Merlin Project Express Help
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Thank you for using Merlin Project Express - the little brother of Merlin Project - offering a basic key features set for project management.
This is the Merlin Project Express documentation for the Mac.
It will help you get off to a flying start, providing you with basic and further information.
Help and support
Use the built-in help in the Help menu.
Merlin Project Express requires an Apple Mac with Intel processor and macOS 10.12 as a minimum.
Installation and trial period
Visit our website. This is where you will find all our products and further information.
Click Merlin Project Express.
Try Merlin Project Express for free and without restriction. The first time the program is started, the following message will appear.
The trial period allows you to test Merlin Project Express in full for 14 days starting from when you first launch the program.
During your 14-day trial period a notification will be displayed on the top right of the program window. This tells you how many days remain of the trial period.
At the end of the trial period you’ll still be able to open and view project files, although you won’t be able to edit them. A subscription is required to edit projects again.
If you start Merlin Project Express after the trial period, a Not licensed message will appear in the upper right corner of the main window.
If you click Not licensed, the following window will appear.
Click on Subscribe Now… to open the Subscription panel.
If you click Only Use for Reading, you can only use the application to open and read Merlin Project Express documents.
Merlin Project Express > Subscription
You will find all the subscription options using the menu Merlin Project Express > Subscription.
Your subscription will be billed by the service you subscribed from, i. e. App Store or Setapp. For information on your running subscription, click on Manage Subscription
|You can cancel a running subscription at any time and start a new again whenever needed.|
Styles and Contents
This guide contains information on using and modifying styles and contents in Merlin Project Express.
What are styles?
Styles let you change how elements (bars, groups, milestones, columns, timescales, etc.) are displayed in the views to suit your preferences. You can do this using the style options for view elements, such as to change the format of colors, borders, shadows, or fonts.
What are contents?
Contents let you store a range of project information in the view, for example in the labels (to the left and right of the bars and on the bars themselves) or in the Cards of the Net Plan or Kanban view.
Style and Content Inspector
The Style and Content Inspector gives you control over styles and contents in a couple of mouse clicks.
You can access the Style and Content Inspector quickly by right-clicking an element in the active view and going to the associated context menu.
|Depending on the element you right-clicked, either the Style option on its own or the Style and Content option will appear in the context menu. The selection options they include open the associated options in the Style and Content Inspector.|
There is also a new way to access the Style and Content Inspector by clicking the paintbrush icon.
Elements are displayed graphically in the Style and Content Inspector.
Depending on the active view, you can see schematic displays for bars/groups or cards there.
Using the Inspector
Click an element to access the style or content options. In the above drop-down menu, you can see the selection you made and the selected element will be highlighted in blue.
In the following, the Bars (1), the entire Row (bar row type) (2) and the Reference Bars (3) are activated.
Activate the left label by clicking Title and changing the content of the left label using the option in the drop-down menu with the same name. You’ll also find style options here for modifying the Color and Font of the content.
From the Content drop-down menu, select the Expected Start instead of the default Title selection. This will display the expected start of the activity as a date in the left-hand label.
The General tab controls the styles for the display of many general elements in the active view.
If no selection is active in the view and you click the magnifying glass icon, the Style Inspector will open with the General tab.
The general settings for Style and Content apply in principle to all style options across the project.
The elements for the particular view, which you can configure to suit using the options available in the Inspector, can be found in the drop-down menu.
The By Rules tab lets you control style and content options automatically depending on specific conditions.
For example: You want all activities to which a specific resource has been assigned to appear in a specific color or alternate font automatically.
|In "Merlin Project" you can define your own conditions. "Merlin Project Express" does not support this option.|
The For Selection tab controls the styles and contents for the selection. This lets you adjust elements individually.
In a view, select an element and click the paintbrush icon. The Style Inspector will open with the Selection tab.
|In principle, you can control styles and content by right-clicking and selecting the option Style or Style and Content from the context menu.|
Work Breakdown selection
Right-click a bar in the Work Breakdown view, a column row, or the Outline to access and edit the associated style and/or content options.
(1) Outline text style and content options
(2) Column row style options
(3) Outline style options
(4) Timescale style options
(5) Bar, milestone, and group style and content options
(6) Gantt chart style options
Style and content examples
Here is a small selection of practical examples.
Example 1: Modifying the color of non-working time
Right-click Non-working Time (6) in the Gantt chart and in the drop-down menu click the option Style > Non-working Time.
|Alternatively, you can also click the paintbrush icon and then in the General tab select Non-working Time from the drop-down menu.|
The General tab will open in the Inspector with the style option for Non-working Time.
Click the Background Color color well to change the display color of the Non-working Time in the Gantt chart.
The macOS Colors window will then appear. This includes a range of options for setting colors and the opacity.
|Learn more about macOS’s Colors window at Apple online.|
Changing the background color. Following that, Non-working Time will be displayed in the selected color in the Work Breakdown.
Example 2: Custom bar colors
Open a new or existing project in Merlin Project Express.
To change the color of a bar, milestone or group, first right-click a bar, group or milestone.
From the context menu, select the option Style and Content > Bars.
The For Selection tab will open in the Inspector. There you will find options to modify the styles for the selected bars.
Click Background Color. In the Color window, choose the desired color. This will be adopted immediately for the selected bars. Repeat the process for the Fill Level Color.
|The fill level color is displayed only once the activity has progressed in the rows.|
If required, make further changes to options in the Inspector to modify the style of the selected bars.
Click the cross icon if you want to undo the value of an option. In doing so, the value of the parent level or condition for the option will be used instead.
|The above steps also work with multiple selections. You can select several bars using the Caps Lock key or cmd key and use the Inspector.|
When making a multiple selection, if the bars have different values then Multiple Values will appear in the Info field. Click the field and adjust the color so that all selected bars are assigned the new color. This overwrites the old values.
