Last week I asked my followers on Twitter if they could recommend a good application to help me track the billable time I’m spending on various client projects. Reaffirming the power of tens of thousands of similarly geeky compatriots, I was quickly deluged with answers, for which I’m very grateful.
I had originally asked for suggestions for software both on the desktop and on the Web, but most of the replies focused on the latter. Which is kind of amazing to me. I remember entering work hours in a hoary old package called Timeslips when I started working as a designer; it ran on one Macintosh in the design studio where I was employed, and the staff had to take turns with it to enter our project hours. It was poorly designed and really painful. Of course that was a long time ago but even five or six years ago, when I was researching time tracking solutions for my old design studio, the pickings were slim.
Now time tracking software is available pretty much anywhere and at any time; a number of the packages suggested to me have iPhone components as well. That’s a lot of progress.
In my cursory review of the links sent to me, I definitely feel that I’m more attracted to a Web-based app, mostly because I think the short-term economics are better for me. I haven’t really settled on which is the best fit, but several folks on Twitter asked me to reflect back on the suggestions I came across, so here we go in no particular order.
Looks pretty, but also somewhat complex. I’m turned off by having to surrender my credit card information to get a ‘free trial.’ Suggested by @soopa, @MiSc_at, @matthewcrist and @mwarkentin.
Obviously powerful and a popular suggestion. Probably more than I need though. Suggested by @soopa, @TremulantDesign, @epicserve, @KADLAC, @brightwhite, @Forsyth_Design and @misterdham.
Looks very sleek. Recommended by @soopa and @chrisltd.
Tracks time and does invoicing, also allows flexible invoice styles. Recommended by @Jon_Whipple.
I got a lot of tweets about Billings. It has both mobile and desktop apps. Suggested by @collinkelly, @allanmoran, @allanmoran, @MacDivaONA, @rbird01, @hystericlife, @dmerfield, @davidcorrell, @wittig and @ktamura.
Suggested by @MacDivaONA and @capndesign.
Supposedly a nice complement to Billings. Suggested by @thulsey and @brianleroux.
Looks intriguing actually though I didn’t really have any time to drill down into it. Suggested by @andyHatch and @epicserve.
A desktop program that works as a menu bar app and can post to several of these other time tracking packages listed here. Suggested by @Artletic.
For some reason, this is the one I decided to give a spin. It seems serviceable for now but I’m not sure I will stick to it; the interface seems a little more geared towards multiple users than I need. I’m just a one-person operation for now, so I want something very slimmed down. Suggested by @frcavalli.
Suggested by @IdeaMechanic.
Someone wrote to me: “The interface is really intuitive and I love the way it records and displays data.” Suggested by @davebowker, @jessenivens, @tedgoas and @irwin.
“Free and super simple, I use it to log time to iCal. Could look nicer though.” I need simple, but I also need it to look good. Plus, I use iCal to plan for what’s ahead, and have never really liked it as a repository for an hour-by-hour record of what’s already happened. Suggested by @worldwidewookie.
Suggested by @rbird01 and @imagetic.
A desktop app that runs on Adobe Air — which is kind of a show stopper for me. Suggested by @thehilker.
Suggested by @benkutil.
Apparently this is part of a philosophy called The Pomodor Technique, which I’d never heard of before. Suggested by @kyletwebster.
Recommended by @bruce.
No one mentioned Harvest to me, but that’s because in my tweet I specifically asked for other suggestions. I’ve tried Harvest — in fact it was the first package I tried as it’s one of the biggest brands in the category. I liked it fine, but I just wanted to see what else was out there.
Thanks to everyone who took the time out to send me tweets on this subject. There were a couple of suggestions that I missed, I’m sure, and I apologize to folks who were excluded or wrongly cited here. This kind of compilation of results takes some effort, as it turns out. Everything takes time, which is my whole problem I guess.