Outline tasks into subtasks and summary tasks (Indent/Outdent)

​​You can break down your task list to make it appear more organized and readable by just indenting and outdenting the project's tasks to create an outline of the summary tasks and subtasks.

Choose a method to organize your tasks
When organizing the tasks for a project, you can group the tasks that share characteristics or that will be completed in the same time frame under a summary task. You can use the summary tasks to show the major phases and sub phases in the project. Summary tasks summarize the data of their subtasks, which are the tasks that are grouped beneath them. You can indent the tasks as many levels as you need to reflect the organization of your project.

There are two methods for organizing your task list:

  • With the top-down method, you identify the major phases first and then break the phases down into individual tasks. The top-down method gives you a version of the plan as soon as you decide on the major phases.

Note   If you can think of tasks that don't fit under the phases that you defined, you are probably missing a phase.

  • With the bottom-up method, you list all the possible tasks first, and then you group them into phases.

After you decide on a method for organizing your tasks, you can begin outlining them into summary tasks and subtasks.

Create summary tasks and subtasks
Create an outline for your tasks by indenting and outdenting them to create the summary tasks and subtasks. By default, the summary tasks are bold and outdented, and the subtasks are indented beneath them.

How are the summary task values calculated?

Not all summary task values show the combined total of your subtask values. Although some summary task values (such as cost and work) represent the total subtask values, others (such as duration and baseline) do not. For example, application calculates the duration of a summary task as the total work time between the earliest start date and latest finish date of its subtasks.


This summary task information summarizes the period between the earliest start date and latest finish date of all the included subtasks. It does not show the sum of all the subtask durations.

You can indent/outdent:

  • single task corresponding to single row selection   or
  • multiple tasks corresponding to multiple row selection

Because application calculates the summary task values, they cannot be edited. If you need to change a summary task's values, such as duration, update the individual subtasks. Summary task values are then recalculated.

  1. On the Task menu, click Gantt Chart.
  2. Click the row for the task that you want to indent as a subtask or outdent as a summary task.
  3. Click Indentindent.png  to indent the task, making it a subtask.

          Click Outdent outdent.pngto outdent the task, making it a summary task.

Tip   You can indent or outdent a task quickly with the mouse. Point to the first letter of the task name. When the pointer changes to a double-headed arrow, drag right to indent the task or drag left to outdent the task.

outdent mouse.png

Another possibility is to indent/outdent more than one task at a time by using multiple selection. To select multiple rows at a time use SHIFT key for selecting a group of adjacent rows or CTRL key for selecting several nonadjacent rows.

After you selected several rows, use the Indent or Outdent option to indent or outdent multiple tasks at a time. When indenting multiple tasks at a time, all the selected tasks will become subtasks having as summary task the closest task above them.

You may find this especially useful in the initial stages of your project during the planning process, when you want to quickly create the work breakdown structure of your project.

The task I selected doesn't move when I click one of the outline buttons. What's happening?

If you are unable to indent or outdent your tasks:

    • You may be trying to outdent a first-level task     Tasks at the first outline level cannot be outdented. Instead, indent those tasks that you want to include as subtasks to the first-level summary task.
    • You may be trying to indent or outdent assignments, not tasks     The Resource Usage and Task Usage views display task and resource assignments with indentations similar to those of subtasks. Although assignments may be shown or hidden along with subtasks, they cannot be indented or outdented.
    • You may be working in a view that doesn't use the outline buttons     Outline buttons (such as Outdent outdent.pngor Indent indent.png) work only in the Gantt Chart, Task Sheet, or Tracking Gantt views.

Note: When creating the work breakdown structure of your project, you may find helpful to use Undo or Redo options under Task menu, that allows you to go one step backward or forward relative to your recent changes.