Otherwise, click the cross icon to revert from multiple values to the default values.
Outline style properties
All elements in the Outline include various options to change styles. These are summarized graphically in the following image.
|Right-click a title in the Outline. From the context menu, click the style options for Rows, Cells, and Separator Lines in the Outline.|
Outline column style properties
Outline columns include various options to change column styles. These are summarized graphically in the following image.
|Right-click a column title above the Outline. From the context menu, click the style options for Rows, Cells, and Separator Lines in the Outline.|
Gantt chart bar style properties
Gantt chart bars include various options to change the bar styles. These are summarized graphically in the following image.
|Right-click a bar, milestone or group. From the context menu click the style options for Bars in the Gantt chart.|
Net Plan box and histogram style properties
Net Plan boxes and histograms include various options to change the bar styles. These are summarized graphically in the following image.
|Right-click a bar, milestone, or group. Select Style and Content > Bars in the context menu. In the Inspector, in the Row Type drop-down menu select either Boxes or Histogram instead of Rows.|
Labels in Gantt
In this guide you will learn how to activate further labels for activities, groups, and milestones:
Click the brush icon. In the Inspector, select the appropriate tab.
Select the General tab so that the change applies to all content in the view.
Click the desired label in the preview.
There are three labels to choose from:
Left Labels (title)
Middle Labels (middle labels)
Right Labels (resources)
Click the Content drop-down menu and select the desired content for the active label.
The Content drop-down menu contains all the information that can be used in labels.
First steps with new projects
The following guide will help you get started with new projects.
Opening a new project
When starting Merlin Project Express following window will be displayed:
To create a new empty project, click the Empty Document button.
To start a project out a specific template, select the template and click the Create button.
To open an existing project, click the Open existing document button and select the file.
Recently opened files are listed in the Recent Documents area.
Naming your project
Name your project. To do this, double-click New Project in row #0 of the outline and give your project a new title.
Display the Inspector by clicking row #0 (the project). It contains a number of options for the selected project. Here you can also change the title and start date of the project.
|Each Inspector has multiple tabs containing further options. When you select elements, as in this case row #0, the corresponding Inspector always appears.|
In the Inspector, click the Calendar icon in the Start > Earliest field. Use the calendar to set the earliest planned start for the project.
Regular working times
Working times are configured in the settings for each project. Click the Settings icon (1) and then the Calendar tab (2).
The Inspector shown here contains calendars for the Regular Week and Exceptions, such as vacation time and extra working time.
Click the Regular Week tab:
The default calendar is active (checkbox ticked). Further calendars are available in the list and can be configured as project calendars.
|By clicking the plus or minus icons you can create new calendars or delete existing ones.|
Click one or more (while holding down the cmd key) weekdays and then click the Work intervals to change the calendar settings.
|The calendar settings have a direct impact on project planning and the working time in the active project.|
The exceptions work according to the same principle. Read more about this in the Non-working Time guide.
Creating project content
Below you will learn how to create project content (activities, milestones and more) in Merlin Project Express.
The easiest way to create new activities is to click New (the plus icon in the toolbar) or even faster with the keyboard shortcut cmd + N.
|If you repeat the step several times, the activities appear in chronological order.|
Newly created content is activated and ready to be named. Add a title to the activity.
|You can quickly convert an activity into a milestone. To do this, tick the checkbox next to the Milestone option in the Inspector. If you uncheck the box, a milestone will become an activity again.|
If you click the arrow to the right of the plus icon, a menu appears with further content for selection.
Depending on your current selection, you can create the following content:
Activity (creates an activity)
Milestone (creates a milestone)
Child (creates an indented activity)
Aunt (creates an outdented activity)
Predecessor (creates a link to the successor)
Successor (creates a link to the predecessor)
Assignment (creates an assigned resource)
File Attachment (allows you to attach a file)
Column (inserts a column into the outline)
|The aunt option remains grayed out until an indented activity is selected at least one level down. Only then will an outdented activity be created using the aunt option.|
Insert menu item
You can also create the content listed above using the Insert menu item.
Insert option in the context menu
In addition, the context menu shown can be called up in the view by performing a secondary-click. Among other things, it includes the Insert option.
|New content is created beneath the current selection. If nothing is selected in the main area, new content is created beneath the last row at the end of the project.|
Creating a project structure
This guide shows you the first steps behind creating the project structure in Merlin Project Express.
It’s a good idea to group activities together to structure your project. This gives a clearer picture of the individual project phases.
The indention of activities in the outline creates groups and, if required, further indented child activities (children) and child groups automatically.
Indenting to another level creates a child activity and a resulting group automatically.
The activity above the indented content becomes a group automatically, which is identifiable graphically by the group bar.
|A project is always a group and, like all groups, can be expanded and collapsed using the small triangle.|
The outdent icon moves activities out of a group and its child groups.
Select one or more activities and then click the outdent icon.
Outdenting is only active if the selected activities or milestones are already in a group. An outdented activity is called an aunt.
|You can indent multiple selected activities/milestones. Additionally, you can use your mouse to nest activities in other activities or indent or outdent activities in the levels using the Structure → Indent or Structure → Outdent menu item or the corresponding keyboard shortcuts cmd + → or cmd + ←.|
This guide shows you how to create dependencies in Merlin Project Express.
The aim of linking content in a project is to define the sequence in which the activities are worked through logically.
Example: Only when Activity A is completed can Activity B begin. Activity A is the predecessor of Activity B, which is its successor.
You can link project activities. When linking, dependencies are created that define a logical sequence.
Select at least two activities that you want to link together.
On the toolbar you will find the Link button. If you click the arrow to the right of the Link icon, the available link types and the option to separate existing links appear.
