How to Create a Schedule Network Diagram in Excel

How to Create a Schedule Network Diagram in Excel: Create a Basic Network Diagram

How do you create a network diagram in Excel? In the realm of project management, where the clarity of project scope, timelines, and dependencies are paramount, visual tools not only simplify complex information but also enhance the ability to plan, monitor, and effectively communicate project details. Among these visual aids, Network Diagrams shine as one of the most powerful tools in a project manager’s arsenal. A Network Diagram, in its essence, is a graphical representation of a project’s tasks, their interdependencies, and the overall project flow, offering a bird’s-eye view of the project’s structure and sequence. This comprehensive guide takes you on an enlightening journey on how to create a Network Diagram in Excel, a tool widely available yet potent in its capabilities, while also exploring the integration of advanced tools such as Visio Network Topology, MS Visio Network Diagram, Network Diagram Template, and MS Project Network Diagram to elevate your project management strategies.

The Essence and Utility of Network Diagrams

At its core, a network diagram is a strategic map of a project’s tasks, depicting how each task is interlinked with others. Imagine embarking on a journey through a dense forest without a map; that’s project management without a network diagram. These diagrams serve as the compass guiding project managers through the complex wilderness of dependencies, timelines, and resources.

Network Diagram in Excel is not just a tool but a storytelling medium, allowing project managers to narrate the project’s journey from inception to completion.

Important points to consider when creating a network diagram in Excel:

  • Clarity: Ensure that your diagram is clear and easy to understand. Use consistent labeling and formatting to make it visually appealing.
  • Accuracy: Double-check your data and connections to ensure accuracy. Errors in the data could lead to incorrect representations of the network.
  • Scalability: Depending on the size and complexity of your network, you may need to adjust the layout or use additional tools to create a more detailed diagram.
  • Updates: Keep your diagram up-to-date as your network infrastructure evolves. Regularly review and revise the diagram to reflect any changes or additions.
four steps network diagram in excel

four steps network diagram in excel

Open a network diagram template in Microsoft Visio:

network diagram in Excel

network diagram in Excel

  1. Open Microsoft Visio.
  2. Select “File” from the menu.
  3. Choose “New” from the options.
  4. In the template categories, select “Network.”
  5. Choose “Basic Network Diagram” from the available templates and click “Create.”
Project management and network diagrams often go hand in hand, as network diagrams are commonly used in project management to visualize the sequence of tasks and dependencies.

Project management and network diagrams often go hand in hand, as network diagrams are commonly used in project management to visualize the sequence of tasks and dependencies.

Turn on AutoConnect:

  1. Go to the “View” tab.
  2. Select “AutoConnect” from the options.

Show connection points:

  1. Navigate to the “View” tab.
  2. Select “Connection Points” from the options.
arrow diagram method

arrow diagram method

Add shapes:

  1. From the “Network and Peripherals” and “Computers and Monitors” stencils, drag shapes onto the drawing page.
  2. You can find more network stencils by selecting “More Shapes” > “Network.”
arrow diagram methods.

arrow diagram methods.

Label shapes:

  1. Select a shape on the page.
  2. Type a label for it.
  3. To move the text, select the shape and drag the yellow text handle until the text is positioned where you want it.
  4. To finish labeling, select a blank area of the drawing page.

Draw connections between shapes:

  1. Select the “Home” tab.
  2. Choose the “Connector” tool.
  3. Draw a line between two shapes.
  4. To finish drawing the line, select the “Pointer Tool” from the “Home” tab.

Add a legend:

  1. From the “Network and Peripherals” stencil, drag the legend shape onto the drawing page.
  2. Select “Legend Subtitle.”
  3. Type a new subtitle for the legend.
  4. To finish, select a blank area of the drawing page.

