Nowadays, there are a wide variety of project management programs available. Among these, Microsoft Project and Primavera P6 are generally used the most. Different scheduling programs use different file types, which can make sharing data difficult. For example, the native P6 Professional file type is .xer, while Microsoft Project’s is .mpp. Unfortunately, these file types are not interchangeable. You can not open XER files in MS Project or MPP files in Primavera P6. However, most scheduling programs allow you to export projects in a variety of file types to allow for cross-platform sharing. 

Microsoft Project users may need to share work with Primavera P6 users. You can not do this by saving and sharing the file, as you would with other Project users. Instead, you can share a MS Project file for use in Primavera P6 by exporting it out as an .xml file.

In this article, we will cover the process for exporting Microsoft Project files to XML for use within Primavera P6. For P6 users, we will take a look at how to import a Microsoft Project file for access within your P6 database. If you need to go back and forth between programs, we will also cover exporting projects from P6 and importing them back into MS Project. The following examples are from Microsoft Project 2021 Professional and Primavera P6 Professional 23. However, the process is the same for all desktop versions of MS Project and P6.

Common Project File Types

To start, let’s take a look at some of the most common file types available within project management applications. Contracts will generally stipulate which file type to use.

XER

.xer is the file type most often used with Primavera P6 Professional. XER is an abbreviation for Primavera Exchange Format. These files save all project data and information, including activities, resources, and costs. Without P6, you can open XER files within a text application – but data is generally not comprehensible when viewed this way. XER is the native Primavera P6 file type and is best suited for sharing with other P6 users. Other Oracle products, such as Oracle Primavera Cloud, can use this file type as well. However, non-Oracle products, like Microsoft Project, can not open and work with XER files.

The benefit to using XER over other file types, such as XML, is that they can access and assign global data already within the program. For example, let’s say that we are importing an XER file into the P6 database. The XER file features a resource that already exists within the current P6 database. Rather than adding a new resource for the import file, the XER file will use the existing global resource within the database.

XML

.xml files are Extensible Markup Language files. Like XER files, these files save all project data and information. This is the file type that is generally used for sharing project data across different applications. Almost all scheduling applications allow for the import and export of XML files. You can create XML files in Primavera P6, EPPM, MS Project, and Oracle Primavera Cloud. When transferring data between P6 and Project, this is the file type to use.

MPP

.mpp is the native Microsoft Project file format. Whenever you save a Microsoft Project file, it will save as MPP by default. This file type will save all project data, such as dates, durations, and custom values. This file type was developed and published by Microsoft and can not be created or used within other applications. 

MPX

.mpx files are Microsoft Exchange Files. This format was originally created to share MS Project files with other scheduling applications. Since the release of Microsoft Project 2000, MPX files have been discontinued. You can no longer create or open them within current versions of Microsoft Project. However, Primavera P6 still allows MPX imports, if you do happen to have one.

PDF

PDF is an abbreviation for portable document format. A .pdf file allows you to easily share documents and images. PDF is an ISO file format, meaning that all applications can access and create PDF files. In schedule management, PDF files allow you to share a static image of the project file. Rather than exporting, PDF files are usually created by printing out the schedule.

XLSX/XLS

.xlsx and .xls are file types created and used within Microsoft Excel. These files store spreadsheet data, such as numbers, formulas, and text. Many scheduling applications allow you to import and export projects using this file type. When exporting a project file out to XLSX, each activity will display as a row within the Excel spreadsheet. When importing in an XLSX file, the scheduling application will convert each row into an activity within the project. Microsoft Project, P6, and OPC allow for the import and export of XLSX files. However, some applications, like P6 and OPC, require you to use a specific template when using XLSX. 

SDEF

SDEF is an abbreviation for Standard Data Exchange Format. This file type is used within USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) software programs. SDEF is generally used to transfer schedule information from a scheduler’s database to the government’s management system. Most scheduling applications do not allow you to export project files out as SDEF. However, there are a variety of SDEF conversion tools available. Primavera P6, in particular, gives you access to an SDEF converter within its installation files.

Exporting Projects from Microsoft Project

In Microsoft Project, you can export project files for use in Primavera P6, among other scheduling platforms. These applications will not be able to open the native .mpp file. Instead, you will need to export and save the project using a different file type.

To export a project in Microsoft Project, first open it up within the program. Select the File menu and then Export. Here, you can choose to either export the file to a PDF/XPS document, or save it as another file type. Selecting Create PDF/XPS Document will allow you to save a static image of the project file. Recipients of this file will not be able to work with the project or adjust data – they’ll just be able to view the schedule. This provides the same result printing the project. The created PDF/XPS file will take on the default print settings within Project. Although you can create PDF copies here, I generally recommend printing instead, as it will give you more control over how the PDF looks.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

The other option, Save Project as File, allows you to choose a different file type to save the project as. The following options are available:

  • Project: This will save the project as the default project file type, MPP. This gives the same result as pressing Save As.

     

  • Project 2007 Project: MS Project versions 2010 and up all use the same file type. However, earlier versions of MS Project from 2007-2010 used a different type of .mpp file. If you need to access this file in a version of MS Project prior to Project 2010, make sure to use this option.

     

  • Project Template: This option allows you to create Project templates. If you plan on creating the same sorts of projects, you may want to create a template file to make it easier. You also have the option to create Project 2007 templates to share with older program versions.

     

  • Microsoft Excel Workbook: This option allows you to save the project data as an Excel spreadsheet. With this option, you’ll be able to specify which data to include within the spreadsheet. There is a premade Project Excel Template, which will export all basic project information. You can also choose to create your own “map” – allowing you to determine which variables from the project to include within the export file.