Click the Link icon or use the keyboard shortcut ctrl + cmd + L for the End to Start dependency type. The two activities are now linked with an arrow.
All roads lead to Rome, including the various possibilities for creating links.
Menu and context menu
In the Structure → Link menu item you will find the same options.
|Secondary-clicking selected content will display the context menu. This contains the dependency option with the four dependency types.|
Linking using the mouse
You can also link activities in the Gantt chart using your mouse. Press and hold the alt button while hovering the mouse pointer over an activity bar or milestone.
A small black dot appears on the activity. While holding down the alt key, move the mouse to another activity (successor).
The dependency will be created as soon as you release the mouse button.
Linking with columns
In the Predecessor or Successor columns, you can see the predecessor or successor activity numbers (#).
Enter an activity number in the Predecessor or Successor columns, to create a dependency of the current activity row to that number.
|The Successor column is not activated by default.|
To disconnect links, click a link line and press the delete key.
If you need to delete several links, select all activities and use the Disconnect option in one of the Link menus.
If you select a link, the Dependency inspector appears.
The options contained in the Dependency inspector are responsible for the dependency of linked activities, groups, and milestones.
Here you can modify the predecessors and successors, and find them quickly in the project by clicking the arrow.
In the Type drop-down menu, you can select the dependency types. This lets you change the current dependency:
End to Start
End to End
Start to Start
Start to End
Lead/Lag in links
Click a link line to access the Dependency inspector.
Enter a time unit in the Lead/Lag field to lengthen the dependency between the linked activities.
If you enter a negative value, the dependency and the linked activity will move back along the timeline according to the entered lag value. For example, enter -2 days in the Lead/Lag field.
|Lead/Lag can be entered manually in the Predecessor or Successor columns.|
Example: If you enter the value 5ES+2 days in the Successor column for an activity, an End to Start dependency will be created with the Activity #5 and a lead/lag of 2 days.
At the same time, the Activity #5 will be also linked to Activity #1 by a lead/lag of 2 days. Its Predecessor column will show then: 1ES+2 days
This guide shows you how to create and use assignments in Merlin Project Express.
What are resources
Merlin Project Express offers the following resource types:
Person (involved in the project actively or inactively)
|The default resource type is Person.|
The Resources icon contains a pop-up window.
You can quickly create new resources in your project by clicking New Resource in the pop-up window.
|To display the resources view click the pop-up window.|
The resources pop-up is perfect for gaining a quick overview of project resources and switching quickly to the resources view.
The resources pop-up can be used as a separate window. Move the window down with the mouse pointer.
|You can quickly show or hide the resources pop-up as a separate window using the F4 key or via the Window menu item.|
Move a resource from the Resource Pool to an activity, group, or milestone. An assignment is created automatically.
|A resource assigned to an activity is called an assignment. This resource works on the activity assigned to it in the project.|
The assignments are identifiable by the white triangle. Multiple assignments can be created for an activity and these share the work automatically.
For selected activities in a view, the Assign option appears in the Resource Pool. This allows you to add additional resources as assignments to the activity quickly by marking the check box.
If the checkmark is removed, the assigned resource is also removed from the activity.
|You can create new assignments for the selected activities automatically using the Insert → Assignment menu item or the corresponding shortcut option + cmd + A .|
Mouse and keyboard
This guide provides basic information on using Merlin Project Express.
Mouse and keyboard
Both the mouse and keyboard are useful when using Merlin Project Express.
Many commands can be accessed directly and quickly with keyboard shortcuts; other tasks are accomplished easily using the mouse.
|The keyboard shortcuts are displayed next to the commands in the menus.|
The mouse is a device used to control the mouse pointer. For laptops, this can be the trackpad.
|The latest Macs support a wide variety of input devices (mouse, trackpad, pen tablet, etc.).|
For videos explaining the different gestures you can use with mice and trackpads, go to System Preferences in macOS.
There you will also find options such as the secondary click (also known as the right-click in Windows).
In System Preferences → Trackpad under the Point & Click tab you will find options for controlling the input gestures for your trackpad.
Perform a secondary-click to open context menus in Merlin Project Express. This provides you with additional options for the clicked content.
Move (Drag & Drop)
You can drag & drop content using your input device. This lets you move content with ease.
|This function lets you create new groups, arrange the sequence of project content in the Outline, assign resources to activities, and create attachments.|
The procedure is always the same:
Move the selection while keeping the mouse button held depressed
Drop the selection over an object by releasing the mouse button
Creating a group using »drag & drop«
New groups are created using this technique in Merlin Project Express. You can drag several activities and drop them on another activity.
The activity the content is to be dropped on will be highlighted in blue. Once you release the mouse button it will turn into a group (bold) automatically and the activities will become its child activities (indented).
Click a selection and keep the mouse button held depressed
With the mouse button held depressed, drag the mouse pointer to an object - in this example an activity (don’t release the mouse button yet)
Release the mouse button to drop the selection
Changing the project structure sequence
In Merlin Project Express, you can re-sort the sequence of activities, groups, and milestones. To do so, drag several activities and drop them between other activities.
When doing this, blue line with a circle appears to mark the position between the content.
Click a selection and keep the mouse button held depressed
Move the mouse pointer between two objects, in this example between "Activity A" and "Activity B", with the mouse button held depressed (do not release the mouse button yet)
Release the mouse button to drop the selection
Activity C now appears between Activity A and Activity B.
The following keys are the important ones on a Mac for using keyboard shortcuts.
Shift key (shift) → upper-case key
Control key (control) → corresponds to Ctrl.
Option key (option) → corresponds to Alt/Alt Gr
Command (command) → corresponds to Windows
|In the menus, the ctrl key is represented by the ^ icon.|
The command key is abbreviated to cmd.
