capsule review

Merlin 2.0.3

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Merlin 2.0.3, from Project Wizards, is project management software that is not only as good as its Windows competition, Microsoft Project, but much better. Merlin 2 takes the excellent foundation provided by the initial version of the software (   ) and evolves it into the kind of intuitive program that leverages the best features the Mac has to offer. This includes tight integration with iCal and Address Book, which can help you keep all of your information up-to-date. From its opening screen right down to the minutest detail within a budget, the latest version of Merlin has been refined to a high polish.

People who are unfamiliar with project-management software can find the interfaces of many products in this space daunting to use at first; not so with Merlin. Merlin organizes all of its functionality in a single window, with side panels that provide options related to your tasks. These side panels allow you to, for example, create a basic Gantt schedule quickly and add associated details to each activity, including relevant files, resources, to-do lists, notes, budget, dependent activities, and risk assessments.

Merlin also works as a content-management system, allowing you to keep versions of the documents you create, track authors, and even share your documents with team members via e-mail. The program also supports a large number of formats for importing and exporting project data.

The only downside to Merlin continues to be its inability to easily publish project information to the Web. While you can use the export function to create Web sites, you still must use third-party FTP software to upload the files that Merlin exports; there is no way to automatically update your project data on a regular basis unless you are willing to script it yourself in AppleScript.

Macworld’s buying advice

A great piece of software feels natural to use and turns even the most-complex tasks into an easily managed process, making you feel as though the program knows exactly what you need and when you need it. Merlin 2.0.3 has almost reached that level of ease of use and sophistication for project management. Whether you’re a project manager or are responsible for overseeing the activities of a staff of workers, Merlin can help you save time and increase the efficiency of your business. This is especially true if you’re managing a Mac office. Although the program lacks the ability to quickly publish projects over a network or to the Web, if that feature is added to a future version, this program will prove to be an indispensable asset.

[ Jason Cranford Teague is the Creative Director for AOL RED and the author of several books about computer design. Jason regularly rants about technology and culture on his blog. ]

Merlin 2 makes it easy to set up a Gantt timeline.
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