In Microsoft Project, you can work on multiple projects simultaneously. This is vital within project management, as you may need to track the trajectory of two projects at once. There are two ways to work with multiple projects in MS Project. For one, you can open projects to display in separate project screens. This allows you to jump back and forth between viewing and editing different projects. You can have both projects open at once, but you’re working on one project at a time. Microsoft Project also allows you to create consolidated projects. Consolidated projects allow you to combine projects and work with them together . This can be especially useful for tracking a master project composed of all active projects. You can even share individual bits of data between projects – such as resources and views.

In this article, we will cover how to work with multiple projects within Microsoft Project. We will look at both opening projects and creating consolidated projects. Lastly, we will explore how to share project data across projects using shared resource pools and the Organizer. 

The following examples are from Microsoft Project 2021 Professional. However, the process will be the same for most desktop versions of Project.

Opening Multiple Projects in Separate Screens

You might have two separate projects that you need to view simultaneously. For example, both projects may be occurring at the same time and feature overlapping dates. If both projects share the same resources, you’ll need to make sure the assigned resources aren’t being over allocated across the two projects.

In Microsoft Project, you can open up multiple projects to view in separate screens. This allows you to jump from working on one project to another. To start, open up one of the desired projects within Microsoft Project. With a project open, you can open up additional projects by selecting File > Open. Select another project from the Recents list or select Browse to search for one on your computer.

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The project will open in a new Project window. If you hover over the Project app within your taskbar, you can switch between the open projects.

Adjusting Project Arrangement

With these projects open, you can now adjust their arrangement on the screen. This allows you to switch between projects and view both projects on a split screen. To adjust the project arrangement, select View from the menu bar. In the Window section, you’ll find a variety of options to switch the display between the open projects. Using the Switch Windows option, you can switch from one open project to another.

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You can also view both projects on one screen by selecting Arrange All. This will split the Project workspace vertically – one project will display on the left and the other on the right. You can switch from a vertical display to a horizontal one by selecting Arrange All again.

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To work in a project, click within the desired section and begin working. You can adjust the view or page of one project without affecting the other. If needed, the divider lines can be expanded by clicking and dragging. To unsplit the screens, simply select the X button in the upper right hand corner of one of the projects. This will close that selected project, but leave all other projects open.

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Consolidated Projects

In Microsoft Project, you can also create consolidated projects. A consolidated project is a group of subprojects that open as if they were one large project. Consolidated projects allow you to view the work across several projects. It’s also through consolidated projects that you can create relationships from one project to another. For example, a future project may only be set to begin after a current project has finished. With a consolidated project, you can create relationships between activities in separate projects.

Even when projects are consolidated, you can still work with them individually. You can even choose to link the consolidated project to the original source files. This means that if you make changes to the original project file, the consolidated project will change as well.

Creating a Consolidated Project

To create a consolidated project, open the first desired project. I recommend starting with the earliest project in the group. With the project open, find a location to insert another project into. You could choose to insert a project into the middle of the open project if needed. For organizational purposes, it’s usually easiest to place additional projects at the end of the open one. This will ensure that both projects remain as they are, but you’re able to work with them together.

To do this, scroll to the bottom of the table and select the first blank cell under the Task Name field. Then, select Project > Subproject. The Windows Explorer will open, and you can now select the projects you want to insert in.

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Within the Windows Explorer, you can also adjust how to combine the projects. Above the File Name field will be an option to Link to project. If you keep this option checked, the files within the consolidated project will stay connected to their original project copies. Any changes made to those individual projects will therefore affect the consolidated project. If you deselect this option, the consolidated project will be more like a project copy. The changes made in any subproject will therefore not be reflected within the consolidated project. I’ll keep this option selected to ensure that connection between the two projects.

