Monday, February 11, 2008

Microsoft Project 2007 vs Merlin 2.5

In my day-job as Project Manager at a London Digital Marketing agency, I turn around a great number of project schedules. A solid tool to create these is indispensable to my armoury.

I tried out MS Project 2007 (for PC) over the weekend - and for the first time realised how far Merlin 2 (for Mac) is ahead of it. Who'd have thought? It seems to me that Project Wizards with Merlin are leaders, when I had assumed they were followers.

I identified several things in MS Project that are poor compared to Merlin:
  • You don't seem to able to zoom in to days or zoom out to weeks/months easily (or even at all) in MS Project. This 'scaling' is something I use all the time in Merlin.
  • In MS Project: no library of commonly used project elements, or templates or ready-made schedules to get you started, that I saw. (the MS Project 'Project Guide' says it's helpful and intuitive: it isn't).
  • The presentation of the GANTT chart in MS Project, even in '2007' remains awful. No drop-shadows, no anti-aliasing, no soft edges. This isn't a fluffy or subjective point: I like my project documentation to have substance and style.
  • The way MS Project shows 'completion' is not as intuitive as Merlin. Thin lines inside a bar vs shading the whole bar.
  • No task names on the bars within the chart part: being able to print just that, without the task list, is again useful day to day.
  • Whereas Merlin has an application-specific, well thought-out Print dialog, MS Project uses a system-wide one, with the Preview needing a whole different screen/window and none of the helpful options Merlin provides to quickly print just what you want.
  • Merlin's helpfile is remarkable in that, instead of the usual 'Pressing the 'OK' button will accept the settings', you get a thoughtful and well taught mini-course in Project Management principles, each part mapped to the application.
  • Merlin is Microsoft Project compatible (and I've relied on this in a Production environment) - but MS Project doesn't run on a Mac.
  • Merlin costs less than MS Project (in most licensing situations)
In summary I could see a number of serious drawbacks but very few reasons to prefer MS Project. OK, perhaps it's server-based components/team collaboration tools and integration with other MS/PC products - and even those are mostly available with Merlin 2.5.

Merlin is less a 'challenger brand' and now a better, more comprehensive tool that too few people have yet discovered.