In my review of OmniGroup's OmniPlan 2.0.3 ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ), many readers asked about ProjectWizards' Merlin 2. Like OmniPlan, Merlin 2.8 is a versatile project management application that should help you power through any project large or small. But Merlin 2 goes beyond the call, offering you numerous options for putting your project plan into the hands of everyone you work with and helping you make sure the project gets completed on time.
Like most applications of this kind, you can get started with Merlin 2 pretty quickly, but if you want to master the program, plan on spending a week or two to get yourself completely up to speed. A small, PDF-based tutorial will walk you though the basics of creating your first project, but to go deep you'll want to spend time on the ProjectWizards website or, better yet, taking one of ProjectWizards' two day Merlin 2 workshops.
Merlin 2 is capable of managing anything from a simple to-do list to a full scale, multi-tiered project that spans several months or years. To get you started on the right foot the application includes more than a dozen templates that includes pre-defined resources for the template type that you've selected. If you've been using another application, such as the Windows-only Microsoft Project, Merlin 2 can import your documents without a problem. If you need to give a project file to someone who doesn't have a copy of Merlin 2, the application can export project documents in a number of other formats, including MS Project, XML, OPML, and Mind Map files.
One of the key features of a project management application is that it has to provide you with tools to manage resources, such as contractors or employees, that are integral to specific aspects of a project. Merlin handles these kinds of details with aplomb, but one of the things I really like about Merlin is the variety of ways it gives you to view information about your resources. For example, add a resource to an aspect of your project that is expected to take a week and Merlin 2 will display an estimated completion time. Add another resource and Merlin 2 splits that time in half. Add a third resource and it splits the completion time in thirds. While this might seem obvious, features such as these help you to get a quick grip on when a specific aspect of a job will be completed and when you need to schedule the next aspect of the project.
Merlin 2 also includes a utilization map that provides you with an at-a-glance overview of what resources are being utilized where and whether or not those resources are being under or overused. This feature gives you the ability to move under-scheduled resources to over-scheduled aspects of your project.
What makes Merlin 2 a standout is the myriad ways in which the application allows you to share your projects. While this includes the export options discussed earlier, it also includes options for offering editable versions of your projects to people who have no project management tools at their disposal. Adding sharing features requires upgraded licenses, but the benefits are immense. A Merlin Server System Preference Pane ($1000) lets you set up a standalone project repository that can be accessed by anyone with a copy of Merlin 2, including any Merlin iOS app. Turn on web sharing ($130) for a project and anyone with a modern web browser can view and edit the project you've shared. If you want to limit the kind of access you want your users to have, Merlin 2 offers you the ability to manage the kinds of access each user has to view or edit specific aspects of the project.
Macworld's buying advice
Merlin 2 is a best-of-breed project management application that is capable, versatile, and powerful. It offers a compelling set of project management tools that give project managers who want to use a Mac an excellent reason to forgo Windows virtualization, drop MS Project, and manage everything they do using a Mac.
Jeffery Battersby is an Apple Certified Trainer, (very) smalltime actor, and regular contributor to Macworld. He writes about Macs and more at his blog. jeffbattersby.com.]
This story, "Merlin 2.8 is a top-tier project management application" was originally published by Macworld.
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