For instance, the Enter/Exit Full Screen option under the menu item Window is controlled using the keyboard shortcut ctrl + cmd + F.
To edit content, the following keys are especially useful.
1.Delete key (backspace) → backspace key 2. Function key → (Function) → no corresponding key with Windows 3. Enter (Return) → Enter 4. Delete (Delete) → DEL
Merlin Project Express uses a host of keyboard shortcuts.
Keyboard shortcuts consist of several keys pressed simultaneously, for example, saving projects is performed with cmd + S. F keys (F1,F2, etc.) are available on all newer Apple keyboards using the fn function key.
Most menu entries are provided with the corresponding keyboard shortcuts. They are located directly next to the individual menu entries. This lets you access these menu entries quickly and easily using the keyboard.
This guide provides basic information on inserting content into Merlin Project Express documents.
A project needs content. In Merlin Project Express this content can be inserted manually, copied from a template, the library or imported from different documents.
|The Library is a feature existing only in Merlin Project, not in Merlin Project Express.|
Merlin Project Express imports many types of document format, including Microsoft Project, CSV (Excel), OPML, XML, and Mind Maps.
There are various ways to import new content:
File > Open
Call the File → Open… menu item. It opens existing documents. If the format of the selected document is supported, Merlin Project Express imports the content and opens it in a new document.
Drag & drop using the mouse
You can drag & drop a document directly onto the Merlin Project Express application icon or onto an existing project. Latter, imports the document into the existing project.
Content from templates
Project templates make working with recurring content easier. They are perfect for starting new projects quickly.
A large number of templates can be found in the File → New… (1) menu item.
You can save existing projects for later use as templates. To create a template of your own from a project, call the File → Save As Template… (2) menu item.
New Project Settings
This guide tells you how to configure the project’s direction and other handy settings for a new project in Merlin Project Express.
Setting the project’s direction
You can plan a project forwards or backwards. If you’ve already got a fixed end date for the overall project, you can also take a backward-looking approach. To do this, in your project click Settings and set the Direction to »Backward«.
Setting the project start date
As we all know, every project starts with a date. Once you’ve set the project’s direction, the next step is to set a project date. You enter a start on forwards scheduled projects and an end when scheduling backwards.
First day of week
Per default you’ll find Sunday to be the first day of week for new projects. To change it, just select another day in the Settings > General > Date Presets. You may need to do this for projects taking place abroad, for instance.
In Merlin Project Express, durations are assigned time units dynamically. If you want durations to be displayed using a specific time unit, change this from »Dynamic« to the desired time unit under »Duration« in the project settings.
In Merlin Project Express there are two views for viewing the project:
The views support the Dark Mode, available in macOS Mojave or later.
Merlin Project Express shows in the upper left corner the name of the current view.
Click Work Breakdown for the selection list of all views.
Switch to another view, by selecting another item from the view list.
The Resources view contains all resources involved and assigned in the project. This gives you an overview of the resources available in the project.
Trait column icons
The Traits column contains various icons.
These icons result from different entries already made by the user in the project.
Row #0 is the project row and is always marked with this icon.
When projects are collapsed, the sub-projects are marked using this icon.
This icon indicates that an activity includes one or more attachments.
Groups, milestones, and assignments also support attachments.
An activity, group, or milestone is aligned with an early start.
This icon is only displayed with backward-planned projects. In a forward-planned project, all activities, groups, and milestones are assigned ASAP starts automatically.
If an activity, group or milestone in a forward-planned project is aligned with a late start, this icon appears.
This icon indicates that further information is available in the Traits column, but not all of it is visible.
Change the column width to display all the icons.
This icon indicates that the activity has a specified calendar.
The selected calendar is shown in the »Advanced« options of the »Plan« tab in the inspector.
This icon indicates that the activity has a fixed date.
Use the »Plan« tab in the inspector to see any activity start or end dates entered.
This icon indicates that the activity has a note.
The »Notes« tab is located in the activity inspector.
This icon means that the resource comes from a resource pool.
If logical problems occur during planning, the planning conflicts appear. The Warnings window lists all conflicts with a brief description.
Remove the checkmark next to *Show weak conflicts*and only strong planning conflicts will appear in the list.
Planning conflict (weak)
This icon indicates that the activity has at least one weak planning conflict.
Click the icon. A »Warnings« window will open with a list of all planning conflicts in the project together with further information.
Planning conflict (strong)
This icon indicates that the activity has at least one strong planning conflict.
In contrast to a weak conflict, a strong planning conflict prevents planning. This could be because the activity commences before the project starts. This issue will need to be resolved.
The title column includes the titles of the activities, groups, milestones, and assignments. Two icons are used in the title column: one black and one light triangle.
The triangles indicate groups (black) and assignments (light).
This icon indicates a group. Click the triangle to expand or collapse the group.
This allows you to show or hide all group content.
This icon indicates that an activity, group or milestone has one or more assignments. Click the triangle to see the assigned resource.
|The menu items Structure → Expand and Structure → Collapse let you expand or collapse several groups and assignments simultaneously.|
This guide provides basic information on using time scales in Merlin Project Express.
What is the time scale
The time scale is the display of time in the Gantt chart. The default time scale contains two rows, the upper and the lower one.
In the time scale Inspector, you can make a range of adjustments to the time units and other options.
Time scale Inspector
Click a row in the time scale to open the corresponding Inspector.
There you will find a range of options for adjusting the clicked time scale and settings for the Date Range and Non-working Time.
|For more information on the Date Range and Notes options, refer to the guides of the same name.|
|The selected time scale is shaded blue. The Unit, Fix Time Unit, and Date Format options only apply to this selected scale.|
Current Time Unit
If you tick the checkbox next to Current Time Unit, the current time unit will be shaded in blue automatically in the Gantt chart. This allows you to find the current time period in the project quickly.
|The current time unit is fixed with the Fix Time Unit option and remains unchanged even when zooming the view.|
Like the Current Time Unit, the Time Line is a vertical marking in the Gantt chart, only much more accurate.