     

  • XML Format: This is the file type compatible with most other scheduling programs, such as Primavera P6 and Oracle Primavera Cloud. If your recipient uses another scheduling platform, you will most likely need to export the project to XML.

     

  • Save as Another File Type: If you can’t find the desired file type, there are more options available under Save as Another File Type. You’ll have options here to export the project as a text file or to an earlier version of Excel.

In this example, I’ll be exporting my project for use in Primavera P6, so I’ll select XML Format. Then, press Save As. The Save As window will open, where you can give the file a name and choose a location on your computer to save it to. Then, select Save.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

With the file saved, you can now share it with others via email, cloud, or network drive. Recipients will not be able to simply click on the file to open it. Instead, they will need to import it into their scheduling application.

Importing Projects into Primavera P6

To be able to access the XML file within Primavera P6, you will need to import it in. To import a project, open the program and select File > Import. The Import window will open, walking you through the process. First, select the file type that you’ll be importing. You can choose between XER, XML, XLSX, or Microsoft Project XML or MPX. When importing in a MS Project XML file, make sure you select Microsoft Project XML, rather than Primavera P6 XML. With the file type selected, press Next.

On the next screen, you can select the projects to import into the system. Press Select, and browse your computer for the saved MS Project XML file. Select the file and press Open. You’ll also need to choose an Import Action. For this project, I can choose to create a new project, update an existing project, or replace an existing project. I’ll select Create New Project. Under Import To, select a EPS layer to place the project into – I’ll keep this on the default of Enterprise. Then, select Next.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

Under Template, you can choose which mapping template to use. This determines how the fields within MS Project map to fields within Primavera P6. By default, the program provides a few preset mapping templates. Generally, the MSP Mapping option works best when moving MS Project files to Primavera P6. If you want to adjust these templates, you can select Add to create a new one, or Modify to adjust one of the existing ones. To keep things simple, I’ll select the preset MSP Mapping template and select Next.

Lastly, you’ll be able to review the import configuration info. If it all looks acceptable, select Finish to complete the import. Once complete, you’ll see the Import Result, telling you that the import was successful. If the import is ever unsuccessful, the program will provide access to an import log where you can see what went wrong. Select Close, and you will now be able to see, access, and open the project within the Projects screen.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

Exporting Primavera P6 Projects for Microsoft Project

Once you have made adjustments within Primavera P6, you may need to share the project with the original scheduler for review. It’s important to note that the Microsoft Project exports the project as a copy. The version of the project we imported into P6 is disconnected from the original file in MS Project. If we want to see the changes we’ve made in P6 reflected within Microsoft Project, we will need to export the project from P6 and import it back into Project.

To export a project out of Primavera P6, open the desired project and select File > Export. Within the Export window, first choose a file type to export the project out as. P6 gives you a variety of file types to choose from, including XER and XML. For use in Microsoft Project, select Microsoft Project and choose an XML version. These XML versions will coincide with the different versions of Project, and you should choose the current version you’re using or prior. For example, if I were using Project 2016, I would want to choose either XML 2016 or a prior version. In this case, I’m using an up to date version of Project, so I’ll select the most recent option, XML 2019, and select Next.

On the next screen, you can choose which projects to export, if you have more than one open. As I only have one project open, it is selected by default. Under Export File Name, select the ellipses button to choose a location to save the exported file to. I’ll save this project to my Desktop and select Next

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

Just like with importing, we can choose a template for mapping MSP and P6 fields. I’ll keep this on the default of MSP Mapping and select Next. On the last screen, you can review your export information and then select Finish to complete the process.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

Once again, the window will let you know if the export was successful. If it was, you can now find the exported XML file on the location you chose to save it to on your computer. You can now share this file with others via email or file sharing system, and they can import it back into Microsoft Project.

Importing XML Files into Microsoft Project

Lastly, let’s take a look at how to import XML files into Microsoft Project. Unlike MPP files, XML files will not open in Project automatically when you double click on them. Instead, you need to import the file into Project before you can continue working with it. To import a project into Project, open the program and select File > Open. Select Browse to search your computer for the project file to import.

In the Windows Explorer, you will only be able to see .mpp files by default. To adjust this, select the file type dropdown next to the File Name field and choose XML Format. Now, you will be able to see any MS Project XML files available. Select the desired project file and press Open.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

The Import Wizard will open, stepping you through the process of importing the file. First, you can choose to have this project imported as a new project, or append or merge it to the active project. I’ll keep this on As a new project and select Finish.

The project will automatically open up within the Project workspace. Now, you can continue working on the project with the changes made in Primavera P6. You can continue importing/exporting in this same way to share project files from Project to P6 and back again.

How to Import XER file into newer version of Primavera P6

Conclusion

Most programs have their own native file type – such as XER for Primavera P6 and MPP for Microsoft Project. This can make it a little tricky to share project files across platforms. Luckily, these programs often allow you to export projects to other file types for sharing. When sharing projects from Microsoft Project to P6, you will need to first export the project out as an XML file. You can then import that XML file into Primavera P6 for further review. When sharing from P6 to MS Project, you will need to export the project out as a Microsoft Project XML file. In the same way, you can import these XML files back into Microsoft Project. Utilizing the XML file type, you can share projects between not only Project and P6, but other scheduling applications alike.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please use the comment section on the bottom of this page, and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to get more scheduling tips & tricks directly in your inbox!

Lauren Hecker is a Microsoft Project, Primavera P6, and Oracle Primavera Cloud Instructor who teaches onsite and virtual scheduling courses. To see her next open enrollment course, please visit our calendar. To schedule an onsite or custom course, please contact us!

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