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I find myself wanting something similar - perhaps user defined lines or fields which specify something important. For me, certain deadlines are given by my department. I'd like to be free to complete tasks before the deadlines, or perhaps know when certain events are happening that aren't related directly to the tasks at hand, but are important for other reasons.

I know this might veer off-course, and perhaps I'm not using milestones properly yet, but I think this is a great idea... and I wonder if it couldn't be linked in some way to resource management?

For instance- does anything happen to the time-lines at all when a resource (person) is on vacation, and no work is getting done? If I give the task 1 week to complete, and my resource is out on vacation for 3 days of that 1 week, shouldn't I get notified somehow that the task won't complete on time? Or, perhaps it would be better to grey out the fields when whole resources are not available? Not sure if these ideas are thought out well here, but I find that a visual field below the chart tasks may indeed be very useful for these types of academic settings.

Cheers!
-Allen