It’s been a few years since I reviewed Merlin 2, the project management app for OS X. Merlin Project is its successor and it’s been improved in several areas, making it even more suitable for complex projects. Except for a new, beautifully designed interface, Merlin Project has new views, better reports, earned value analysis, powerful search and filter features and impressive export options. Merlin Project suits every type of project, whether it be the construction of a building, the making of a video documentary or the development of a new web site.
Information is vital to stay on budget and on time. Interpreting that information is an entirely different matter. With Merlin Project, you get insight in costs, timing problems, risks, issues, and everything else that a project of some size and complexity brings with it. You don’t just get it presented in a nice view, but you can drill down to levels that enable you to pinpoint problems before they arise.
Merlin Project has a unified interface that shows you all you need to know with in an integrated and context-sensitive Inspector. Other elements of the new interface include icons/buttons that will take you to the most commonly used views with related views that you’ll need not quite as often on the right. The entire interface hides lesser used options to reduce screen clutter, wile still offering quick and easy access to every type of view which you may want to look your project with. For example, the Export feature allows you to populate your calendar and export project files to various file formats, but initially lets you choose between top-level export options only.
Personally, I was greatly impressed with the Earned Value Analysis, which gives you a complete overview of a project’s performance and progress in an objective manner and enables EVM or Earned Value Management (See: Wikipedia on EVM). Essential features of any EVM implementation include a project, Planned Value, Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled and earning rules.
These can be edited, managed and controlled in Merlin Project. In addition, every detail of your project, including budgeting related elements, is within easy reach and in spots you will look for first without consulting the user guide. For example, a project’s human resources can be monitored closely in terms of specific working days and hours, rates and costs, expected and actual and planned work to perform. In addition, you can enter tags and custom fields, and add notes for that specific resource.
Merlin Project also has several reports that you can customise on a per-module basis. No need for a Budget vs. Actual Cost graph? Easy: just select the area containing the graph — the module — and remove it. Searching and “smart filters” are available too. Finally, the Net Plan view includes PERT and mind maps, organisational charts and a phases view.
Merlin Project costs €219.00. An upgrade from Merlin 2 costs €99.00. Given its power, that’s dirt-cheap.