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Project Server and Project Professional – Getting them to communicate!

BY: Collin Quiring

Microsoft Project Server and Project Professional work very well together most of the time. However, every now and then, particularly if you use multiple instances or Servers, some challenges can arise. Recently, I was confronted with an annoying issue that I have resolved in the past and thought that I would share it with you just in case they were experiencing the same issues. And, while I am at it, I am going to mention a few other errors that I receive every now and then when using Project Server and Project Professional.

First, the easy part: how it is supposed to work. I know that Microsoft has documentation about this but in a nutshell, here is how you connect Project Professional to Project Server.

1. Open Project Professional

2. Go to Tools, Enterprise Options, Microsoft Office Project Server Accounts

3. Select Add

4. Enter something you will remember in the Account Name field

5. Enter the URL in the Project Server URL field

6. If you are using forms or windows authentication select and enter the appropriate information

7. If this is the only or the main URL that you use, then select the default.

8. After clicking OK, you are back at the Project Server Accounts box

9. I always recommend that you select “Manually Control Connection State” in case you add more instances or often go “offline” but that is up to you.

10. And, that is it – just close Professional and the next time you open Professional it will connect (or give you the option to connect).

Now, that is the way it works for most people. And, it works fine for most of the time, especially for those that only connect to one instance. However, in other cases, interesting things that can happen.

To understand the issues that I run into you need to know my situation. I have both Project Professional 2003 and Project Professional 2007 on my computer. I also connect to about 15 different instances with 2007 and 6 different instances with 2003. Of those instances, only a few of them are local to my computer’s network so I am using my internet connection to access the majority of these sites. The servers I am accessing are either within a client’s domain or are being hosted by PMP Specialists. (This post is about Project Professional setup so assume for this post that the server and user/password are all correct.) Also, for clarity, I am running Vista and Office 2007.

Normally, having both 2003 and 2007 on my computer at the same time isn’t an issue with the way that Professional works. However, every now and then an update from Microsoft will render one of the versions of Project to stop working correctly. I usually find this out at the most inconvenient moment and when I don’t have the time to fix it!

One of the most common ways that I find there is an issue is when I try to open a file directly from Project Server. When in Project Web Access (PWA) and you select a project file to open, the Project Server automatically goes out and opens your Project Professional. The catch is that it sometimes tries to open the other version of Professional. This is because of a change on the local computer, not the server. The error messages are not necessarily intuitive either. And, the Server sometimes seems to time out or to be doing nothing at all so this is a time for patience. Clicking refresh or clicking on other items only makes it worse when the Server catches up. It sometimes takes a minute before the error message appears.

For example, the error message I get when I use 2007 and the server opens up 2003 is some version of the error message below. Note, I am using a 2007 file, created in Professional 2007 and a 2007 Server and the error still mentions Project 98.

Error message:

“Project cannot open the file

· Check that the file name and path are correct

· Check that the file format is recognized by Project

Project files save in a version earlier than Microsoft Project 98 can’t be opened.

If your file is from an earlier version, open it in that version, click Save As (File Menu), and save in MPX format. Open the MPX file in the current version of Project. When you use this method, project data is imported, but formatting is lost.”


At this point, I usually have an easy fix. I open up Professional 2003 first and go to the help drop down and select the Detect and Repair. After that runs, I can try again. This seems to fix the issue for me about 1/3 of the time.


If the issue isn’t resolved and the server is still trying to open the wrong version then the next step that I take is to go to Professional 2007 and run the Help, Microsoft Office Diagnostics.


Interestingly, that doesn’t seem to find problems usually. But, it must flip a bit somewhere because that seems to resolve the problem about ½ the time when I try it second.

If neither of those work I go to Windows Update and run that. After running Windows Update, I sometimes have to repeat the steps above for 2003 and 2007 but have never had to do other steps – to get Server to open the correct version of Project.

Another type of error that I get when connecting Professional and Server is if I have Professional open already and connected to a different instance. Then, when trying to change some server settings or otherwise using PWA to open or use Professional a new error message appears. This is an easy one to resolve as the error message is pretty clear.

It says:

“Project Professional 2007 is currently running under a profile that does not match your current Project Web Access login. Restart Project Professional with a different profile, or exit Project Professional and then let Project Web Access automatically start Project Professional.”


So, close Professional and re-open it with the correct instance, or let Server try to open it for you.

The next error isn’t really an error – it just makes you think it is. When you use Server to open Professional, you sometimes get the message

“Project cannot be fully opened because it is awaiting your input. Either continue with the input process until Project is fully running or quit Project and click Update again.”


The reason for this one is simple, it is waiting for you to enter your credentials. If, like me, you have multiple instances setup and/or just have the “manually control” option setup, then Professional will be waiting for you input. Sometimes this doesn’t become the focus of your computer and so when you don’t enter your information after a bit, the Server is prompting you. Just find the login box prompt on your computer, make sure you have the right instance selected, and sign in.


Another error which appears to have two potentially different solutions is this:

“Project cannot recognize this file format.

