For home users or anyone new to project management, Merlin Project Express is worth considering. Still, it comes with far too many limitations making it not for everyone.
Easy setup and use
Includes core project management options
Not a full-featured solution
The regular version is superior
Can't export documents into MS Project
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Are the best project management software titles too powerful for your needs? Are you new to project management and are looking for an approachable solution? Then, it's time to consider Merlin Project Express, a terrific option for anyone looking to tackle small projects, resources, and budgets using a Mac.
Developed by ProjectWizards, Merlin Project Express offers a single-user interface and side panels to help you quickly create Gantt charts. Considered a "slimmed-down" version of the long-running Merlin Project, the express version is ideal for home and semi-professional users who only work on projects occasionally.
I recently had the opportunity to use Merlin Project Express for a short-term project, and here's what I found.
Plans and pricing
Merlin Project Express is available in the Mac App Store, where it comes with a free 14-day trial for new users. After that, it's either $4.99 per month or $59.99 each year. Even without a subscription, you can still read and review Merlin Project Express documents once the free trial ends. The software title is also available through the Setapp subscription service, which gives you more than 230 Mac and iOS apps for $9.99/month.
The full version of ProjectWizards' Merlin Project is available for Mac, iPad, and Windows.
It's important to note up front that I'm not an expert in project management. In many respects, this makes me the ideal Merlin Project Express customer — someone new to project management looking for a simple solution.
It takes about 30 seconds to create a new project in Merlin Project Express. You can either start from scratch or select from a list of templates. There are currently templates for a big birthday, online advertising campaign, road trip, simple activity plan, the start of self-employment, and a wedding. Other templates are accessible from the ProjectWizards website. There's also a demo project that's worth checking out. Define the tasks, arrange the elements, and set your milestones to get started. Then, in just a few steps, your first project is ready to go! The app is user-friendly and intuitive by design.
Once you create a project, you can add resources and attachments. On both points, the app makes it relatively pain-free. For the former, you can either import content from other applications or drag & drop like you can do with other Mac apps. Merlin Project Express can open various file formats, including CSV, iCalendar, Merlin 2, Microsoft Project, Mindmanager / Freemind / Novamind, OmniPlay, OPML, and XML. In addition, you can export Merlin Project Express files through CVS, iCal, Images (PDF, PNG, JPEG, and more), OPML, and XML.
Adding attachments is an equally seamless process. You can use drag & drop to attach emails, texts, images, and much more.
Merlin Project Express supports English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese.
Once your project is created, you can perform time- and effort-based planning, create milestones, costs/budgets, dependencies, a working time calendar, and maintain activity notes. Available view options are Structure, Gantt, and Resource Management. Finally, from a display perspective, the express version offers dark mode, critical path view, and more.
You can print copies of your project in various formats at any time. These include project view, outline and Gantt chart, outline only, and Gantt only.
Differences between express and regular version
No doubt, it's important to understand there are many differences between Merlin Project Express and the full version. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the latter is a much better and feature-rich option. It's also much more expensive. For example, in the Mac App Store, Merlin Project is $17/month or $170/year for a single license. New users can try Merlin Project free for 30 days.
The features not found on the express version are synchronization between different devices, Kanban and Mindmap views, the export as MS Project files, and more. Additionally, the express version doesn't support syncing with cloud services such as Dropbox or iCloud.
As you become more familiar with Merlin Project Express and decide you need more features, it's a no-brainer to switch to the full version. To do this, you'll first need to cancel your Merlin Project Express subscription, then download and install the full version and subscribe. Unfortunately, it's not possible to upgrade from one version to another. However, you *can* seamlessly open Express files on the full version and vice versa.
Merlin Project Express offers terrific support, with customers typically waiting no more than four hours for a reply. You can contact the team via email. The company also offers live online and on-site training and online manuals. There are also training videos within the app.
Besides the full version, Merlin Project Express's competitors include Monday.com, SmartSheet, AirTable, FunctionFox, and many more. Each has its own set of features, limitations, and support options.
Project Management software can be costly, and it's one of the reasons many don't use it in a home-based environment. With Merlin Project Express, you can begin your project management journey for just $5 a month. And yet, if you expect to get serious with project management, there are many other options available, starting with the full version of Merlin Project.
Whether Merlin Project Express is right for you will depend on your immediate and long-term needs. Luckily, you can try it for free. As a bonus, it's also available through a Setapp subscription.
Regardless, $5/month isn't asking that much for a project management solution. Merlin Project Express is a powerful tool and makes it possible to set up projects using colorful Gantt charts quickly. From there, you can quickly export them to presentation software.
You might also be interested in our report, What is project management?
Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!