Image of a colorful gantt chart print-outGantt charts are incredible, and that’s not a word you get to apply to charts often. Or ever, if you haven’t experienced that jaw-dropping moment when you save your entire project before even starting it. Hundreds of managers have sat down to start a Gantt chart, thinking it’ll just be something shiny to show off in their next PowerPoint, only to find that their plan requires either cloning or time-travel to complete. Because the Gantt chart isn’t just a timeline, it’s interdependencies made easy. A single document hasn’t prevented so much desperate conflict since the Magna Carta.

We’ve already shown you some software, now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. The Gantt chart’s whole function is to save time and avoid unnecessary or replicated effort, so making your own would be a terrible way to start.

1. Microsoft Office Official

You heard it here first: Gantt charts are so utterly essential to business that even Microsoft give them away for free. It’s like they understand that the more businesses succeed, the more money they’ll eventually make, and they’ve decided that Gantt is a vital part of the business ecosystem.

Screenshot of Excel Gantt chart

Microsoft Office offers a searchable archive of templates, so consider Gantt your starting point. Consider the next thing you ever want to do with Office the next time you should use it.

2. Chandoo

Chandoo understands that there are dozens of excellent office management programs out there, and thousands of offices where you’re not allowed to use them. The “approved software” list is the bane of the efficient employee, but so is whining about that, so this guy has gotten on with an excellent mission. Making Excel work for everyone who has to work with it.

Screenshot of Chandoo Gantt chart

The site is a treasure-trove of Excel-optimization advice, and the feature on Gantt chart features seven free Gantt templates for immediate download.

3. Hyperion

Hyperion’s entire deal is training research managers, which is about as intelligent a combination of management words as you could create without involving Lex Luthor. They’re so confident of their courses that they give out materials for free, including Gantt chart templates from the European Commission. What with co-ordinating an ever-expanding number of entire countries, the EU might know a bit about management.

Screenshot of Hyperion Gantt chart

As well as a Gantt template, the site offers an excellent starting point for PERT charts, work breakdowns, Framework timesheets, and proposal presentations. Basically you should look through the page, and anything you don’t recognize you should probably start using.

4. David Seah Gantt Chart Design

David Seah is all about innovation and proper management, so if you haven’t already just decided to read his blog we’re not sure what you’re doing here. (Remember that real management applies to the self and to time, not just boring things like “offices.”) He provides an excellent Excel tutorial for Gantt charts, and even better, he truly grasps their function.

Screenshot of David Seah's Gantt chart design

The Excel Gantt chart is an excellent planning tool, a place to sketch out your schedule and avoid future pitfalls. So much so that he’s made weekly Gantt charts, a tool which could single-handedly reverse the cliché against Mondays if everyone used it.

5. Team Gantt

Team Gantt lives up to their name by offering an all-in-one online Gantt chart generation service, skipping templates and getting straight into the action by building them for you. The drag-and-drop chart maker means it’s easy to create the chart, sorting out your planning, and the online storage means it’s easy to collaborate and co-ordinate with other employees.

Screenshot of TeamGantt Online

It’s a paid service but offers a free trial. They’re that confident that Gantt will become an essential ingredient in all your project successes, and we agree.

6. Gantt Designer

Gantt Designer hardwires the templates into its design, allowing you to build Gantt charts without worrying about Excel, and as a standalone .exe you don’t even need to install it — a lifesaver for those working with jealously guarded work computers were installs are verboten.

Screenshot of Gantt Designer screen

7. Vertex42

Vertex42 swear to excel in Excel, in everything, for everyone, and live up to their claims with an instant Gantt template.

Vertex42 Gantt

They also offer a Pro Package for those convinced by the free template, with an assortment of extra features to save even more time while you’re saving time.

Image credit: nadger / iStockphoto