Merlin Project tutorials — the basics: Time calculation

As soon as you have created your basic project structure, either through the use of a mindmap or an organisational chart, you can start working in the Work Breakdown > Entry view. This is the view where you will be planning deadlines, use date constraints, set up project or resource calendars, as well as determine dependencies.

Leaving everything else at its default setting, each activity takes a certain amount of work (Activity > Plan) and time to complete. Unless you want to show duration independently of work so that you can accurately report both, it is best not to fix the start or end time, so start and finish times can benefit from Merlin Project’s time calculation algorithms. All of this can be easily set in Merlin Project.

By default, the project’s Standard Calendar has been set to weekdays and working hours that are considered as normal in most Western countries. However, if you want to use a different Standard Calendar, you can adjust it by going to the Settings icon in the Toolbar and selecting the Calendar icon in the Inspector.

Each activity has an amount of work of a specific duration, a start and end time and an alignment. All of these parameters are entered in the Inspector. Parameters can be entered in shorthand, e.g. “1m” will be automatically expanded into “1 month”. The work is an estimate if you add a question mark to your entry, e.g. “1 day ?”.

The Duration field lets you define the potentially interrupted, non-consecutive time needed to complete an activity. Suppose you need two hours to finish the activity but your busy schedule forces you to start an hour before lunch break. Since the second hour of work you’ll put into the activity will be after lunch break, you need a way to reflect that in your planning. The Duration field serves that purpose by including the time you take for lunch.

Activity start and end times should best be set to “Unrestricted” as Merlin Project will then freely calculate project time. However, if you need to anchor these dates, you have a number of options:

  • Precise: when the activity has to start or end on a fixed date
  • Earliest: when the activity must not start before this date
  • Latest: when the activity must not start later than this date
  • Between: between these two dates.

The alignment parameter allows you to determine whether a activity should start as soon as possible or as late as possible. These settings will align the activities you select with their parent group.

  • ASAP: as soon as all the necessary precursory tasks are complete
  • ALAP: as late as the moment whereupon all prior tasks are nearing completion
  • Long: the longest possible duration regardless of the time it takes to actually execute the activity 1

After having set date and time constraints, you can start setting dependencies.

  1. Long is new to Merlin Project and stretches the activity to the end of the project, reducing utilisation with a matching amount. ↩︎