The critical path in Microsoft Project will display the project tasks that have a direct impact on the project finish date. This is extremely useful when trying to shorten the duration of a project to meet a deadline or ‘Go Live’ date.

The critical tasks in Microsoft Project are known to have no slack. This means there is no room for manoeuvre and any delay, or extra time required on the task will delay the project finish date.

It also identifies the tasks that should be targeted if you want to bring the project finish date forward.

View the Critical Path

The best way of viewing the critical path in MSP is by using the Tracking Gantt Chart.

  • Click View > Tracking Gantt


  • If you have the View Bar visible on the left of the screen, click the Tracking Gantt button

The critical tasks are the tasks with the red bars. The tasks with the blue bars are now known as non-critical tasks.

The critical path is dynamic so it will adapt as tasks are completed, delayed, added and deleted.

Task controls such as constraints can have a big impact on the critical path, and illustrate why it is good to be careful when using constraints in Microsoft Project.

Formatting the Gantt Chart to Show the Critical Path

If you decide that switching to the Tracking Gantt Chart is not for you. You can use the Gantt Chart Wizard to format the standard Gantt Chart to show the critical path.

  1. Click the Gantt Chart Wizard button on the Formatting toolbar
  2. The Gantt Chart Wizard begins. Click Next on the first step
  3. Select Critical Path as the information you would like to see and click Next
  4. Select Resources and Dates which should be the default task information and click Next
  5. Ensure Yes is selected to see the link lines between dependent tasks and click Next
  6. The congratulations screen tells you that the Gantt Chart Wizard is ready to format. Click the Format It button
  7. Click Exit Wizard

The critical path is displayed and can now be used as a tool to keep your project on track. There are many features in Microsoft Project to help you with Critical Path Analysis (CPA) such as reports, filters and additional views and tables to see other details about your project.

Microsoft Project Critical Path Tutorial