Running the Engine

When you [anchor]run [/anchor]an automated layout, every object in the schedule is analyzed, indexed, and placed back on the canvas. This analysis begins by identifying clusters of activities and other objects within the network based on certain characteristics. For example, objects may be grouped by float chains, step chains, or logic steps (defined below). Once all of the objects in the network have been identified, they’re then indexed and sorted. To determine their order, a series of rules for breaking ties is used. For example, if three step-chains have been identified, the chain with the most activities will be ordered first. In the case that two of them share the same number of activities, then the chain with the longest duration will be ordered first, and so on. These settings are located in the Selection view.

After all objects have been analyzed and indexed, they will start to placed back on the canvas. For example, placement can begin at the top or in the middle of the canvas, and grids can be added to make more space. These settings are located when viewing Rules in the Placement view. Minimum dimensions can also be changed to affect how and when activities are placed next to one another, and these settings are located when viewing Thresholds in the Placement view.

There are actually two different processes that can be performed: a “run” and a “fine-tune,” depending on the state of the schedule. “Running” will completely rearrange the network, using the settings from the StructureSelectionPlacement, and Penalties views to improve the schedule’s layout. This is best for schedules that are being imported from another application or where a significant overhaul of the layout is desired. ”Fine-tuning” will only make small adjustments based on activity and link scores from the Placement and Penalties views. This is typically best when attention has already been given to the layout, or when an automated layout has already been run before. If the resulting fine-tune cannot improve the layout (i.e. increases the layout score by more than 5%), the fine-tune will be canceled and the canvas will revert to the previous layout.

NOTE: Whether “running” or “fine-tuning,” all activities and planning objects have the potential to be rearranged unless they have been assigned to a lane, locked on a grid, or actualized left of the data date. For more info, see [bookmark postid=”11476″ anchor=”lanes”]Setting Up Swimlanes[/bookmark] and [bookmark postid=”11425″ anchor=”actualized”]Actualizing Objects[/bookmark].

Steps

Run from Default Settings

  1. Click Schedule > Run Automated Layout from the menu bar, or click the Run Automated Layout autograph icon in the toolbar.
  2. The canvas will update and a new layout will automatically be saved in the Layouts view of the Layout Manager.

Run from Custom Settings

  1. Click Schedule > Open Layout Manager from the menu bar.
  2. Click through the Structure, Selection, and Placement views to modify the available settings.
  3. When ready, click Run.
  4. The canvas will update, the manager will switch to the Layouts view, and a new layout will automatically be saved.
  5. To save the settings for future use, click Save. Setting that are not unique to the schedule will carry through when accessed from other schedules or across sessions. Otherwise, click Close.

Fine-Tune Only

  1. Click Schedule > Open Layout Manager from the menu bar.
  2. Click through the Placement and Penalties views to modify the available settings.
  3. Click Fine-Tune.
  4. The canvas will update, the manager will switch to the Layouts view, and a new layout will automatically be saved.
  5. To save the settings for future use, click Save. Setting that are not unique to the schedule will carry through when accessed from other schedules or across sessions. Otherwise, click Close.

NOTE: To fine-tune a layout with swim lanes, make sure > Always Fine-Tune After Running is selected in the Schedule menu. Otherwise, clicking Fine-Tune will not maintain lane configurations.

[anchor]Running On Large Schedules[/anchor] (>250 activities, links, milestones, etc.)

  1. Click Schedule from the menu bar and make sure Animate When Running and Always Fine Tune After Running are turned off (they should not have a check next to them).
  2. Choose Open Layout Manager from the Schedule menu, click the Structure view, and make sure lanes are turned off (the box next to Derive Lanes from should be unchecked).
  3. Click the Placement view.
  4. Next to Start at, make sure Halfway Grid is chosen.
  5. Click Run.
  6. OPTIONAL: If you want to run with swim lanes, click the Structure view, check the box next to Derive Lanes from, and click Run again.
  7. Click Fine-Tune. Note: this step may take a few minutes with overly large schedules.
  8. In the Layouts view, click New.
  9. Select it in the list and type a new name.
  10. To save the settings for future use, click Save. Setting that are not unique to the schedule will carry through when accessed from other schedules or across sessions. Otherwise, click Close.

[anchor]Resetting [/anchor]the Layout Manager

  1. Click Schedule > Layout Manager Settings from the menu bar.
  2. Choose Load Last Saved to reset to the last saved state or Load Defaults to reset to the default state.

NOTE: All settings that are not unique to the schedule will be reset; notable exclusions include lists, such as layouts, codes, links, or statistics, for example.