If you tick the checkbox for this option, the current time appears as a thin red line in the project.
The red Time Line is updated automatically with the actual time.
Time scale context menu
Secondary-click the time scale to display the context menu.
Add Top Tier
Up to two further rows can be added to the time scale using the Add Top Tier option.
The Remove Tier option lets you remove the selected tier from the time scale.
|The time scale can include up to four tiers. The minimum is one tier.|
Adjust Scale to Fit Labels
The Adjust Scale to Fit Labels option adjusts the width of all active time scale columns automatically.
The available space on the time scale is set automatically to the best width.
Zooming in and out
The time scale is enlarged or reduced according to the selection.
The content of the time scale grow or shrink with it. The time units are adjusted automatically as required.
The Fit Project option adapts the time scale to the project.
The entire project is zoomed into until it fits into the visible area. The time scale grows automatically with it.
The Fit Selection option adapts the time scale to the activities selected in the project.
The selection is zoomed into until it fits into the visible area. The time scale grows or shrinks automatically with it.
|At least one activity, group, or milestone must be selected in the project for this option to be active.|
Complete Work as of
The Complete Work as of sets all activities contained in the project to the status Completed up to the date clicked in the time scale.
This makes it easy to determine the progress of the project just by clicking.
The Style option changes the graphical appearance of the time scale.
|For more information on style options, see the Styles and contents guide.|
Given values are presets that are required for planning. As a project manager, you choose the presets based on your experience and other requirements for the planned course of the project.
Given values can include work, duration, as well as the start and end date for the respective activities in the project.
Insert a new column and type 'Given', Merlin Project Express will list all columns with given values that are available for the project and its individual elements.
The presets for work, duration, start, and end are most frequently required for planning. You can also find these presets in the Inspector for the selected project elements.
The presets can be edited in the columns and the Inspector. The choice is entirely up to you.
|For dynamic planning, simply configure a preset for the work and link the activities, groups, and milestones using dependencies. Merlin Project Express will then calculate the planned and expected values from the presets.|
Work and duration presets
Both work and duration can be entered in time units such as hours, days, months , etc. Merlin Project Express understands 1 day as 8 working hours , 1 week as 40 working hours and 1 month as 20 working days according to the defaults in Settings → General.
Work will be scheduled within the work intervals defined in the calendar(s) of the project. You can read more about work intervals in the Calendar quick guide.
There is a difference however between Work and Duration, which is relevant for planning. You can consider Work as the effort you put to accomplish a task. Duration is the period of time for it to be scheduled.
While most tasks can be scheduled by Work or Duration alone, you might consider scheduling some by both presets.
Example: A specific task requires 1 day Work, to be scheduled within 2 weeks Duration.
In this case you define both presets to make sure your task gets scheduled accordingly.
Per default new activities are created by 1 day ? of work. The ? indicates that the value is estimated.
You can change the default work value in Settings → General and/or delete the question mark if desired.
To change the Work value of an existing activity, select its activity row and use the Inspector to enter for example 2.5 days in the according field.
|Work is the time during which the working times configured in the project (hours, days, months etc.) are worked. It is therefore purely net time in which no vacation, holiday, or sick days should be added. No activity-related delays or waiting times are to be factored into the work.|
Based on the Work value you enter, Merlin Project Express calculates Planned Work and Expected Work.
Per default new activities are created by blank duration. That means, that the Work value defines the Duration of the activity as well.
You can change the default duration value in Settings → General if desired.
To change the Duration of existing activities, select the activity row and use the Inspector to enter for example 7 days in the according field.
When you need a Duration based on a 24-hour day, you add to the unit an e (for “elapsed”). A 2 edays duration corresponds to 48 consecutive hours.
Expected Duration / Work values
Merlin Project Express calculates expected work and duration for each activity based on the defined Work and Duration presets. Expected values are read-only and you’ll find them in the Inspector.
The inspector outputs two kinds of duration; Expected Duration followed by Expected Elapsed Duration in brackets. Don’t confuse the two values.
Example: An employee needs 2 days work for a task. The work can be done within 1.4 weeks duration.
That calculates 1.4 weeks of Expected Duration, the Expected Elapsed Duration may be different however depending on the included non-working times.
Start and end presets
You can enter the time presets, such as Start, Precise, and End as well as the ASAP and ALAP alignment of activities in the Inspector.
You can choose from various options in the drop-down menu. To set up dates you can use a datepicker.
Based on the different Start, End, and Alignment presets, the project activities adapt automatically if any changes are made. The changes will trigger other activities, links, and calendars.
Calendar and working times
In Merlin Project Express calendars define working time and exceptions for the whole project and for individual resources. The calendars control the work for regular weeks and exceptions such as vacation, holidays, or extra working time in the project.
Regular project working times
Click the Project Settings icon (1) or File → Project Settings. The corresponding keyboard shortcut is cmd + ; (semicolon).
Then click the Calendars tab (2). This contains the list with different calendars and the active Project Calendar. It is identifiable by the marked checkbox.
Each calendar has two setting options for the regular week and for the exceptions (3).
By clicking Exceptions (1) you can set single days or time phases as exceptions for free time and extra working time in the active calendar.
New exceptions are created by clicking the plus (2) icon. Each exception can be customized with the following information:
By default, new exceptions are defined as non-working hours.
These times are only active as additional working times (outside regular working time) when times are added in the Work intervals bar (3).
|Exceptions with extra working time have a clock icon in the list.|
Importing and exporting exceptions
Click the gear icon followed by the Import option. This adds exceptions to the calendar as ics files. This is how you can enter vacations, for example, as exceptions in the project.
