How To Make A Gantt Chart In Excel For Free. No Plugins Or Add-Ons Needed!

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

Gantt charts are used almost exclusively for a single purpose:

To show project timelines.

You might find another use for a Gantt chart, but that’s the main one.

Why?

Because it’s perfect for that purpose!

Unfortunately, Excel doesn’t have a built-in way to create a Gantt chart.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make one—you just need to get a little creative!

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Here’s one way to create a Gantt chart in Excel 🙂

Let’s get started!

*This tutorial is for Excel 2019 for Windows. Got a different version? No problem, you can still follow the exact same steps.

Why use a Gantt chart?

If Excel doesn’t support automatically making Gantt charts, why would you want to make one?

For one specific reason: because it’s the best way to show project timelines.

Whether you’re planning a project and showing estimated time commitments or reviewing a project and showing what actually happened, a Gantt chart makes your information clearer than any other graph.

Scheduling, task assignment, and other project-management-related concepts are all well-represented by a Gantt chart.

But because creating on is rather involved, if you’re considering using a Gantt chart for anything else, make absolutely sure there isn’t a better graph for your purpose.

A line graph is great for showing fluctuating values over time, for example. And a column chart is good for comparing sets of values.

If there’s another chart that will serve your purpose, we recommend using it, as creating a Gantt chart is a bit involved.

Are you sure you want to build a Gantt chart? Then read on!

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Get your FREE exercise file

We’ve included a free, downloadable example workbook for you.

Download and open it in Excel to follow along and create your own Gantt chart!

Download the FREE Exercise File

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Download free exercise file

Formatting data for Gantt charts

To create a Gantt chart, you’ll need to have your data in a very specific format. We’ll take a look at it, then go over each part:

gantt-chart-data

You’ll need three different sections in your data:

  • Task
  • Start date
  • Duration

You could also include an end date, notes, or other information, but these are the only three you’ll need for your Gantt chart.

The date format you use is up to you—just make sure you’re consistent throughout your document.

Also, note that shorter formats make for an easier-to-read chart.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Making a Gantt chart

Now that your data is formatted, you can start the process of making your Gantt chart.

The first you’ll need to do is create a stacked bar chart. Go to the Insert tab in the Ribbon, click on Insert Column or Bar Chart, and select Stacked Bar:

insert-stacked-bar

Make sure not to select 100% Stacked Bar—that won’t work.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

You’ll see a chart that looks like this:

new-stacked-bar

This is starting to look like a Gantt chart, but we need to make some changes.

First, right-click on any blue bar and select Format Data Series:

format-series-gantt

A panel will slide in from the right side of the screen.

Click on the paint can, then select No Fill and No Line (in the Border section):

no-fill-line

Now, close the panel and click on your chart.

The blue bars will have disappeared, leaving you with a Gantt chart!

excel-gantt-chart

You may notice that the tasks were added in reverse order. Let’s change that.

Right-click on your task list (in the chart; it’s the vertical axis label) and select Format Axis:

format-axis-gantt

Under Axis Options, you’ll see a checkbox labelled Categories in reverse order. Make sure that’s checked.

reverse-categories-gantt

Now your Gantt chart should be looking good!

Pro tip: delete the legend

The legend in a Gantt chart doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

And once you remove the fill and border from one set of bars, it’s going to look pretty strange.

To get rid of it, click the legend and press Delete on your keyboard.

Pro tip 2: adjust the horizontal scale

As you can see in our chart, Excels leaves plenty of extra space on the horizontal axis:

excel-gantt-horizontal

To fix that, right-click on the horizontal axis labels and select Format Axis.

Then click the chart on the far-right of the Format Axis panel and open Axis Options.

axis-options-gantt

For our chart, we’ll adjust the minimum bound. Because this is displayed in a rather strange format, we’ll have to guess until we find the right scale.

Increase the minimum bound by a few points until you get the scale right. Then adjust the maximum bound.

Eventually, you’ll find the right values:

excel-adjusted-gantt

Adding recurring tasks

In the chart above, each task only occurs once. But many Gantt charts require recurring tasks.

The solution to this in Excel isn’t exactly elegant, but it works.

First, head back to your task list spreadsheet.

Let’s say we want to add another occurrence of “RFP Review.”

In the column after duration, you’ll need to add the number of days between the two occurrences.

Our first occurrence goes from March 1st to March 3rd. If we want another one on March 10th, we’ll need to type a 7 in the next column.

In the column after that, we’ll add the duration of the next occurrence:

recurring-task-gantt

When we make the Gantt chart again, you’ll see an important difference:

recurring-task-pre-format

Follow the same steps as above to get rid of the blue bars, then do the exact same thing for the grey bar:

gantt-recurring-two-color

Finally, right-click on the yellow bar, select Format Data Series, and use the Fill options to change the color so it matches the other bars (you’ll usually need to select Solid Fill first):

change-bar-fill

After all of these steps, you’ll finally have a recurring task in your Gantt chart.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto
gantt-recurring

It’s not the most efficient process, but it works!

Become an Excel Gantt chart master

Excel doesn’t have built-in capabilities to create Gantt charts, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done!

It might seem like a very roundabout way to make a Gantt chart, but once you’ve done it a few times, it will become very natural and you’ll be creating Gantt charts in just a few minutes.

Depending on your requirements and budget, there may be a Gantt chart maker online that can cater to your needs.

And your coworkers will be very impressed if they’ve looked for Gantt chart options in Excel!

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto
2019-09-19T14:08:55+00:00