop down lists, to complex calculations and even graphical indicators!

  1. Custom Fields in Microsoft Project
  2. Creating Drop Down Lists with Custom Fields (this blog)
  3. Creating Calculated Custom Fields
  4. Using Functions in Custom Fields
  5. Custom Fields and Summary Tasks
  6. Using Graphical Indicators in Custom Fields

This blog is part of a complete guide to customising Microsoft Project.  Wise Owl also run excellent MS Project classroom courses!

Posted by Andrew Gould on 01 August 2011

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Creating Drop Down Lists with Custom Fields

In the first article in this series we looked at how to create a simple custom field and insert it into a table.  This article will show you how to create a more exciting custom field that uses a drop down list!

Our Example

To demonstrate how to create drop lists in custom fields we're going to create a field that lets people choose the importance of a task.  You can see what it will look like in the diagram below:

A custom field using a drop down list

This is what our custom field would look like in Project 2010

Getting Started

To begin with you need to choose to customise a new field, as we described in the previous article in this series.  The diagram below shows what your field should look like:

Customising a text field

Before we can create the list of values we need to set up the custom field basics.  See below for a description of what to do.

  1. Choose to customise a Task field.
  2. Change the data type to Text.
  3. Rename the field by clicking the Rename... button.
  4. Click the Lookup... button to start creating a list of options.  In Project 2003, this button is called Value List...

Creating a List of Options

As soon as you click the Lookup... button (or Value List... button in Project 2003) on the Custom Fields dialog box you can start typing in the list of options that you would like to select from.  The diagram below shows you how to do this:

Setting up a drop down list

Type in your list of options in the table and use the lower half of the dialog box to set how your list will work. All of these options are described below.

  1. Type in the list of options you want to see in the Value column, pressing Enter after each one.  You can optionally enter a Description next to each value which will appear alongside the option when you are choosing it from the list later on.
  2. If you want your field to pre-select a value each time you create a new task or resource you can use this option to do it.  Simply click on one of the options you have typed in, then click this button to set it as the default value for the field.
  3. If you haven't typed your list in the order you want it to appear you can choose between these options to change the sorting.
  4. If you want to be able to type in new values as well as being able to select from the drop down list, select this option.

When you have finished setting up your list of options, click the Close button, then the OK button, and finally insert your column into a table.

What's Next?

So far we've seen two ways to enter data into a custom field: typing it in manually, or selecting it from a preset list of options.  The next step is to show you how you can make custom fields calculate information for you automatically.

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