Why Excel Reigns Supreme for Network Diagrams

Despite the abundance of specialized diagramming software, Excel continues to be a favored tool for creating network diagrams. Here’s why:

  1. Familiarity: With its widespread use for data organization, Excel offers a familiar environment for users, reducing the learning curve for creating network diagrams.
  2. Basic Functionality: Despite lacking advanced features, Excel provides basic drawing tools such as shapes and lines, allowing users to craft simple network diagrams efficiently.
  3. Customization: Excel’s high degree of customization empowers users to tailor network diagrams to their specific needs, adjusting shapes, colors, and formatting as required.
  4. Integration with Data: Excel’s seamless integration with data sources enables dynamic network diagrams linked to live data, ensuring real-time updates as information changes.
  5. Cost-effectiveness: As part of the Microsoft Office suite, Excel incurs no additional cost for creating network diagrams, making it an economical choice compared to specialized software.

Despite its advantages, Excel may not be suitable for complex network diagrams requiring advanced layout and design options. Nonetheless, its accessibility, versatility, and cost-effectiveness make it a surprisingly effective tool for many diagramming needs.

Leveraging Advanced Tools for Network Diagrams

While Excel is a powerful ally, some projects demand the specialized capabilities of tools like MS Visio or These platforms offer a more extensive arsenal for crafting network diagrams, especially when dealing with complex project structures.

  1. Visio Network Topology: This feature in MS Visio is particularly beneficial for IT and network projects, where understanding the physical and logical layout of networks is crucial. It provides templates and shapes specifically designed for network diagramming, making it easier to visualize intricate network architectures.
  2. MS Visio Network Diagram: For those seeking precision and professionalism, MS Visio offers advanced diagramming capabilities. Its extensive library of shapes, coupled with powerful linking and layering functions, allows for the creation of detailed and dynamic network diagrams.
  3. Network Diagram Template: For users looking for a web-based alternative, provides a versatile platform for diagramming. Its intuitive interface and extensive template library make it an excellent option for quickly drafting network without the need for software installation.
  4. MS Project Network Diagram: Integrating network diagramming within a project management tool, MS Project offers a seamless way to visualize tasks and dependencies. Its automatic diagram generation feature can save valuable time, allowing project managers to focus on analysis.


Types of Network Diagrams in Excel

Creating a network diagram in Excel involves understanding the different types that can be crafted to suit various project needs. Network diagrams, essential tools in project management, visualize tasks and their interdependencies, offering insight into the project’s flow and structure. Excel, with its versatile features, allows for the creation of several types of network diagrams, each serving distinct purposes. Below, we delve into the common types of network diagrams you can create in Excel, providing a foundation for effective project visualization and management.

1. Activity on Node (AON) Diagrams

AON diagrams, also known as Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM), are widely used in project management. In these diagrams, nodes represent the activities or tasks, and arrows show the relationships or dependencies between these tasks. This type of diagram is particularly useful for illustrating the sequence of tasks, identifying the critical path, and understanding task dependencies. Creating an AON diagram in Excel involves using shapes to represent activities and connectors to denote dependencies, offering a clear visualization of the project’s workflow.

2. Activity on Arrow (AOA) Diagrams

Unlike AON diagrams, AOA diagrams, or Arrow Diagramming Method (ADM), use arrows to represent tasks and nodes to denote the start and end points of these tasks. This approach is beneficial for visualizing the flow of activities and understanding the dependencies that govern task progression. Although AOA diagrams can be more challenging to create in Excel due to their reliance on arrows for tasks, they can still be constructed using a combination of shapes for nodes and lines with arrowheads to represent the activities.

Arrow Diagramming Method (ADM) in Scheduling – projectcubicle

While not a network diagram in the traditional sense, Gantt charts are closely related and can be created in Excel. They provide a timeline view of the project, showcasing when tasks are scheduled to start and finish, their duration, and overlap. Gantt charts are instrumental in project planning and tracking, offering a temporal perspective that complements the structural insights provided by AON and AOA diagrams.

