Home > Project Management, Uncategorized > Omniplan vs Merlin vs Project 2010 project management software

Omniplan vs Merlin vs Project 2010 project management software

I was looking for a mature, stable, easy to use, intuitive to learn, good value package. The table shows a very quick comparison of functions and prices. Below the table is a brief description of each followed by my overall verdict. Please feel free to comment and add your opinions. I gave myself around an hour for each package and would love to know if I’ve missed anything.

Omniplan Merlin Project 2010beta
Platform Mac OS X Mac OS X Windows
Version 1.6.4 2.7 beta
RRP $149.95 $210 Eu145 £519.99 (Project2007 price)
Trial terms 2 weeks free Free up to 40 activities 2010beta free until Oct 2010
Import file as MPX, MPP, XML MPX, MPP, XML MPX, MPP, XML
Export files as MPX, XML, HTML, iCal, CSV MPX, XML, HTML, iCal, CSV MPX, MPP, XML, CSV
Export also as Images (eg PDF, JPEG) Images (eg PDF, JPEG) Images (eg PDF, JPEG)
other Meriln Web version available (Eu95) Sharing via Sharepoint, server options
Resourcing via inspect tool ‘drag-drop’ resources via Resource tab
Levelling Y – limited options Y – a few options Y – many options
Finance Basic cost assignments Basic cost assignments and reporting Budget costs, Earned Value etc., etc.

OmniPlan

Impressions

The Omnigroup, founded in Seattle in 1993 offer several products including Omnigraffle, chart drawing software for the Mac. Omniplan downloaded and installed without problems. First impressions are of a very crisp, clean interface.

Usability

My .mpp file was opened and appearance is good, if minimal. It is possible to add tasks, assign resources and do some basic resource levelling though it doesn’t appear possible to set user-defined parameters for levelling. The critical path can be easily highlighted using a button on the top menu bar. Budget information is limited to tracking if your project and tasks are on budget or not. Reporting tools are not included and multiple project use is not yet supported.

General

The cheapest of the three, at £100ish, is a neat starter package for minimal cost. It seems great for home use or for single projects in small scale organisations. Keep an eye on the Omniplan forum for future developments but for more ambitious PMs, it is probably worthwhile looking at other options.

Merlin

Impressions

Merlin, foundered in 2001/2 and are based in Germany. They produce two products, the single use product tested here and a web server version for collaboration and sharing across multiple projects and users.

First impressions of Merlin are a very attractive UI; it is easy to add in tasks and sub-tasks. Resourcing is handled in the Resources view – this is then replicated in the bottom right of the screen.

Usability

A particularly pleasing aspect is the ability to drag and drop a resource onto a task on the Gantt chart. Drag and drop is also possible with dependencies (e.g task ‘obtain hardware’ must precede ‘install hardware’). The useful report option can be used to generate Milestone/deadline reports and basic financial reports (but not Earned Value as far as I could work out – please correct me if I‘m wrong).

General

At around £150ish, this package is very good value and ideal where the use of MS software is not essential. It replicates all of the most useful parts of MS Project at a fraction of the price.

Project 2010beta

Impressions

Microsoft have brought Project 2010 into line with the rest of the Office family incorporating the ‘love it–hate it’ ribbon task bar.

Usability

Tasks can be added in the normal way or a copied bullet point (eg from an e-mail) can be pasted into the task list retaining the formatting and hierarchy of the bulleted tasks. Scheduling can now be both manually controlled or left to the software to automatically schedule for you. A useful Timeline function is included which can be used to produce a graphical report on project progress. Collaboration is performed via the ‘backstage’ allowing sharing, collaboration and synchronising across multiple projects and users.

General

The price is likely to be around the £5-600 mark (and more for the ‘pro’ version). If you use all of the features then it’s probably worth it – you have to decide at what level you wish to manage your project(s)!

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  1. Phil H
    March 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm | #1

    Nice reviews thanks – have you looked at any open-source PM tools such as
    http://www.taskjuggler.org/
    ?

    £300-500 seems like a lot, and I’d be interested to know what it buys you over an open-source application, apart from aftersales support of course.

    • March 5, 2010 at 10:16 am | #2

      Thanks Phil, hadn’t seen that one, I’ll keep an eye on it. I may be wrong but it looks like it can’t yet export in .mpp .mpx formats? It also looks like it needs several shell command-line inputs for an installation in several bits. Be great when it can be wrapped up into a neat install package? Better for mere mortals…
      There are an increasing number of amazing open-source apps out there, however, when considering a package for business, for me, after sales support is as important as the quality of the software. I consider my payment an insurance policy against that day when it just MUST work.
      Best Regards,
      Howard

      • Phil H
        March 5, 2010 at 10:22 am | #3

        Ah yes, the magic word ‘free’ does tend to obscure considerations of robustness and support overhead.

        Who wants to go potholing with a cheap torch?

      • Al
        April 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm | #4

        I have to agree. I’ve chosen open source software for commercial purposes before with NO support services and regretted it massively. It can end up costing more. We had one problem in particular that stopped people buying from our site in IE. It took a huge amount of my time to fix the code myself. The company behind the open source software didn’t want to know. In the future I would only consider free software if there were robust support packages with it.

  2. April 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm | #5

    Hi Howard,

    This is a good comparison. I’ve never used Omniplan before, but it seems to me, from what I’m reading, is that its user base is growing.

    I have published a review of MS project 2010, still in its beta version, a few days ago. It will be released next month. Let’s see if it’s going to “change the world”, although, from the looks of it, I think it’s still much of the same.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • April 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm | #6

      Thanks Jason, great review, well written and far more in depth than I could have managed. I’m happy to pass folks onto your article and endorse what you’ve written. Many thanks, Howard

  3. Phil H
    April 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm | #7

    So – open source = lower accountability = higher risk. If you’re buying 3000 seats with a corporation’s money, you don’t need the aggro. You pay through the nose, but you sleep well at night.

    However there is the potential for individuals paying for their software out of their own pocket, to make good savings in parts of their business where total failures don’t have too much impact or risk exposure, and where they have the familiarity with their own IT infrastructure (which may be no more than a laptop, a website, and some cloud servers in Mumbai) to be able to configure, tweak and repair as part of the fun and personal development of being their own boss, instead of major support headache.

    It’s always paid to shop around, and it still does. If you’re building a mile-long bridge, then your PM software needs to be industrial-strength. If you’re putting up a website for someone, you may be gilding the lily. Although practice is always useful, especially if it provides a salutary warning that the map (or Gantt chart) is not the territory.

    I suppose it’s nice for clients though, to get some kind of systematic breakdown of what tasks and resources their fee is paying for.

    And I’m sure that there are still some project managers using the ‘Post-its stuck around a monitor’ system!

    I’ve worked with a few different project management tools, but in my experience, the deciding factor is simple stamina on the part of the PM, grinding away at those tedious issues, day after day.

  4. May 1, 2010 at 10:50 am | #8

    Nice content. Thank you for your information.

  5. Bill P
    February 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm | #9

    OmniPlan also supports drag and drop resource assignment, in the Resource view.

  6. April 28, 2011 at 3:07 am | #10

    Awesome review – Its good to know where the limitations of Merlin are – however one thing I found was killer with Merlin is it’s ability to export a ‘live’ project view which is basically an interactive HTML website that you can put on a server or zip up and send to someone. VERY useful when a project plan gets really large. MS Project does this through Sharepoint and it seems to be nowhere near as simple to do or easy to use. Generally I found I love Merlin – very glad a colleague recommended it. Never looked back…

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