[anchor]Notes[/anchor]

[anchor]Selection [/anchor]View

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Select Activities by

Objects may be identified and clustered based on float chains, step chains, or logic steps.

Field Definition
Float Chains A float chain is a path of activities through the network where the total float of each successor is the same as the total float of its immediate predecessor (the critical path is an example of a float chain whose activities share a total float of zero). When chosen, a chain of activities who share the same total float with one another is selected and placed (for example, the critical path), followed by another chain of activities who share the same total float with one another, and so on. Choose this option when you want your layout to be organized in terms of float values.
Step Chains A step chain is a path of activities through the network where the logic step of each successor is exactly one higher than its immediate predecessor. When chosen, a chain of activities with consecutive logic steps is selected and placed, starting with an object that has a logic step of 1, followed by an object with a logic step or 2, and so on, ending with an object that has the highest logic step. Once complete, another chain of activities with consecutive logic steps is identified in a similar manner, and so on.  Choose this option when you want your layout to be organized in terms of relationships.
Logic Step A logic step is the numbered position of an activity in a logic chain (if in multiple logic chains, the highest of those numbers). For example, any activity in the network that is connected to the project start will have a logic step of 1, regardless of how late in time the activity is scheduled. When chosen, first all the activities with a logic step of 1 are selected and placed, then all the activities with a logic step of 2, and so on. Choose this option when you want your layout to be drawn from left to right.
FS Strings An FS string is path of three or more activities (either a float chain or step chain) that are connected in a finish-to-start relationship (each intermediate activity having only one predecessor and one successor). FS Strings can be chosen if either Float Chains or Step Chains is chosen. When selected, the chains containing FS strings are sorted after all the chains without FS strings but before individual objects are sorted. Check this option when you want FS strings to be drawn on the outside (top and bottom) of the network.
Selection Order

After clusters have been identified, they are ordered based on the following rules, which can be turned on or off or can be rearranged by clicking and dragging them up or down in the list. In any case, the clusters will always be ordered first followed by individual objects. By default, these rules have already been configured to yield the best result for the majority of schedules. It’s difficult to suggest when to apply or not apply certain rules, or to change the direction, due to the individuality of every schedule. We suggest using trial and error until you are satisfied with the layout. The following options are available for both float chains and step chains. The direction can be reversed by clicking in the cell and using the drop-down button.

Rule Definition
Number of Locked Activities The number of locked activities in the chain.
Number of Activities The number of activities in the chain.
Total Float* The total float of the chain. *Only available for float chains.
Chain Duration The length of the chain in calendar days.
Logic Index The number of links between activities (excluding redundant links) divided by the total number of activities in the chain.
Start Date The start date of the earliest activity in the chain.
Finish Date The finish date of the last activity in the chain.

The following options are available for logic steps. Since logic steps are not chains, ordering is applied on the individual object level.

Rule Definition
Start Date The start date of the object.
Duration The duration of the object.
Finish Date The finish date of the object.

[anchor]Placement [/anchor]View(Rules)

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[anchor]Grid Placement[/anchor]

After the starting grid is utilized, whichever grid yields the lowest score for that object will always be chosen. In the case that no single grid yields the lowest score, the settings for Proceed and Choose active over inactive will be used as tiebreakers. For more info on activity and link scores, see [bookmark postid=”12479″ anchor=”link-scoring”]Link Scoring[/bookmark].

Field Definition
Start at The starting grid is where the first object (and any subsequent objects with no predecessors) will be placed when the layout engine is run. You can choose the top, middle, or bottom grid of the canvas. Choose the top grid if you want most milestones and benchmarks toward the top, and a generally top-heavy layout; the halfway grid if you want most milestones and benchmarks toward the middle, and an evenly balanced layout; and the bottom grid if you want most milestones and benchmarks toward the bottom, and a generally bottom-heavy layout. For large schedules or to reduce processing time, choose Top. For more details, see [bookmark postid=”12646″ anchor=”running-on-large-schedules”]Running On Large Schedules[/bookmark].
Proceed If an object cannot be placed on the grid with the lowest score – for example, if the preceding relationship is start-to-start or finish-to-finish; or, if there is already an object or link in that location; or, if the grid above and below yield the same score – the direction will come into play. In these cases, you can choose to proceed up first or down first. Choose Up Before Down when starting at the bottom grid.
Choose Active Over Inactive An active grid is one that already contains an object. An inactive grid is one that is totally empty. If an object cannot be placed on the grid with the lowest score, objects will be placed on grids which already have objects (active) by default. Uncheck this rule if you have tight grid spacing or layout spacing to create a taller layout.
Replenish inactive grids when used During processing, inactive grids are added in-between active grids. In the event that an object gets placed on one of these inactive grids, two inactive grids are added to maintain the proper spacing, so long as the checkbox is selected.
Aesthetic

