TaskMerlin is simply Genius for task and project management
About me, a 53 year old owner of a small Law Firm in Hoboken, NJ with revolving 4-8 staff members and consultants.
At any one time there are approx. 200-300 open matters with an average of 5 -7 new matters a week coming into the
practice and 3-5 per week completed. In addition we have about 10 separate programs that we actively use for forms,
billing, accounts, emailing, communicating scanning and organizing the office. We actively market the practice on
the internet using SEO, blogging, paid ads, directories, and email and print direct marketing.
But what I didn't have and desperately needed was a project and task and calendaring program that would provide me
with a way of organizing and prioritizing all of the various aspects of a small business. Like the old TV variety
show where a person balanced a multitude of spinning plates on thin sticks I needed a solution that would enable me
to keep all the plates spinning without missing a deadline, keeping the clients happy by being proactive with their
matter, keep the bills paid and actively keep up with all the new social media with the constant stream of requests
by new and existing clients.
My quest for such a program took many months, many many months
The program had to be reliable, easy to modify, affordable, integrated with Outlook, and as I discovered, intuitive
enough so that my staff would actually use the program.
My quest for such a program took many months, many many months, hundreds of hours testing, attempting implementation,
attempting training of staff, hundreds of dollars in upfront fees so as to get the feature rich collaborative versions
of the programs and a lot of perseverance in the face of programs that did not live up to the hype and by the exasperated
jokes and yawns by a dedicated staff and a loving wife who help me test out the programs signup emails and never ending
I first started out on my quest, and always came back to, Outlook. I run Exchange with Office 2010, I use a Gmail account
for marketing and external contacts but my Law office relies on Outlook for all my emails, and faxes and calendars but
try as I might Outlook simply fails as a shared project and task management system for a small office. Obviously in what
I believe is a shortsighted desire to protect "Microsoft Project" they crippled Outlook so that it cannot be used for
group project and task management. I had high hopes for Outlook 2010 with Notes 2010, but as with prior versions it just
was not designed for project management.
So I spent many a night using and abusing Google, I tried every imaginable combination of keywords like task, project,
management, small business, time tracking, collaboration, and group and soon discovered a mini universe of Web 2.0 task
and project management programs. Hosted on the web, they came in every conceivable price range and pricing methodology,
per user, per project, per gigabyte, per client, per workgroup. Almost all had a free edition for 1 user that had limited
functionality. Prices ranged from $25-$150 per month. They all looked cool and had great demos. For a gadget mine like
myself the search itself was endlessly fascinating. Some of the programs were small and relatively affordable others were
a science class in and of themselves. I really do admire the dedication and brains and designs of these programs but for
various reasons they did not fit my needs. Programs like Toodledo, Remember the Milk, Vitality were just not enough,
Programs like Basecamp, Liquid Planner, Clarizen, Huddle Behance were way to involved and expensive. Nozbe, TeamworkPM,
5pm, Central Desktop, HyperOffice, Zoho all had too much going on and were simply too rigid for actually day to day use
in an office environment.
I must have tried 100 programs, each one brilliant in and of itself, but not what I envisioned
And to top it all off was the Siren call of the IPhone and IPad app world. Each and every program was tripping over itself
to come up with a great Apple App but almost each and every IPad app was deficient and buggy and lacking the simple
synchronization reliability needed in the real world.
I must have tried 100 programs, each one brilliant in and of itself, but not what I envisioned, and if it was what I
envisioned on a conceptual level, failed because of price or my staff's failure to adopt, or because of features that were
just around the horizon but as of now, nonexistent. I truly despaired of ever finding a program that fit my needs.
Then one night, my wife wandered into my office room at the house, my sacred tech cave, and said she was going to help me.
Being the tech man I set up LogmeinPro on her IPad and had her log into my computer so that she could sit on the sofa and
watch what I was doing on the web. Well I started to show her all the glory of the Web 2.0 programs and talked about the
cloud and group dynamics and collaboration and in her wonderful way hinted that my head was in the clouds, that the IPad
was a fun toy, and that I needed to come back to reality 1.0 and forget Web 2.0.
