Automatic v Manual Scheduling

Since Microsoft Project 2013, there is an option to choose between ‘Automatic’ and ‘Manual’ Scheduling. This blog will look at the differences, and help you decide what is best for your project. You can choose between Automatic v Manual Scheduling in ‘File’ – ‘Options’ – ‘Schedule’.

Scheduling and Planning

When working with Microsoft Project it is important to realise that it is a scheduling tool. I have blogs explaining the difference between planning and scheduling. I also have information on what Microsoft Project cannot do. There is more to Project Management than just scheduling.

Automatic v Manual Scheduling

Here is a video demonstrating the difference between the two scheduling methods.

Automatic Scheduling

Microsoft Project will assign a start date and default duration to every task that you enter. It will alter the dates of tasks depending on the dependency relationship with other tasks. It will help you with your schedule as it will automatically manage your schedule for you, taking into account calendars and shift patterns.

Be careful, and do not edit the start dates of tasks as this will constrain the tasks to that date.

Manual Scheduling

Manual Scheduling allows you to add tasks without the computer assuming the start date or duration. You can use this feature if you know what the project tasks are, but do not yet know the dates they happen on. You will then have to add the dates, and durations manually for every task.

With Manual scheduling you can add dates without constraining the task. (In fact all of the constraint options are not available).


For large projects, automatic scheduling will save a lot of time. Manual scheduling may allow flexibility, but since Microsoft Project is a powerful scheduling tool, then, why not use the power by setting the software to ‘Automatic’.

Automatic v Manual Scheduling: Open a new project, and play around with each. I always teach using ‘Automatic’ scheduling.

Posted On: 15th March 2021

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