March 24, 2012, 7:05 AM — 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.