To say I have and use a lot of Mac software is to say that the Yankees and Red Sox are rivals. My Mac is more useful now than at anytime in the past 20 years. It’s also loaded with more software than ever. One of my most important chores is to track my time on various projects. That requires a time tracker and invoicing application. I use OfficeTime because it’s the best, most Mac-like app for the job.
Tracking time is not fun. I’m on my office Mac about five or six hours a day, and the projects range from one or two to a dozen that I’ll work on daily.
How does a Mac user track their time, splitting up effort between a growing and changing list of projects? It’s been my experience that whatever gets used, needs to be used, needs to be easy enough to use, needs to be stable, and needs to grow as I become more experienced, and as my needs change.
I’ve used everything from Stickies to Word documents to Excel spreadsheets to QuickBooks.
Time tracking is one of those business functions that can get complicated. Quickly.
Whatever application you use must be simple at tracking time, otherwise none of the other features get used, right? That means whatever learning curve there is must be gentle, yet flexible enough to be changed as you gain experience.
Tracking time may not be so complicated for a single project, but this is the 21st century and multi-tasking is the order of the day. Some days I work on a dozen different projects; some for a few hours, some only 15 minutes or so.
The time has to be recorded, notes taken, and assigned to one of a number of projects, some of which overlap.
If invoicing is a requirement, and for me it is, then the projects and related time must be also attached to a client for billing purposes. Reports can spike the learning curve, get complex, and take extra time, so templates help.
I’m in the process of switching from Microsoft Entourage to Mail, iCal, Address Book, so integrating with iCal would be a useful feature. Finally, I work on the same project with other people, so any time tracking app must be able to handle per-person reports.
Alright, that’s my list of needs and requirements. What matches?
The feature set is similar to other time tracking apps for Mac users, with two key differences. The first has to do with learning curve. Project tracking and billing software can get complicated. MarketCircle’s Billings and Daylite are great but seem to require a dedicated, trained system administrator; probably perfect for larger businesses with many Macs.
For me, I needed a time tracker that would get me tracking within minutes, intuitively, rather than with hours on a PDF manual. Then, I wanted to be able to add functions from features that were there already, not in my way.
OfficeTime records what time I spend on each project, easily and seamlessly switching back and forth as I switch my time.
Second, in this office, it was important to find an attractive time tracking, project tracking, invoicing product that was both Mac and Windows compatible. That cut the list down considerably.
Reports can be generated mid-project so we get a quick view of project status. Updating is live, so reports are always accurate. Flexible rates for individual employees and tasks was important, too.
The single most important aspect of OfficeTime is not the feature list, though it’s extensive. Most Mac time trackers adhere to a healthy list of basic features. But apps are not created equal.
The most important aspect is the ability to use OfficeTime quickly, reach parity with the basic functions and intuitively add functions as they’re needed, without a night school course in invoicing or project management.
That’s icing on a cake that helps me track time, and time is money. OfficeTime comes highly recommended.