Before pressing Insert, note that there is a dropdown menu here with two options: Insert or Insert Read-Only. If you keep this on Insert, you’ll be inserting the project as a subproject. You can then edit or add to this project as needed. However, if you don’t want to be able to adjust this subproject, you can choose Insert Read-Only. This will insert in an uneditable version of the project – you can only view data for this project, but not edit it. I’ll keep this on the default option and select Insert.

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The selected projects will be added to the open project, consolidated. You can expand the summary groupings by selecting the arrow next to the project name. Now, you can view data for both projects – such as when major milestones will occur. You can also create connections between the two projects. For example, let’s say the completion of the first project will lead to the start of the second. I’ll select both the last activity of the first project and the first activity of the second project by holding down the CTRL key on my keyboard. With both tasks selected, I can set them to be in a Finish-to-Start relationship by right clicking and selecting Link. Now, the completion of the first project drives the start of the second project.

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After creating a consolidated project, I recommend saving the file as a new project. This will allow you to keep the individual projects separate from the consolidated one. To save this project as a new file, select File > Save As.

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Sharing Resource Pools

Now that we’ve covered the basics of working with multiple projects, let’s take a look at sharing data. Microsoft Project project files all hold their own sets of data – such as resources and codes. This project data will only be available for one single project by default. However, you can choose to share this data for use in other projects as well.

When working on several projects, you might have some overlapping resources. Instead of having to create the same resource for each project, you can share resources among projects using resource pools.

Resource pools are centralized repositories of resources that can be used across multiple projects. Ideally, you should create and save the resources you need within a single project file – this is generally known as a sharer file. Using File > Open, open up both the sharer file with the resource pool and the project you want to share those resources to. Within the resourceless project, select Resource > Resource Pool > Share Resources. Select Use Resources and choose the sharer project to add those resources to the current project. After pressing OK, you can access the resources from the sharer file within the open project.

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If you make any changes to these resources in your new project, you can have these changes be reflected in the sharer file as well. To save resource adjustments to the sharer file, select Resource > Resource Sharing > Refresh Resource Pool. Here, you can adjust the working periods, rates, and calendars for the resources as needed.

Sharing Data via the Organizer

Beyond resources, you can share other types of project data as well. For example, you might create calendars, codes, or filters in one project that you want to use in future projects as well. Just like with resources, project data will save solely to the project by default and will be unavailable to use within other projects. However, Microsoft Project allows you to share this data among projects and even make it global using the Organizer. The Organizer is a tool within MS Project that allows you to copy data from one project file to another. It also allows the creation of global templates that are available for all projects.

As an example, let’s say I’ve created a calendar for my project that I would like to use for future projects. With this project open, I can choose to make this calendar global or share it with a specific project. If you need to share with a certain project, open that project up as well. Within the project that hosts the desired calendar, select File > Info > Organizer. In the Organizer window, there are different tabs of data that you can share – such as Views, Reports, and Calendars. 

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Within each tab, there will be two sections: one for the current project and one for the other open project. If you don’t have another project open, you’ll see a section called Global.MPT instead – designating global data. Any data that you want available for all projects, new and old, should be moved to the Global section. Within the Calendars tab, I’ll select the calendar I created for the project. I can now move it over to the global section by selecting Copy. Once added to the Global.MPT box, the data will be available by default for any and all projects.

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If you ever want to remove global data, you can do so by selecting the option within the global section and pressing Delete.

Summary

Organizations often require the capability to work with multiple projects simultaneously. You may have projects that drive one another or share the same resources. These types of projects often need to be tracked together.

In Microsoft Project, there are a variety of ways to work with multiple projects at once. You can open individual projects and multi-task between them by switching the view. You can then switch which project displays, or arrange them both on the screen for efficiency. Microsoft Project also allows for the creation of consolidated projects. Consolidated projects are grouped together projects that work as if they were a single unit. With consolidated projects, you can even create relationships between one project and another.

Lastly, MS Project also allows you to share project data between projects. With resource pools and the Organizer, you can share project data – such as calendars and resources – across projects. With the Organizer, you can even choose to create Global templates that all future projects can access.

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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