Click the gear icon followed by the Export option to create an ics file with all the project exceptions. You can then import these exceptions into another project.
Working times for resources
Configure the options for regular working time and resource exceptions in the same way as for the project. To do this, select a resource and click the Calendar tab in the Inspector.
The project calendar is used automatically as the base calendar for the resource calendar. If you make changes to the resource calendar, these settings take priority for the resource calendar.
Use the base calendar drop-down menu to select a base calendar for the active resource.
If you click Reset to Base Values, the settings from the project calendar are used for the resource.
Displaying non-working time
Non-working time is grayed out in Merlin Project Express. For example, the weekends in the project calendar are darkened by default.
Click the time scale. In the Inspector you will find three options for adjusting the non-working time.
The Based on option lets you display the calendar based on its non-working time in the project.
|By default, the project calendar is preset as the base calendar for non-working time. There are further calendars to choose from in the drop-down menu. The calendar settings are located in the project settings and can be edited there.|
The Darken option has three configurations to control the display of non-working time in the project:
Individually per row
The Never option stops darkening the display of non-working time in the project.
The Uniformly option is set by default. The non-working times for the regular week in the project are displayed.
Activate the Individually per row option so that you can see the non-working times of resources and their vacation periods in the project in the respective row.
Regular non-working time
Using the slider, set whether you want the regular non-working times to be displayed or hidden.
Choose from the following options to display the working times:
Hide all regular non-working minutes
Hide regular non-working hours
Hide all regular non-working days
Hide all non-working days
Hide all non-working times
|The effect of the slider setting depends on the selected zoom level in the active view.|
Merlin Project Express provides a number of settings for the open project. Click the Settings icon or use the File → Project Settings menu to open the Inspector.
The General tab contains the following settings for the project:
|The visibility of the project relates to multi-user use and Merlin Server.|
Here you will also find settings for the currency sign used in the project and the visibility of the project.
Date Presets relate to the project and are therefore important.
The direction sets whether the project is forward planned or backward planned.
The Forward option is active by default and lets you begin a project from the start date.
The Backward option allows you to work backwards in the project starting from an end date.
The Start is the start date for the project and is required.
|Whenever you create a new project, tomorrow’s date is always set automatically as the start.|
First day of week
The First day of the week option specifies the day on which the week begins. This varies from country to country. By default, in Europe a week starts on Monday.
This is where you will find the project work settings.
The following values can be set:
Hours per working day
Hours per working week
Days per working month
The Default Value is used for newly created activities. Each new activity is assigned the Default Value for Work automatically.
The ? is only an indication that the Default Value is estimated. Delete the ? if not required.
This is where you will find settings for the project duration.
As with work, a Default Value for Duration can optionally be set. This means that new activities are assigned the Default Value automatically for the duration.
The calculation unit sets the duration unit.
It is set to Dynamic by default. This means that the units are calculated dynamically. This means that 7 days becomes 1 week, 4 weeks becomes 1 month, etc.
Units are available in the drop-down menu. Once you set a unit, it is used for the entire project.
The Status Date allows you to view the project from a certain date.
If a Status Date is set, it is used as the current date for the entire project.
This allows you to simulate the progress of the project on the status date specified.
Dynamic Planning is enabled by default.
When activated, Dynamic Planning shifts the content of the project based on the Status Date.
Two variants for Dynamic Planning are available in the drop-down menu:
Expected & planned values
Only expected values
If you select the first option, dynamic planning is applied to both the expected and planned values in the project.
|If you activate the columns Expected Start and Planned Start, the consequences of dynamic planning are easier to see.|
If dynamic planning is activated, further settings appear.
The granularity determines how detailed dynamic planning should be in relation to the status date. The time units are available in the drop-down menu.
For example, if week is selected as granularity, a different date appears calculated based on the status date and granularity. It serves as the basis for dynamic planning.
The Actual Start/End option is calculated automatically by default.
Two further options are available in the drop-down menu:
From expected values for change in completion
From status date when changing completion
These options take effect when changing the completion of activities and influence the actual start/end of the activities.
The setting for granularity is also displayed with the From status date when changing completion option.
To deactivate the status date, click the calendar icon and the Today button. If you want the status date to move automatically, click Auto.
This is where you set the Initials Style for project resources. The Initials are under the Style options. The Format must then be set to Initials.
Share their Work
The Share their Work option is important when there are multiple simultaneous assignments. For example, if two resources are moved to one activity, both share the work equally.
Remove the checkmark to stop the automatic assignment of labor to assigned resources.
In the Calendar section you will find the list of calendars. Here you can edit and create new calendars. Tick the checkbox to select the default calendar.
New calendars can be created by clicking the plus icon. To remove existing calendars, click the minus icon.
The regular working week for the project can be set for each calendar. This refers to the fixed working times in the project.
A separate tab is available for Exceptions. Here you enter the vacation and special working times for the calendar. Using the gear icon you can import or export calendars for use with other users. The format used for the calendars is ics.
Value Lists are for use with attachments in Merlin Project Express.
Here you can create new or modify existing value lists for the attachments.
First select an attachment type from the For drop-down menu, and then click the plus icon to create a new entry in the value list.
Change the name of existing entries by double-clicking the title of the entry.
Click the minus icon to delete values from the list.
You can print from Merlin Project Express via the File → Print menu item. This uses the standard print dialog integrated into macOS. The Page Setup settings can be found there.
Printing project content
The macOS print window has two views: One with fewer details and one with more details.
This basic view only offers a few options. Click the Show Details button. This opens the advanced print view. Here you will find the options described in the following.
|The page setup and orientation settings depend on the printer used.|
The Content drop-down menu offers options for configuring the content to be printed.