Well my wife is smart and I needed help so with her comments and suggestions I typed the following into Google "desktop
project task management calendar software -GTD -IPad -cloud -Saas" and on the first page my eyes fell on the word
"TaskMerlin", it led me to some reviews and then to the site itself.
And within 20 minutes I knew my search had ended and that I found the answer to all my needs. When I stripped the search
of the cloud an Web 2.0 and IPad I took out all the fluff and discovered a program that was affordable, customizable,
consistent with the Microsoft Office interface, integrated with Outlook, with GTD methodology built into the system, and
with terminology and functionality that would allow my office staff to easily use the program alongside of their existing
Windows 7 Outlook based desktop. To say I was thrilled was and understatement and I owe this discovery to the common
sense questions of my wife. Judy, I tip my hat to you!!!!
My office staff loved the program and instantly began adding projects and tasks. It actually made my
entire office so happy that they bought a little cake (from the now world Famous Carlos Bakery) and had a little surprise
party for me and TaskMerlin.
That all being said let me talk in detail about TaskMerlin in an outline format:
- On the first two days of implementation I emailed customer support about 5 or 6 issues and they got back to me with hours.
There answers were to the point and they took my one suggestion for emailing task to the inbox as a serious point of
implementation. Their attitude was that the program could and would change if the suggestion made sense. This was in
contrast to the unresponsiveness of many of the more popular Web 2.0 programs.
- The overriding concept of the program is that everything is an item and an item was made to be changed and moved.
Simple and Effective.
- Todo, dates, projects, folder, tasks, are all interchangeable which might sound puzzling but which makes perfect sense as
you begin to process your action items
- All the items are placed in an hierarchical folder system that allows for tremendous flexibility.
- The calendar system is both project and system wide based.
- Information is displayed in any which way though the easy use of Filters.
- You can drag and drop Outlook Emails and Tasks to and from TaskMerlin.
- You can drag and drop items from any place to anyplace in TaskMerlin.
- You can add to and take from the Outlook Calendar. (no public folder support but it’s not totally necessary since you have
the group calendar of TaskMerlin)
- All items have a note section so that you are not stuck with hundreds of tasks going back and forth.
- You can collaborate with Team members but adding ideas and tasks to the note section of each item.
- The program easily sets up on a network and because of that it is fast and reliable.
- It only costs $99 plus $25 for support and upgrades, a fraction of what a cloud based system would cost over a few years.
- My office staff loved the program and instantly began adding projects and tasks. It actually made my entire office so happy
that they bought a little cake (from the now world Famous Carlos Bakery) and had a little surprise party for me and TaskMerlin.
I literally was driving them over the edge with each new program I promised them would change their office lives forever.
They were so happy that TaskMerlin just made sense from their Outlook world that they wanted me to know that it was time to
stop looking. They actually created tasks for themselves and, what made them so happy, they created tasks for me. It was
really surprising how much TaskMerlin opened up communication between all of us, since it was now easy for someone to express
their frustration at the assignment or delegation of tasks that just developed over the years
- With the way the folder system is designed you can mess up and delete and redo and change your mind and reorganize projects
- The Templating of projects and tasks is a breeze. Just rename and save a folder or project under a template folder and when
you have a similar project just copy it and place it in an active folder.
- Instead of the cloud simply use remote desktop or LogmeinPro free edition to log unto your computer and viola your using your
program away from your office desk.
- Built in fields for Status such as Next Action, and Context and progress are simple to use and accessible both system wide
and project specific.
- Switching editing inline in the list view or editing per item is a powerful way of allowing modification of your project items.
- The use of an inbox makes this a easy to use GTD system, and along with Quicknotes you can just jot down your thoughts and then
turn them into action items, brilliant and deceptively easy implantation of the GTD process.
- Simply put TaskMerlin is genius. There is no other way to sum it up. However, don't expect it to immediately flow into your
life. You need to sit down and go over the point by point Tutorial. You then need to start adding a few projects and tasks until
you feel confident enough to modify views and drop lists to your needs. And then you do it all again. The process of customizing
the program in and of itself forces you to create an organized flow to your projects.