Learning the Basic Elements of Microsoft Planner

Office 365 comes with so much more than just Word, Excel, and Outlook that we are all used to. It’s worth taking the time to explore and learn more about these other applications, because they may prove to super useful for you and your team. One really basic yet productive application that helps organize and track initiatives is Planner.

Planner is a simple task tracker tool that integrates a with a number of Office 365 applications. You can use this to assign tasks, set due dates, track tasks and more. As with any O365 app, there are a lot of parts that can be incredibly helpful if used, or just added confusion if you’re unfamiliar. This article can help you get started using Planner by recognizing and defining the different elements that make up this application.

The basic planner view looks similar to a post-it note task board.

Board, chart, and schedule views

Planner has a number if different views to display your tasks. It defaults to board view, which allows you to see your full kanban type planner as intended. However, they also have a chart view that visualizes your tasks on a number of different factors. Lastly, the schedule view is a calendar which will only be populated if you set due dates for your tasks.

Chart view, displayed here, visualizes your tasks using a few different metrics.

Tasks a.k.a. your plans

Tasks are you virtual post-it notes that describe what the thing that needs to be done is, and adds attributes to detail things like due date. Create as many tasks as you want, add attributes and organize them into buckets as needed. To create a new task, just click the check mark. If you have more than one bucket (see below) you can click the plus sign below any bucket to add a task directly into it.

An example of a task that has a few detailed filled out.

Attributes to fill out your details

There is a lot of information you can add to your task to make your planner more informative and organized. You aren’t required to assign a task, but it can help to ensure responsibility for completion. Bucket and progress are defaults that we will go into more detail in later sections along with labels which are completely optional. The others while not required can be super helpful. These include setting priority, start date, due date, notes, a checklist, and attachments. When adding notes or attachments, you can check off the box to have it appear on the task board. Otherwise, users will have to open the task to see these details. Comments are also located within a task, but Office 365 provides much better ways of communicating either through Teams or by commenting directly on a document.

A closer look at the priorities available for your planner task.

Buckets for visual organization

Buckets are you sections, columns, categories, whatever you want to use them for. Tasks in planner will be put into buckets for organization. Some ideas for using buckets are to make different phases, departmental organization, or more detailed progress statuses.. Planner’s default view is on bucket mode so this is definitely something to build out at the beginning of making your planner. When you have a few ready, you can move tasks between buckets with a simple drag and drop, or by opening the task and changing that attribute.

A few buckets can help visualize tasks by whatever column or category works best for you.

Progress tracking of a task

Progress is one of the most important non optional attributes. Every task has a progress section built in. Your options are “not started”, “in progress” or “completed”. You can complete a task with a click from the board view, but to change to in progress or back to not started, click on the task to open it. Then make your selection from the drop down. This is a useful attribute that you can view graphically on the charts page.

The three progress options are a drop down within the task view.

Labels to color code and further differentiate tasks

Use these colorful tabs located in the upper right of your task for your own organization purposes. This is especially useful when using the filter or group by functions. I tend to label by specific categories, but you can label by department, timeline, or whatever you find useful. Also, more than one label can be applied to one task. When labeled, the color tabs will be visible when looking at board view.

This view is label selection and editing from within a task, but you can also assign labels from the main board view.

Filter and group by options

If you’ve filled out your planner, you may have a lot of tasks. To narrow down to a subset of tasks, you can use the filter function. There are some main criteria to filter by, with sub criteria within such as Due: This Week.

You can add multiple filters to narrow down what tasks you see.

The group by section allows you to view your tasks in a similar board view, but organized from different criteria than just your buckets. You can currently group by bucket, assigned to, progress, due date, labels, and priority. However, the default view when you open your planner will always be grouped by bucket.

If changed to group by labels, the label and color will head each column.

Plan to use Planner

Overall, this application can help collaboration within your teams and productivity even if used as an individual. Because Planner is an Office 365 application, it integrates smoothly with other apps such as Teams and SharePoint. As with any, the best way to use it is to customize it to match your workflow.

For more information on Planner and other Office 365 applications, visit our knowledge-base.

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