Project Server Tasks in Outlook: Part 1


The following is the first in a series of two posts from Jon Kaufthal, a program manager from the Project team.


– Melissa


Hi Outlook task fans–I’m excited to introduce you to Project Server’s integration with Outlook. Tasks are a big part of the Project/Project Server experience, and our integration is all about putting you in control and letting you see your Project Server tasks where you want them—which for many of you is good old (err…new!) Outlook. You can then report status back to Project Server from within Outlook.


If you haven’t worked with Project or Project Server before, here’s a quick overview: Project is a powerful tool for managing projects, and Project Server works with Project to centralize data about your projects—and tasks, issues, risks, your organization’s people and their time, and more. Project Web Access (PWA) is a Web interface to Project Server where team members can log in and see what’s assigned to them, report status back to the project manager, get reports, and more. Project is the tool for the project manager, while PWA is geared towards everyone on a project—project managers, team members, execs, and managers. Project and Project Server are a fairly structured way of managing work, but they can be incredibly powerful in helping you stay on track and use your resources efficiently.  For more detail, see the Office preview site on the Enterprise Project Management Solution, Project 2007 generally, and Project Web Access 2007. Also check out Erika Ehrli’s blog post on Project Resources, including links to more Project team bloggers.


Here are a few basics about Project Server-Outlook integration:


·         This feature works only with Project Server/Project Web Access, not standalone Project Standard/Pro


·         It integrates with both Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007


·         This post discusses the Project Server 2007 Outlook integration feature, though there is a similar feature for Project Server 2003


·         Though built as a COM add-in for Outlook, this feature comes “in the box” with Project Server. From the Project Web Access “My Tasks” page, you’ll see a “Set up Outlook Sync” link on the Actions menu.


OK—so once you’ve installed the add-in, you’ll see a new toolbar in Outlook:



These two buttons are the keys to understanding the Project Server add-in for Outlook. Its purpose in life is basically to sit between Project Server and Outlook, and to manage the communication/sync between the two. Note that it’s not a single “sync” action, because you may want to import fairly often but then only send updates to the project manager, say, at the end of the week. You can also schedule these actions, which basically just tells the add-in “click import/update for me every x number of hours/days.”


Assuming you have tasks assigned to you in Project Web Access, and once you’ve entered the URL, clicking Import will log you in and bring up a dialog like this:



This preview lets you know what you’re about to update into Outlook. Note that these are tasks assigned to YOU—the add-in is all about team members seeing their own tasks in Outlook, not letting a project manager see his entire team’s work—that’s what Project is for!


 Click OK, wait a few seconds, and…


<Applause!>


…these tasks will appear in Outlook, right next to your existing tasks. Other than name (“Task Name – Project Name”) and category, they’ll be indistinguishable from your existing tasks.


Actually, tasks is the default, but if you prefer you can have these show up as calendar appointments in Outlook. Either way, you get all of the extra Project Server goodness, and can maintain a 2-way updating of your info. You control this and other settings from a new tab created in Outlook’s Tools | Options named “Project Web Access”.


One more note if you’re showing imported Project tasks in the Daily Task List in the Outlook calendar: you may want to consider changing the Daily Task List to sort by Start Date, so that you don’t get caught off-guard when you have a task that spans a few days/weeks.


Once your Project tasks are in Outlook, you can treat them just like regular tasks (or appointments). More on this topic (i.e. what Project tasks look like in Outlook) to come in my next blog post…


-Jon


P.S. If you’re interested in Project Server but don’t want to set up your own server, some of our partners offer hosting.


 

Comments (40)

  1. Andreas says:

    Ever run accross the situation that imported "tasks" from project server are showing up as appointments (with no way to update the project information)??

    Any ideas what needs to be fixed?

    Thanks

    Andreas

  2. The following is the second in a series of two posts from Jon Kaufthal, a program manager from the Project

  3. The Program Manager in Outlook (Melissa) and one of our Program Managers here in Project (Jon) collaborated

  4. Regarding Andreas’ comment; did you drag the task onto the calendar in the daily/weekly calendar view?  When i did this, it created an appointment with a copy of all the task information, but not in the regular Project form.  Also when i did this, although the appointment which i created was useless, the task was still there and functioning.  I prefer to view tasks from the task page with hot-key Ctrl-4.

  5. Dawn Henry says:

    Did you try looking in the Web Access options?  There is an option to have them import as either tasks or calendar items.

  6. Colin Bowern says:

    It would be great to see the synchronization component made an open (shared) source example for other developers!

  7. Susana Wharton says:

    I had the following error when I opened Microsoft Outlook, can anybody help me?

    "Outlook experienced a serious error the last time the add-in ‘microsoft project server add-in’ was opened. Would you like to disable this add-in? "

    Note. I dont want to disable project server add-in

  8. Jesse Taylor says:

    I have an intersting problem with the task list view.  When I mark a task as complete by clicking its checkbox the task does not get set as complete in project server.  I find that I have to double click the task and bring up the project server dialog box.  If I close that dialog box and then check the task it will then update the project task.  Any idea what’s happening here?

