Why Gantt Charts?

What's the Critical Path?


What are the most important tasks that need done in order to complete a project? Use the Critical Path, an optional Gantt chart feature, to find out. This article explains how the Critical Path works and why it’s useful.

The Critical Path is a visual indicator to see what must get done to complete a project (see the red blocks in the image below). It also shows the quickest time frame you can expect to complete a project.

NOTE: This article assumes that you’re familiar with BigTime’s Gantt chart feature and can access it.

What’s on the Critical Path?

The Critical Path displays the tasks and subtasks that need to be finished in order to complete a project. It’s determined by task dependencies and due dates.

Dependencies, which means one task or subtask is dependent on another, occur when you link one task with another. In the image below, the red arrows connect the dependencies on the Critical Path. Dependencies linked to the task or subtask with the latest due date make up the Critical Path.

Notice that “Design,” “Content,” “Build,” and “Present” are linked together. “Present” is the subtask with the latest due date. That said, “Present” and all of the subtasks connected to it are part of the Critical Path. If a due date for a task that’s part of the Critical Path gets pushed back, then that could delay the date of completion for the whole project.

Change the Critical Path

It’s easy to update the Critical Path, by:

  • Adding subtasks,
  • Removing subtasks, and
  • Expanding subtask deadlines.

This section will explain each option.

Add Subtasks to the Critical Path

Add to your Critical Path by linking subtasks to it.

In the image below, we connect Present to Version 1 by creating a link between them.

Now our Critical Path looks like this:

Remove Subtasks from the Critical Path

Remove a subtask from the Critical Path by breaking the link between the two. To remove “Design” from the Critical Path, simply double click on the link between “Design” and “Content.” A new window will pop up.

Click Delete to delete the link between them.

Expand Task Deadlines

You can change the Critical Path entirely by expanding the date of a subtask that’s not currently on the Critical Path.

In the image below, we want Version 1 to be on the Critical Path. We clicked on Version 1, and expanded the colored block.

Notice how the Critical Path has changed. Task B and Task C are linked with Version 1, which is the task with the latest due date. All of these tasks and subtasks now make up the Critical Path.

Hide the Critical Path

Oftentimes users like to reference the Critical Path, they just don’t want to see it all of the time. In this case, you can “hide” it. Click Hide Critical Path to do just that. Then, re-click this link to restore it.

Remember to click Save to save any changes you’ve made.

Where to Go from Here:

Gantt Chart Auto-Scheduling

Access and Use Gantt Charts

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Further Reading

Need more details? Once you understand the basics, the articles below will take you a little deeper.