4 Unique Apps for Tracking Time

By Josh Catone
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Keeping track of your billable hours is an essential task for any freelancer. Just as important is keeping track of non-billable hours, to see how much work you’re actually putting into a project, and to determine if you are utilizing your time for maximum efficiency.

Tracking time can be a pain in the butt experience, and can itself become a time sink. Below is a round up of 4 web applications that each take their own approach to time tracking. Let us know in the comments your experience with each of these apps, and any others that you use for keeping track of your time.

We recommended Harvest as part of our 10 must have tools for communicating with clients last month, and with good reason. Harvest is the crème de la crème of time tracking applications, taking a traditional approach to managing your time.

The application is flexible, supporting a range of entry methods (web, phone, desktop widget, etc.), and has a number of helpful features, such as expense tracking, and great reporting features. Harvest is probably the best suited app in this round up for teams, and offers something most time tracking apps don’t: integrated billing.

RescueTime isn’t like other time tracking applications on this list — rather than manually enter time you spent doing each task, RescueTime is an application you install on your computer that automatically keeps track of what you’re doing. How much time do you spend using Gmail? How much time are you spending working on things in Photoshop? How long are you typing away at code in TextMate? RescueTime can answer those questions.

For that reason, this isn’t a suitable app for tracking every bit of work you do for the purpose of invoicing clients (though it can be useful in making sure your manual time tracking is kept accurate). There are, however, great reasons for using RescueTime. One of the best is that it can actually boost productivity. According to RescueTime, their users “tend to see a 9% average increase in time spent on self-identified productive activities over the first eight weeks of using the service.”

Remember: time is money.

From well-known developers Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs Freckle is all about keeping time tracking as simple as possible. There’s virtually nothing to configure with Freckle, so you’re up and tracking almost instantly. The idea with Freckle is to remove as many barriers for users as possible, so tracking time is about as simple as it can get: you type in how long you did it, who you did it for, and what you did.

The app has all sorts of nifty, useful features, such as the app’s ability to understand time entry on your terms. Freckle makes intelligent guesses, so if you enter “15,” it guesses you meant 15 minutes, whereas if you type in “2,” the app assumes you probably worked for 2 hours. You can override the guesses by using m, h, or d operators during entry.

Freckle also remembers tags and clients you’ve entered in the past, and suggests them as you as you type. And that’s almost the entire app. Like we said: Freckle keeps things simple.

Like Freckle, BubbleTimer is also very simple. But BubbleTimer takes a very unique approach to time tracking that we haven’t seen elsewhere. Rather than typing in the amount of time you’ve spent on a task, or choosing from a drop down menu, with BubbleTimer you fill in bubbles that represent 15 minute increments. For anyone who has ever taken a standardized multiple-choice test in school, this method of data entry should be instantly familiar.

BubbleTimer asks users to set time goals when setting up new task, allowing you to keep track of not only how long you spend on a project, but whether you completed it within the time you set aside. And if you don’t? Well, it ends up feeling a lot like failing a test, which might just train you to be more efficient in your time management.

What other applications do you use for time tracking? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Dan Gebhardt

    Please also consider the time tracking service LiveTimer.com, which is unique in a number of ways. LiveTimer allows you to structure and name the classifications used to track your time to fit your business. Furthermore, LiveTimer tracks the start and end times of time entries, as opposed to most applications that just track durations. This allows us to display gaps and overlaps in your day, so you have a better sense of your actual schedule (vs. your planned schedule). LiveTimer also works well for groups, and will soon include expense tracking and billing.

  • Ikhlaq

    What’s so unique about these applications anyways… Plus they can’t be used by everybody. They are good for a SOHO business or maybe a freeelancer… which is what %age of the market they are competing in???

  • TSheets is another time tracking system with unique features that is gaining awareness in the freelancer world.
    Time stamping for more accuracy and accountability to your clients.
    Seamless ability to sync with FreshBooks & QuickBooks for your invoicing.
    Mobile technology (SMS codes to start & stop the clock) for anyone that is mobile & doesn’t have their laptop open before meeting w/a client or starting a project off site.
    Thanks so much!