4. Critical Path Method (CPM) Diagrams

CPM diagrams focus on identifying the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project, highlighting the tasks that directly impact the project’s completion time. These diagrams are crucial for project managers to prioritize tasks and allocate resources efficiently. In Excel, CPM diagrams can be constructed similarly to AON diagrams, with additional emphasis on calculating and visualizing the duration of each path to determine the critical path.

5. Resource Allocation Diagrams

Resource allocation diagrams are a variant of network diagrams that not only show the sequence and dependencies of tasks but also include information about resource allocation to each task. This type of diagram is invaluable for ensuring that resources are used efficiently and that the project’s resource demands do not exceed available capacities. In Excel, resource allocation diagrams can be created by adding resource information to the nodes in an AON diagram, providing a comprehensive view of both task scheduling and resource management.

  1. Open a New Excel Spreadsheet: Start with a blank canvas for your diagram.
  2. List Your Tasks: It might help to list all project tasks along with their dependencies in adjacent columns before visualizing them.
  3. Use Shapes for Tasks: Go to the “Insert” tab, select “Shapes,” and choose shapes to represent different tasks or events in your project.
  4. Connect Tasks with Arrows: Use arrows (also found under “Shapes”) to indicate the flow or sequence of tasks.
  5. Customize Your Diagram: Adjust the size, color, and text within each shape to convey additional information about each task.

Network diagram template Excel free download:

You can find downloadable network diagram templates for Excel online. These templates offer pre-designed layouts, shapes, and connectors. By using them, you can save time while creating professional-looking network diagrams. Websites like provide a variety of templates that you can download for free to get started quickly.


Network diagram Excel template:

While Excel lacks specialized templates for network diagrams, it’s a versatile tool. You can create network diagrams from scratch using its built-in shapes and drawing tools. This allows for customizing diagrams to suit your needs. Additionally, you can visit to explore a range of Excel templates, including those for network diagrams.

Draw network diagram:

Drawing a network diagram in Excel involves using its drawing tools to create and connect shapes representing different network elements. You can arrange and format these shapes to create clear and organized diagrams. Project management websites like offer tutorials and tips on how to effectively draw network diagrams using Excel.

Network Diagram Excel:

Excel is a powerful tool for creating and analyzing network diagrams. It offers features such as conditional formatting and formula calculations. These can enhance the functionality of your diagrams, providing valuable insights into your network infrastructure. For additional resources and templates, consider visiting to further enhance your Excel skills for network diagram creation.

How to draw CPM network diagram:

To draw a Critical Path Method (CPM) network diagram in Excel, break down the project into tasks, identify dependencies and durations, and use Excel‘s drawing tools to create a visual representation. This helps in effectively planning and managing project timelines. Project management platforms like offer tutorials and guides on creating CPM network diagrams using Excel.

How to make CPM chart in Excel:

Creating a CPM chart in Excel involves organizing project tasks in a table format and using Excel‘s charting tools to visualize the schedule and critical path. This helps in communicating the project timeline and identifying potential delays. You can explore for step-by-step guides and templates to assist you in creating CPM charts in Excel.

Project network diagram generator:

While Excel can generate project network diagrams, specialized project management software like Microsoft Project or Primavera P6 offers advanced features. These tools are designed for project planning and scheduling, providing templates and tools for creating and analyzing project network diagrams. For those looking to use Excel for project management, offers resources and tutorials to maximize the use of Excel for generating project network diagrams and managing project tasks.

How do I create a network diagram without Visio?

Apart from Excel, there are several alternatives to Visio for creating network diagrams:

  • A free, web-based diagramming tool.
  • Lucidchart: Offers both free and paid plans, with plenty of templates.
  • yEd Graph Editor: A powerful tool that’s also free to use.

What software can I use to draw a network diagram?

Besides the already mentioned Excel, Visio,, and Lucidchart, other software options include:

  • Gliffy: Web-based and offers intuitive diagramming tools.
  • Creately: Known for its collaboration features and extensive template library.
  • Edraw Max: Offers versatile diagramming capabilities across various diagram types.



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