  9. Toolbar not functioning says:

    My toolbar does nto function at all.  When i click on the buttons within Outlook it does nothing – there is not even an error.  I have tried to uninstall and re-install and this did not work.  I also re-installed Outlook 2007 and then Office 2007 but still I have no joy.

    Please, please give me a solution.

    Note: I had Office 2003 with the Project 2003 plug-in and ever since the upgrade I have not been able to get this toolbar to work.

    Thanks,

    Dino

  10. lr says:

    I installed the PWA add-in to Outlook and it worked exactly one time.  The next time, i could still see the buttons in outlook but nothing would happen. I’ve removed the add-ins and repaired (reinstalled), and then removed entirely using the Control Panel and reinstalled…all to no avail.  We’re using Exchange Server 2003 and Project Server 2003.  

  11. Scott says:

    I am using the 2003 version. i can get all the tasks to load into outlook, but then when i sync to exchange all the tasks are removed. does anyone have any ideas?

  12. physicalpursuit says:

    I have a client who is using this feature, however, they cannot enter their time via Outlook because the fields are all greyed out.  Anyone have any idea why?  I’ve done plenty of searching and have yet to find out why.

  13. Peter Degtjarewsky says:

    I’m having a problem with Outlook 2007/Project 2007 integration (I’m using Vista). The "Save to Project Web Access" button is not visible (except for a small portion of it) in the Task Management tab. If I make a change in that tab (hours) and then click on the Timesheet tab to click the button, the add-in crashes.

  14. PMRS says:

    I had this happen to me as well, and it seemed to be that the timesheet had already been submitted in Project Server.  Once I recalled the timesheet in Project Server, I was able to edit the timesheet in Outlook.

  15. darknessembrace says:

    I have installed the add-on but when I try and import task, I get an access denied to external time sheet. I talked to my Admin and teh groups I have been added to in security all have the rights to access external timesheet.  Has anyone run into this and what was your solution.

  16. Nanny says:

    I’m having a problem with Outlook 2007/Project 2007 integration (I’m using Vista). The "Save to Project Web Access" button is not visible (except for a small portion of it) in the Task Management tab. If I make a change in that tab (hours) and then click on the Timesheet tab to click the button, the add-in crashes.

  17. Alison says:

    Has anyone continually gotten this "SOAP error"  where the app is "unable to process the last request" and then you can’t find out anything?

  18. jshields70 says:

    Alison, we experienced the same SOAP error/exception " unable to process the last request".  The solution was to delete a corrupt project that the user created.  The user created the project and experience a crash of the either the browser or system that led to the corrupt project.

    John

  19. Doug says:

    I expoerienced the same issue as Allison; however, one of my coworkers was able to download tasks from the same project without errors.  It appears to only be when I try to download tasks from these certain projects.

  20. daniel.borlinghaus says:

    John, do you have any idea how to locate the corrupt project? We’re currently dealing with the same issue but I have no idea how to locate the corrupt project within the 15 others. Thanks, Daniel

  21. Ed says:

    For one of our folks, changing the login URL from x.y.com to just the host x solved the problem.  For another, doing the reverse solved the problem.  For me, neither solves the problem. Uninstalling the outlook add-in and re-installing does not solve the problem. As for further evidence, once this error hits – 3 times during an Import New Assignments, the progress bar popup stays open at 100% and will not go away until Outlook shut down.  Searching for a newer version of the add-in on Microsoft sites is absolutely impossible. And one of the great frustrations aside from this error is that the SOAP Exception does not tell you anything more – a gripe I have about many Microsoft products – playing so dumb about errors when they indeed know the details of what was thrown back at them.

  22. M M says:

    How do you change the login URL once you have installed the add-on for MS Outlook? Is there a setting one can adjust?

  23. Scanners says:

    Daniel

    I am having the same problem as you are having except I have got about 50 projects in the server. Did you get an answer on how you find the corrupt project.

    Scanners

  24. Gene says:

    We found that a resource with assignments in two project plans can’t import their assignments to Outlook.  They get the error/exception " unable to process the last request".  

  25. Lisa Tansey says:

    Boy, I would sure *love* to have Project integrate into Outlook Tasks…and was pretty excited to see this blog posting…until I read all the problems folks are having actually using the feature…new problems being reported right up until a few weeks ago…and few resolutions being posted to deal with them.  I guess this is not yet a mature technology and I should wait.  Too bad!

  26. Jon Kaufthal says:

    First, thanks for reading, and for all of the great questions and feedback. Keep it coming!

    I want be sure you know that we are listening! I apologize for not responding sooner, but please understand that I and others are regularly keeping an eye on your comments. In many cases, the blogs are not well-suited to be an in-depth troubleshooting forum, but just knowing what difficulties folks are running into helps us understand where we need to improve in the future. It’s also great to see the community helping one another in many cases here.

    That said, let me take a stab at addressing at least some of the feedback:

    1. Along the lines mentioned above—the Outlook add-in can be tricky to troubleshoot in general. There are a lot of moving pieces, when you consider the Outlook COM add-in infrastructure, Project Server’s PSI interface, Project Server security settings, Exchange security settings, Outlook settings, etc. We test our products under a wide variety of configurations, and rely on extensive beta testing to get further feedback—but there may be config-specific issues we haven’t encountered. In most cases these will need to be troubleshooted via product support.