The following settings are visual only:

Field Definition
Layout Spacing Layout Spacing will determine how many inactive (empty) grids are added in-between active grids after processing. Regardless of what’s chosen (SingleDouble, or Triple), one and only one grid will be added during processing. Single spacing will result in a higher layout score. For more info, see [bookmark postid=”12479″ anchor=”link-scoring”]Link Scoring[/bookmark]. Increase this setting if you want more padding in between rows of activities or a taller layout. 
Stack activity descriptions if needed By default, activity descriptions will be stacked if they begin clashing with other text or objects. Uncheck this rule if you have tight grid spacing or layout spacing and prefer to shorten descriptions manually where necessary.
Allow [anchor]links [/anchor]with a D leg By default, diagonal links will be used when necessary. This setting also applies when creating links in NetPoint. Uncheck this rule if you do not want any diagonal links.
Hide links with gap > Controls whether or not long links (links spanning a wide period of time) will be hidden, depending on how many days of gap they have. Check this rule if you do not want links spanning a wide period of time to show up, and adjust the threshold accordingly.
Show links between lanes Controls whether or not tall links (links spanning multiple lanes) will be displayed, hidden, or faded. Only relevant if the layout is being run with lanes activated.
Include redundant links in link score calculations By default, redundant links will not be included in link score calculations, and will therefore not affect the resulting layout. Check this rule if you want the position and geometry of redundant links to be taken into account when laying out the network. For more info, see [bookmark postid=”9346″ anchor=”redundant”]Treating Redundancies[/bookmark]

Placement View (Thresholds)

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Grid Spacing
Field Definition
Value (inches) Grid spacing is the distance in inches between gridlines (by default, 0.35 inches). Increase this number if you want more padding in between rows of objects or a taller layout.
Zero-gap Linked Activities
Field Definition
Allow on same grid… If the durations of two zero-gap linked activities are too small, it can be difficult to tell where one activity begins and another one ends (when they’re on the same grid). The Zero-gap Linked Activities thresholds are for deciding when such activities can be placed on the same grid. Increase these numbers if you want to increase the frequency with which zero-gap linked activities are placed on separate gridlines.
Non-linked Activities
Field Definition
Allow on same grid… If non-linked activities are too close to one another on the same grid such that any link between them wouldn’t be visible, it could appear as though they were linked. The Non-Linked Activities threshold is for deciding what distance is too little for placing such activities on the same grid. Increase this number if you want more space between non-linked activities.
Displays & Formatting
Field Definition
Add page tiles… Controls whether or not page tiling will be added (but not removed) to ensure that 98% of all activities are at least the width specified, when zoom and stretch are 100%. Decrease this number if you have activities with extremely short and extremely long durations together in the same schedule (e.g. 1 day activities with 100 day activities).
Max width… If milestone and benchmark descriptions exceed the Max. width for milestone & benchmark names, additional lines will be added accordingly. Decrease this number if your milestones and benchmarks have long descriptions and are close to other objects.

Automated Layouts Menu

The automated layouts menu is located in both the Schedule menu as well as underneath the Run Automated Layout icon in the toolbar.

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Field Definition
Open Layout Manager This menu item opens the Layout Manager to the Layouts view.
Animate When Running If selected, the layout will be animated as it’s redrawn in real-time. For large schedules or to reduce processing time, make sure it is turned off. For more details, see [bookmark postid=”12646″ anchor=”running-on-large-schedules”]Running On Large Schedules[/bookmark].
Always Fine Tune After Running By default, “running” and “fine-tuning” are applied separately, and the results are stored in different layouts.t. If selected, running will always include a fine-tune, and the results will be saved in a single layout in the Layouts view. For large schedules or to reduce processing time, make sure it is turned off. For more details, see [bookmark postid=”12646″ anchor=”running-on-large-schedules”]Running On Large Schedules[/bookmark].
Run Automated Layout Select to start processing.
Layout Manager Settings Within the Layout Manager, there’s a difference between “lists” and “settings”. In short, “lists” are schedule-specific (except for the one in the Selection view), whereas “settings” can carry through from one project to another. If Load Defaults is selected, all “settings” will reset to their states when NetPoint was installed. If Load Last Saved is selected, all “settings” will reset to their states when the manager was most recently saved. To load the settings from a previously run layout, see [bookmark postid=”12646″ anchor=”resetting”]Resetting The Layout Manager[/bookmark].