Highlight tasks in MS Project

In Microsoft Project you can highlight tasks based on certain criteria. For example you can highlight Critical tasks or tasks falling within a particular date range. Highlight will not rearrange or filter tasks it will simply change the text style of the highlighted tasks.
This step by step guide shows how to apply built in highlight filters to MS Project. We will use a plan built in MS Project 2013 as an example, and we will briefly cover creating Custom Highlight Filters.

To access highlight options go to View > in the Data group > go to Highlight.

Built in task highlight options

MS Project provides a good range of built in highlight options.
Click on the Highlight menu to see a list of Highlight Filters.

Highlight tasks in MS Project


Select the filter you want to apply.
Depending on the filter chosen you may need to input the criteria for the filter. For example data range requires you to enter a start and end date. By default the Highlighted tasks will be shown in blue (MS Project 2013, seems to default to background colour of yellow). The image below shows tasks highlighted by date range - tasks falling in March are highlighted.
tasks highlighted by date range
To remove the Highlight go to View > Highlight > [No Highlight].

Change default Highlight settings

You can change the default settings for Highlighted tasks by going to Text Styles under Format. Background colour will set the background of the task field. For example text could be black, but background colour yellow for Highlighted tasks.
change Text Style of Highlighted tasks

Using Task Highlight with Group By

Highlight supersedes Filters. For example, if you have Filtered your tasks to show Critical tasks only if you then Highlight Critical tasks the filter will be removed.
Group By can be combined with Highlight. For example, the below image shows tasks Grouped By Milestone with Critical tasks also highlighted.
ms project tasks grouped by Milestone and with Critical tasks Highlighted

Building custom highlight criteria

If you can't find a suitable built in filter you can create your own custom filter.
Go to View > Highlight > New Highlight Filter...

New Highlight Filter

Enter the criteria for your new filter.
The image below shows a filter to highlight tasks with no Predecessors, but excluding Summary tasks.
create custom Highlight Filter
Click Save.
Your Custom filters are shown at the top of the Highlight menu
Highlight menu, custom highlight filters are shown at the top

How to edit Built-in and Custom Highlight Filters

To edit any Highlight filter go to View > Highlight > More Highlight Filters. Then click the Edit button.

Do you need a custom Highlight Filter?
Scott Daley (2013, ch19) has this great tip - sometimes you can simply Mark the tasks that you want to Highlight or Filter. This could save you a lot of time building custom Highlight Filters & custom fields when simple selection and Marking of specific tasks will do.

References for MS Project Filters

Daley, S. (2013). Project 2013 In Depth, Que.

Marmel, E. (2010). Project 2010 Bible, John Wiley & Sons

More guides on using Microsoft Project