Do you want to open this file as text only.”


This is caused by one of two different issues. The first is that you have Professional to open, but in the wrong version. This example was caused by the 2007 Server opening Professional 2003. As we know, this is correct, the 2003 and 2007 versions aren’t compatible. So, make sure that you have the correct version of Professional open.

The second cause of this issue is that you don’t have the Server URL in your IE Trusted Sites zone. I have had the correct version of Professional open and still get this message and then when I add the URL into the Trusted Sites (and close Professional) and try again, all works well.

Another error that may be caused by the Trusted Sites or an invalid URL is this one:

“Login Failed. Project could not connect to the server

Please check your username and password and try again.”


I have seen this error because of the URL not being in the Trusted Sites (usually this is because the URL’s network/domain settings or your network/domain settings have an option that allows traffic through only if the URL is in the Trusted Sites).

I have also seen this error when the URL is typed incorrectly in the Project Server Accounts connection box. In Professional 2003, there was a “test connection” option but in Professional 2007 there isn’t one so you can have a typo in the URL and not know it until you use Professional to try and connect. If you go directly into Professional and then try to connect, you should get a message similar to this one if the URL isn’t correct. (Remember, we are assuming that the Server, userid and password are all correctly configured and working.)

“Could not connect to Server

Project was not able to connect to Project Server because of the following error:

Project Server could not be contacted

If you retry and are still unable to connect, try the following:

· Check your network connection and see if you are able to connect to other websites

· Check the URL of the Project Server you are trying to connect.

· Use Internet Explorer and make sure you can connect to Project Web Access.

· Contact your server administrator for further assistance.”


The best way to make sure that the URL is correct is to go to PWA and then copy/paste that URL into Professional. BUT, be sure to take off the “default.aspx” or whatever extension you have. For example, if the URL in PWA is: https://projectserver/pwa/default.aspx only put https://projectserver/pwa in Professional.

Another issue that happens to me every now and then is that Server gives an error that it can’t open or use Professional. In fact, the error is usually that you have to open Professional – even though Professional is already open, or, sometimes, after it just opened Professional. I am not sure if it is the caching, a timeout between responses or something else that happens but sometimes the Server wants to be the cause of Professional being open and you have to close Professional first. And, other times, you have to open Professional first and then use Server. This seems to happen most often when working with administrative items like custom fields but it does happen in the Project Center every now and then as well. The only solution is to close/open Professional in the opposite order than it was before.

I have one more “error” to mention. Sometimes, after opening Project Professional from Server, it opens without the project opening. No error messages. It just opens Professional and then stops. So, you are looking at “Project 1” and not the project that you expected. In my experience, this has happened when using Forms Authentication and for whatever reason, and some point in the communication between Professional and Server the system decides that you don’t have permissions to open the project. This has been a user authentication issue– even when they can open Professional first and open the project file and even though they can see everything in PWA. This is a rare occurrence and seems to be restricted to certain systems.

Now, when you connect and disconnect from more than one instance or Project Server in a day it is easy to get confused about which instance you are in. Tony Zink wrote a great little article about it and so I refer you to his post titled “Which Project Server Instance Are You Connected To?” at


4 Responses to “ Project Server and Project Professional – Getting them to communicate! ”

  1. michalr says:

    Hi Collin, what about ssl connection and authenticating using certificate? Is it possible to connect to the Project Server 2007 via proxy, which needs authenticate by personal certificate? For me it works only for PWA but not for Project Pro. When opening PWA site, I am prompted for user certificate, click OK and I am logged in to the PWA site. When trying to connect via Project Pro, and check “Use WIndows account”, the certificate promp is displayed (like in PWA site), click OK, then certificate prompt is displayed again, click OK, then again and again (four times). Then the message window “Project was not able to connect… …Project Server could not be contacted…”. When I check forms auth. it is the same behaviour.

  2. admin says:

    Project Server only accepts credentials that it “understands”. This means that, in the pre-2010 versions anyway, you have to use a Windows login (Active Directory) or Forms Authentication (your own directory internal to the Server). While I am not a certificate expert, it is my understanding that the certificate is not sending any sort of credential that the Server understands. Therefore, the Server gives up after a few tries. Now, it seems to work in PWA due to a couple of different options – perhaps your userid/password is already cached or otherwise saved. And, since the way that PWA authenticates is different (using PSI and/or ISS) than the way Professional authenticates it allows you onto the Server.

  3. michalr says:

    So why it is possible to log on via PWA (with user certificate) but not via Project Pro? What are differences between PWA and Project Pro user authentication? It seems that for valid authentication via Project Pro it must be “clear way” – with no prompts messages or authenticated windows.

  4. admin says:

    PWA and Professional do not use the same method to sign on and Professional can’t use the certificate. PWA uses “web-enabled” capabilities that rely on ISS and PSI but Professional uses Windows only log on capabilities. Professional requires a Windows user account or a Forms authenticated account only. It won’t accept the certificate, even though it knows that the certificate exists.


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