    2. Service Pack 1 is coming very soon! Some of the feedback mentioned has been very helpful to us in prioritizing our SP1 release. I can’t promise that all of your issues will be addressed, but I hope you’ll find that some of the most common issues are better with SP1. Here’s a recent story on the SP1 release schedule: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9051238&intsrc=news_ts_head

    One key fix in Project Server SP1 is to correct an issue where our timesheet API was not correctly handling custom fields. This single issue caused many problems with the add-in, in some cases making it fail to load or show some of the errors mentioned in your comments.

    Other specific comments:

    3. Susana—did you try saying “No” to this dialog? It’s hard to understand what’s going on without more information, but in some cases Outlook can fail for unrelated reasons (eg, you pull the plug out of the computer) and give this prompt.

    4. Disabled fields—a few reasons why you might see these include:

    • Protected actuals

    • Invalid timesheet periods / timesheet not created

    • Time tracking method settings

    • Already-submitted timesheet (as PMRS suggested)

    5. Changing the login URL – you can do this from within Outlook’s Tools Options interface, on the “Project Web Access” tab.

    6. Lisa, I hope you’ll give this feature a try! We hear a great deal about the issues when they come up, but please realize that there are many customers happily using the add-in. And when things go less than smoothly, your feedback is a key part of helping us improve—both in the short term with hotfixes and service packs, and in the longer term with future releases.

    Thanks,

    Jon

  27. Alan says:

    I’m trying to setup the outlook plugin using outlook 07, and project server 07, but it keeps telling me the URL is invalid. Is there a specific format i should put the URL in? (ie http://servername/pwa)

  28. aaron7512 says:

    Jon, I too cannot get Outlook 2007 to sync with project Server 2007.

    Login attempts yield an error in Outlook that Project Server’s (2007) PWA URL is invalid, even though the exact same URL works fine in IE7.

    I am using internal machine name/PWA (http://servername/pwa).

    I tried connecting to two different Project Server 2007 servers in my network, one running on a virtual Win2k3, and one on a virtual Win2008RC disk. All attempts failed and generated the same error message about invalid URL. Please help!

  29. anthony says:

    i’m have the exact same problem as Jon and Aaron

  30. Al Blake says:

    We’re having the SOAP error too. Using Project2k7 Outlook add-in with OL2003. OL2k7 is not an option at this stage due to the org change management for 3500 users.

    Anyone know how to find out whether there is a corrupted project and if so, which one out of the 50 we have?

  31. Al Blake says:

    Ok,

    Just downloaded and installed Projectserver SP1. Makes no difference. Still get the same SOAP error when synchronsing with PWA. Very frustrating!

  32. RJ says:

    We are experiencing the same SOAP error using the add in.  We also confirmed that having a resource assigned to more than one project plan causes the issue.  If SP1 doesn’t fix this, has anyone found another workaround??

  33. Jon Kaufthal says:

    Alan/Aaron/Anthony–interesting that this problem only seems to affect people whose name starts with "a" 🙂

    That is the right URL format. Do you see the Invalid URL message after clicking "Test Connection"? What if you enter the URL, don’t click "Test Connection", and then try to Import/Update? If it doesn’t work, what error do you get?

    Also wondering about proxy issues. You may want to look in Internet Explorer under Tools | Internet Options | Connection | LAN Settings, and review (and possibly tweak) what’s been set for  all of the proxy, the auto detect settings, etc.

  34. Jon Kaufthal says:

    Al–From the reports we’ve seen (and knowing the source code), this is not an Outlook 2003 vs 2007 issue. Either version is equally susceptible.

  35. Jon Kaufthal says:

    RJ and Al–the problem fixed in SP1 was a PSI (Project Server Interface) change that was causing the add-in to fail. With pre-SP1, you can go to your Resource Custom Fields and turn off the “Roll down unless manually specified” option in the “Calculation for Assignment Rows" section of Edit Custom Field page. Does doing this fix the issue?

  36. Dimitar Dimitrov says:

    We are experiencing following problem.

    A task is created via MS Office Project 2007 which is scheduled for each Friday with length 8 hours. When publishing the project with this task, via Web Acces this task is properly seen. But when using the plugin to import this task to outlook, it is seen that planned time is 1 hour for Thursday and 7 hours for Friday. Do you have suggestions where this problem could come from?

  37. Ken says:

    How do you uninstall the outlook plug in?

    After installing this Outlook add-in and doing some initial testing, we decided to remove it.

    Unfortunately it still seems to have left something behind as it is still autogenerating timesheets from the Outlook Add in. Is there a setting we have missed that will allow us to disble the autogeneration?

  38. Aga says:

    Alan and aaron7512 – the right URL format is http://servername/pwa/”>http://servername/pwa/

    http://servername/pwa is wrong url because there is no ‘/’ at the end.

  39. Aga says:

    sorry i made a mistake,the right URL format is http://servername/pwa/