  • Good links because my day is all the time too short. I must better compose my time.

  • I’m extremely surprised to not see klok on this list. Free Adobe AIR based application that is just awesome: http://klok.mcgraphix.com/klok/index.htm

  • Steven

    I’m surprised not to see SlimTimer.com on here. I absolutely love it as a freelancer.

  • Paul Warren

    I just signed up to Freckle, I’ll report back as to how I find it.
    Pretty decent for $12 a month.. My plan is to have all staff use it, so I can see who’s slack’en and who ain’t!
    – Paul.

  • Seamless ability to sync with FreshBooks … for your invoicing.

    Freshbooks already has built-in time tracking. Why not just use that?

  • designz

    I think you should include Office Time (http://www.officetime.net/). I have really learned to like this program, if I accidently leave it “on” too long with no activity, it asks me what I want to do with the idle time. I have many, many projects going and have used it to create invoices as well as to make reports for better time management. They have been really quick and responsive with their support.

  • Bee

    Yeah you should also consider paymo it also has a desktop client, uses google gears and works without internet connection too. check it is great.

  • James

    Personally, I use FreshBooks for invoicing and recently started using TSheets as a time tracker. TSheets gives me the
    power to do multi-level job codes and actually does a time stamp vs. just a stop watch timer. That way, I can look back at what I did on, say, Monday and know that I worked from 11am – 2pm – not just that I worked 3 hours.

  • Mike

    As a very small (as in one person) business, I really appreciate the links to the free time trackers. I’ll check them all out to see what works for me. It’s easy to track time when out photographing, but it’s a lot harder when you’re working at the computer and doing multiple projects.

  • Bill

    I’m surprised you didn’t look at Tick? http://www.tickspot.com/

  • Mike R.
  • John

    All of these time tracking apps look great, but I would also recommend Intervals for small businesses who would like to do their time tracking and project management with one app.

  • Carl D Brown

    I use TraxTime from Spud City Software. It will produce a monthly report of all work done for each customer, and also plays a soft short song every 15 minutes to remind me to check who I am logged on to. Good when changing from customer to customer. See: http://traxtime.com/traxtime/traxtime.htm

    Carl Brown – 817-370-1169
    Delta Web Design
    4036 Cypress Gardens Drive
    Fort Worth, Texas 76123

  • Great list guys! Really interesting apps. I’m only familiar with Harvest because they’re on the first page of Google’s index under the keywords ‘online time tracking’. I use Toggl for tracking my time but I might switch to one of these apps. Thank you.

  • Joe

    I’m surprised to see all marketing people promoting their stuff in comments. At least have the decency to tell us you work for the company… so gay.

  • pgsjoe

    I personally have to recommend a service I’ve been using for my company called Cashboard. Breaks your time entries by tasks, which ties back in to your active project, which was created from your estimate, that’s linked up to your Basecamp project. I essentially run my projects by bringing on a team of friends who are freelancers, and it’s the greatest tool for tracking their time/hourly rate in addition to my own. They have an iphone app, dashboard widget and manually or timer-ed methods for entering on their site. Definitely could not run my company without it.


  • Justin

    I use TimeCache. It seems to work well for our needs.

  • Karen

    There is a neat little desktop tool called Fanurio. I love it! You can try it for free too. You can just click to start, pause it, etc and you can do nifty reports. I use it to track the time I spend on client projects.

    Even though I only bill hourly for consulting projects, it helps me to see how much time I’m spending to make sure my rates are in line. With Fanurio you can customize invoice templates using your own layouts and export them to HTML or PDF.

  • agencyzebra

    I second freshbooks – and no, i dont work for them… their Iphone plugin and Mac desktop widget are simply brilliant

  • Behrang Javaherian

    http://www.hhtimesheet.com is another timesheet management software for small to medium size companies. Can you please take a look at the software and tell us what do you think about it.
    Behrang Javaherian

  • Markus

    I use Paymo too. It’s simply amazing, and the new beta version is even better, since it’s multilanguage and i can use it in German.