For example, you can configure the print area:
As in project view
Outline and Gantt chart
Gantt chart only
The other options control how the project is printed graphically:
Repeat header columns on every page (useful for printing over several pages)
Smart column page break (useful for printing over several pages)
Smart row page break (useful for a printout over several pages)
Under Page distribution you set the scaling of the project to the configured paper format. If you want to output a large project on A4 paper, it may come out looking very small.
The number of pages, based on the width or height of the selected paper format, determines the size of the output.
|If you set the width to one page, the project will be scaled to fit the width of the sheet. See the following section.|
Printing the project on a single sheet
Click the paper orientation option to select whether you want your project content printed in portrait or landscape format.
Then select Page distribution from the drop-down menu. If, for instance, you have selected landscape, set the width to one page.
This resizes the entire project to fit the full width of one sheet.
|This setting is marked with a star. All other values are derived from this setting.|
Header and Footer
The options for the header and footer offer a variety of settings. You will find pre-defined entries arranged at the bottom. The Format drop-down menu contains text formatting options.
Select the information you want to appear in the header and footer, and select the alignment in the row (left, center, or right). Following that, you can drag & drop the entries in the field to move them around. You can also enter your own text to expand on the entries.
The Borders option can be used for headers and footers as well as a watermark.
Enlarge the borders if the header and footer as well as the watermark are covered when printing out project content.
|The distance from the paper margin varies depending on the printer model.|
The Watermark option lets you include a graphic in the printout. This allows you to include custom company logos in the printout.
The various options control the position, size, and opacity of the image in the printout.
First tick the checkbox next to print watermark.
Then move a graphic file, which you want to use as a logo for the watermark, into the image field.
Next, set the position, style, scaling, layer, and opacity of the watermark.
Set the scaling to manual, so that the size of the image can be changed in percentage terms.
In the mini preview you can see the result of the changes in real time.
|Any graphic format supported by macOS and Preview can be used for the watermark (JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG and others).|
Merlin Project Express offers you an built-in Find function to search for content within projects.
Use the keyboard shortcut cmd + F to open the search box at the top of the active view.
|You will find all the search options together with the relevant keyboard shortcuts under the menu item Edit → Find.|
If you enter a term in the search box, all hits will be highlighted automatically in the view, making them easy to spot.
You will find the magnifying glass icon on the left in the search box. Click it and a menu will appear with the options shown.
Click Insert Pattern and a further menu will open. There you will find a selection of pre-defined patterns. These patterns make it easier to search.
For example, if you select the option Word, individual characters of a word are marked automatically as hits.
If you enter a letter before the word, e.g. an N, all words starting with N will be found in the project.
The right-hand corner of the search box displays the number of search hits and includes an x to delete the current search.
To the right of the search box are buttons for navigating the search results.
If there is more than one search hit, use the arrows to the left and right. This takes you to the next (→) or previous (←) search hit.
Click the Done button to exit the search and hide the search box again.
If you tick the checkbox next to the option Replace, another box appears. Now you can find and replace terms in the project.
The Replace function is very easy to use. Enter the word(s) to replace in the upper search box. In the lower box, enter the word you want to replace the hits with.
On the right next to the Replace box you will find three buttons:
Replace (_replaces search terms step by step)
All (replaces all search terms at once)
Done (finishes replacing)
In the menu item Edit → Find you will find all the search options described above as well as the following ones.
Using a selection for searching
Use Selection For Find lets you additionally search through hits.
Use the keyboard shortcut cmd + E for the option.
Jump to Selection
Jump to Selection lets you jump to a previously made selection, such as a selected activity or several items of selected content in the project.
Use the keyboard shortcut cmd + J for the option.
Jump to Current Date
Jump to Current Date lets you find the current day in the project quickly.
Use the keyboard shortcut cmd + D keys for the option.
Jump to… lets you jump quickly to individual project rows.
|This feature is particularly useful for very large projects.|
Use the keyboard shortcut cmd + L keys for the option.
The Jump to box will appear in the active view. Enter the desired row number into the box.
By clicking the triangle you set your preferred numbering:
|If you also use custom Code or WBS Code in addition to the default # numbering, you should display the corresponding columns.|
You can create PDF files quickly and easily via the print window.
Click the Show Details button. This opens the advanced print view. Configure the print options as necessary. Following that, click the PDF button on the bottom left.
Click Save as PDF. The macOS Save dialog will open. Name the PDF file.
In addition, further options for creating the PDF file can be found here:
Tags (tags used in macOS Finder)
Title (document title)
Author (author and copyright holder of the document)
|These are optional settings that can be used if required.|
PDF security options
The Security Options… button gives you the option to password protect the PDF file and its contents.
Save as single-sided PDF
To create a single-sided PDF, select the menu item File → Export and its Options.
In the Export dialog click the Image format.
On the right-hand side you will see the setting for exporting the image.
Parts (outline and Gantt chart or only one of the two ranges)
Format (image format in our case *PDF vector graphic*)
Specify which parts you want to export as a single-sided PDF.
Further settings for modifying the PDF output can be found here.
For instance, select the Watermark option to add a custom image to the PDF.
|If a watermark is already used in the print settings of the project, it can be used directly.|
Click the magnifying glass and the settings for the watermark will appear.
|Read more about Watermark in the Print guide.|
Then click Next. In the dialog box, enter a filename for the PDF and select the desired storage location. Finally, click Export.
A PDF created in this way is suitable for forwarding to project participants by email or printing on a large format printer.
