Critical, Summary, and Driving Paths

When you enable task dependencies in your project timeline, Smartsheet offers you three ways to visually track key dependencies:

  • Critical path shows you which tasks affect the project completion date
  • Summary path shows you which subtasks affect the completion date of a particular summary (parent) row
  • Driving path shows you which predecessor tasks affect the start date of a particular task

You can easily share each of your paths with colleagues and managers to keep them apprised of your project’s status.

Track the Critical Path in a Project

Track the key tasks in your project by setting it up to display the critical path. As task dates or predecessor relationships change, this can impact the project's critical path. Smartsheet will update automatically and always highlight the tasks on the current critical path.

What is Critical Path?

Your Critical Path is the longest distance between the start and the finish of your project, including all the tasks and their duration, which gives you a clear picture of the project’s actual schedule.

TIP: After you’ve set up the critical path using the steps below, you’ll be able to apply a filter to your sheet to only display tasks in the critical path. Information on how to filter on your project’s critical path tasks can be found in Using Filters to Show or Hide Sheet Data.

Permission Requirements

You must be the sheet Owner or have Admin-level sharing permissions on the sheet in order to enable dependencies when setting up a sheet to display critical path.

Anyone shared to the sheet with Editor or higher-level permissions can choose to display or hide the critical path.

Set Up a Sheet to Display the Critical Path

To use critical path, your sheet must be in Gantt View. (You can switch to Gantt View using the top toolbar.)

  1. Enable dependencies on the sheet by right-clicking any column header and selecting Edit Project Settings.
  2. Set up tasks in the sheet with dates and duration values that represent the shortest amount of time the task may take.
  3. For the critical path to be useful, it's important to use the Predecessors column to define relationships (finish-to-start works best with critical path) between tasks.

    Learn more about using the Predecessors column in our article on Enabling Dependencies & Using Predecessors.
     
  4. Click the Critical Path icon in the upper-right of the sheet.

    critical-path-icon

All tasks and milestones that make up the project's critical path will be highlighted in red in the Gantt chart.

critical-gantt

  

Identify Tasks That Affect the End Date of a Summary Task

Enable the summary path on a collection of tasks to outline the subtasks that affect the completion date of their summary (parent) task. Summary path is a variant of critical path which shows you a more refined critical path of subtasks that you select, as opposed to showing you the critical path of an entire sheet. Summary path will look at all child tasks in the summary path’s hierarchy. 

Summary path example


More on how Critical Path works.

Enable Dependencies to Use Summary Path

Dependencies must first be enabled on the sheet—which requires that you have Admin-level sharing permissions or are the sheet Owner.

More on how to Enable Dependencies & Use Predecessors.

Show or Hide Summary Path
To show summary path in the Gantt chart: 

  1. Right-click a parent task (noted by the grey task bars).
  2. Select Show Summary Path.

    Show summary path

That’s it! Your summary path task bars are outlined in orange.

To hide the Summary Path in the Gantt chart: 

  1. Right-click on the summary (parent) task bar in the summary path.  
  2. Select Hide Summary Path.

Highlight the Driving Path of a Subtask

With driving path, you can see which other tasks (based on predecessor relationships) affect a task’s start date. Enable driving path to quickly find tasks that encroach on a vital task’s start date.

Driving Path Example

Enable Dependencies to Use Driving Path

Dependencies must first be enabled on the sheet—which requires that you have Admin-level sharing permissions or are the sheet Owner.

More on how to Enable Dependencies & Use Predecessors.

Show or Hide Driving Path

To show driving path in the Gantt chart: 

  1. Right-click a subtask.
  2. Select Show Driving Path.

    Show Driving Path

That’s it! Your driving path task bars are outlined in navy blue.

To hide Driving Path in the Gantt chart: 

  1. Right-click on any row.
  2. Select Hide Driving Path.