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.
Do NOT use Timepost. The developer has disappeared into the ether and offers no support of any kind. It no longer syncs to most of the services it claims because it’s out-of-date. Check the forums. It’s full of complaints.
That said, I LOVE Invoice Machine, but it’s totally browser-based. I’d like desktop time tracking that syncs with it. Largely because one of my requirements is that the software detect inactivity. I often forget to hit “Stop”.
… and then I read further and see that “Eon” syncs with Invoice Machine. Awesome! Thank you!
Great roundup. I’m curious to see your further thoughts on Tick. I always thought they did a good job innovating on the traditional time-tracking interface with the upcoming days as tabs.
I also used TimeLog for quite a while. I absolutely loved being able to keep all my time in Google calendar, subscribing to it in iCal and then being able to invoice directly from that time. I had one schedule for each client and then was able to set rates, etc. in TimeLog. There was no double entry for meetings with clients because anything that was in my calendar was automatically in TimeLog and therefore potentially billable. It was actually one of the things that inspired me when I was creating Book’d (which isn’t exactly a time tracking app, as it just tracks appointments right now).
Great, great roundup. Thanks a ton.
I rarely bill hourly anymore, but I really liked SlimTimer: it’s a web app, but I created a Fluid instance so it runs like a desktop app.
you can try TodoStack not big on reports, but really easy to getting the data in 🙂
A couple more web based suggestions: paymo, it’s free for one user, has a dashboard widget and an iPhone app, I use this app everyday, does everything I need. Also if you want to track time twitter style, you can try tempo.
my company can’t live without harvest — especially since we started using it with co-op… we’re up to 8 people on it and it’s essential to seeing how much time is spent on each project… even if we don’t bill all of our projects hourly, it’s useful to see how much time is spent on each… curious to see now that u’ve tried all of these other apps, any clear winners over harvest?
Maybe also worth having a look at: mite
It’s an online time tracking tool. The web interface can be used on your desktop or on your mobile, but you can also use an iPhone app, software (menu item), Jabber, Twitter, … It also can be used by teams.
But think doesn’t do any invoicing.
Hiiiii! Oh, this is exciting. Khoi, I’m a huge fan. Thanks for linking to my app, Freckle. 🙂
I guarantee you that Freckle is not complex, but it is powerful — we go the extra mile to please. No other tool offers things like our Pulse, smart entry boxes, automatic minimum billing increment rounding, etc. Invoices are zero-conf and our reports are the best. The timer is the simplest around, and entirely keyboard navigable for powers users, despite having nice big affordances for mouse users.
And I’ve personally put ridiculous amounts of time into ensuring that none of those new features adds complexity to spoil the simple interface. We have lots of very happy nontechnical users 🙂
If you can tag photos on Flickr, you can use Freckle.
We’re serious about growing sustainably as a business, and that’s why we no longer offer driveby accounts — and require credit cards for the trial. You don’t pay a thing if you cancel before the trial’s up, and we send you an email 7 days before with the link to cancel.
Obviously, I’m of the belief that you’ll really like Freckle. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for people who appreciate a pure simplicity in design.
How did I miss your call for timekeeping software? For about 4 years now I have been using Officetime (officetime.net) and I love it. It’s designed by a design firm, works on Mac or PC, costs a one-time fee of $50 per user, and is very easy to use. It integrates with iCal, can export to Excel and other applications, it has iPhone and Ipad apps coming out soon, it puts a timer button into the menu bar at the top right of your screen, so you can see all your projects in a drop down menu and switch on the fly. It also asks you what you want to do with the time if your computer’s been idle for a few minutes (you may have been on the phone discussing another project or away from your desk).
It can also keep track of project-related expenses, and does customizable invoices.
I love it.
Nuther shout for Freshbooks. As simple as you want it. Free. iPhone app.
I’ve been using Intervals at my current gig. It’s fairly simple, keeps track of all billable tasks, provides full reporting, and handles multiple projects and people at a time. It’s probably more suitable for small studios, but it’s worth looking into.
I use Billings. I think that I had to pay for it, but I think that there is an iPhone app as well. It’s worked well for me.
I must have missed your tweet! I would recommend taking a look at Intervals,built and used by our web design and development agency Pelago. It’s strength is in it’s ability to track time against tasks and projects, giving you detailed reports as to where your time is going.
Heh, we’ve been using Tick at Behavior for years!
I would recommend Ganttzilla, free online tools for planning your project.
I using it for about half year and satisfied, and support they quickly.
I could really recommend Timeduty.com, An easy to use (!) online timesheet system.
Might be worth looking into!
Have you tried 1daylater? http://www.1daylater.com/
I use it pretty religiously for timetracking.
I’ve gotten some decent mileage out of LessAccounting.com – fairly minimal interface.
I just started using Freckle and really like it. Not complex at all. The interface was exactly what I was looking for: line-item posts to track time throughout the day tagged to different projects.
(Bonus for me: very little set-up time needed compared to Freshbooks, since I’m not using the program to also invoice.)
Please check out Syncd.com, a service that my team developed when we were unable to find a solution to meet our own needs. I think you’ll find Syncd to be very flexible and easy to use. You can track you work in as much detail as you like, adding projects, tasks, etc. on the fly. The ledger shows gaps and overlaps between entries, and allows you to make adjustments with a single click. Syncd also tracks expenses, offers very flexible reports, has an iPhone web-app, and is very affordable.
Please give it a try and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!
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