Scroll bars are used to move the visible area in the program window.
|The scroll bars and their behavior are controlled by the operating system. By default, scroll bars are only displayed in macOS when scrolling.|
The content in the different views of Merlin Project Express can be moved around the visible section using input devices such as a mouse or a touchpad. The scroll bars only appear when scrolling.
|With the Apple Magic Mouse and the Apple Trackpad, you can watch short animated guides to using gestures to move content under System Preferences → Mouse and System Preferences → Trackpad.|
Displaying the scroll bars
Open the System Preferences in macOS and click the General icon. There you will find the options for displaying scroll bars when scrolling.
The three options for scrolling using the scroll bars are system-wide and apply to all programs used.
Automatically based on mouse or trackpad
If you select Always, the scroll bars will then always appear in Merlin Project Express and in all other programs.
File > Save…
The first time you save a document, you name it and choose where to save it—on your desktop or in a folder, for example.
Thereafter, Merlin Project Express automatically saves your document as you work.
Click anywhere in the document window to make it active
Choose 'File > Save'
Enter a name in the Save As field
Choose where to save the document
File > Duplicate…
You can duplicate an opened document. The copy is saved to the same location as the original.
In Merlin Project Express you have two additional options:
Keep document history
Choose this option to create a duplicate with the same document history and be able to undo all your previous actions starting by document creation.
Create new document identity
Choose this option to remove document history in the duplicate and work in this document by a new identity. This would allow you to combine for example the old file with the new duplicate within master projects.
Work and duration
In Merlin Project Express there are three values that are important when planning a project: Work, Duration and elapsed Duration.
The most frequently used value is work. This lets you specify the effort for completing an activity based on the working time set in the project.
|The working time is set individually in the project settings. The working time defined in the project calendar affects the work and duration of the project.|
For example, an activity that requires 2.5 days of work requires 20 hours (elapsed: 52 ehours) by default [where the prefix "e" denotes "elapsed"].
How does Merlin Project Express calculate Duration out of the given Work?
By default and according to settings (Settings > General > Work) there are 8 hours per work day. 2.5 days of work require 20 hours of duration.
How does Merlin Project Express calculate elapsed Duration?
The elapsed duration is the work plus the free time contained.
By default and according to the settings (Settings > Calendars) a regular work day starts at 8am, contains a lunch break between 12am and 1pm and ends at 5pm.
An activity with the planned 2.5 days of work, which starts at 8am requires for the first 8 hours (four in the morning, four in the afternoon) on the first day 9 consecutive hours (ehours).
The works stop at 5pm and start next day at 8am. So there are 15 hours of free time. From 8am until 5pm on the second day there are further 8 hours, until once again at 5pm 15 hours of free time start again.
The remaining 4 hours can be scheduled on the third day to start at 8am and finish at 12am. So to the 20 hours of work, you add 32 hours of free time which calculates as 52 ehours in total.
If you change the values for work in the project calendar, you might want to adjust the Settings > General > Work setting as well.
|The ? after Default Value, or in Planned Work, is only an indication that this activity has an estimated value that can change. It has no impact on project planning. The Default Value for work is set in Settings > General > Work. You may remove the question mark there.|
The Duration value lets you manage activities which have no work or which, in addition to work, cover a specific time period.
The Lay screed activity has a planned work of 1 day and requires approx. 6 weeks of drying time. The 6 weeks are entered as eduration.
Although a builder only needs one day of work, the activity takes 6 consecutive weeks.
Only after the 6 weeks have elapsed can the tiling activity take place.
|You can select whether to enter the value as a duration or consecutive duration.|
Always use elapsed duration if an activity exceeds the working time. It also covers non-working time.
|The elapsed duration is also referred to as consecutive duration.|
The elapsed duration is always based on the usual calculation of time, i.e. one day corresponds to 24 hours, one week corresponds to seven days and one year has 365 days.
|Every time unit supported by Merlin Project Express can be entered as a elapsed duration in the Duration field using the prefix e.|
Example: 24-hour activity
Enter the value 1 eday as the Default duration for an activity. If the activity starts at 8am, Merlin Project Express will schedule it to end the next day at 8am.
In the Inspector you can see all planning values under Expected.
Merlin Project Express offers you finance options for your project. Every activity, milestone, activity group or assignment can be assigned a budget and base costs.
The easiest way to do this is to use the Finance tab in the Inspector.
There you will find three more tabs:
Budget means money that is available for the project.
Select an activity, milestone, or assignment and then click the Finance → Budget tab in the inspector. Here you can enter all budget information in the fields provided.
|If you do not have a budget and would like to record base costs in your project, use the tab Finance → Cost.|
In the tab Finance > Cost you can enter base costs for the selection.
|Base Costs are fixed costs that arise during planning and execution of the project and add up to existing work costs or attachment cost.|
If you have several cost items, first click the triangle next to Base Costs and create new entries one after the other by clicking the + icon. Merlin Project Express will then add up the individual cost items automatically. The Base Costs field lists the total of all cost items.
You can select one of the possible accruals:
Basic costs with Accrue immediately appear immediately and in total in the Actual Base Costs.
Accrue at start
Basic costs with Accrue at start appear in total in the Actual Base Costs but only from the moment on when there is actual progress.
Base costs with Accrue prorated appear pro rata to the actual progress in the Actual Base Costs.
Accrue at end
Base costs with Accrue at end appear in total in the Actual Base Costs but only from the moment there is a 100% completion.
Under the Finance → Balance tab you will find an overview of expected costs listed by Base Costs, Work Costs, and Attachment Costs.
|Select the project in row #0 and go to Finance → Balance in the Inspector. You will see the total Expected Costs of your project.|
Work costs are costs generated by work from resources allocated to the activity.
A resource can have following cost information:
|Enter cost information for your resources in a Resources or Assignments view in the Cost inspector.|
Attachment cost are costs due to base costs on attachments.
|Enter the basic costs of your attachments in an Attachments view in the Cost inspector.|