Time tracking and invoicing software

invoicingAlongside my day-time job I run a one-man consulting firm. Until
now I’ve used OpenOffice to do all my accounting, invoicing and even
time tracking. This has been working out nicely as I’ve not wanted to
take on large projects and too many customers. So the extra hassle has
not troubled me. However I’ve decided that it’s time to do some changes, and I now want
to do my book-keeping using “the cloud”. Meaning I want an on-line,
web-based system.

Before starting to look around I made a short list of desirable
features in such a service:

  • The service must handle multiple currencies.
  • Should have a mobile client for time tracking.
  • Must have some sort of time tracking.
  • Should have support for logging expenses.
  • Must have decent reporting capabilities.
  • Must have (basic) support for project management.
  • Should have support for quoting.

I found several solutions that integrates with other software,
such as Simply Invoices and
LessAccounting which offer
invoicing for BaseCamp and
other project management tools. I did not investigate these further as I
wanted an all-in-one solution. However BaseCamp does look
interesting and if I could get a Mylyn
connector for it I would certainly consider using it.

The table below lists all the services I found to have most of
the desirable features in place.

ProductMultiplecurrenciesMobileclientTimetrackingExpensesReportsProjectsQuotingInvoicing
CashboardiPhone/iPod TouchXXXXXX
FreshBooksiPhone/iPod TouchXXXXXX
HarvestXiPhone/iPod TouchXXXXXX
SmartInvoiceXXXXXXX
TempoiPhone/iPod TouchXXX

Cashboard

Cashboard does allow you to specify the client’s preferred
currency. But you cannot set a currency for projects or tasks. Apart
from that, this is a good solution with a very nice user interface. The
site appears fast too, which is obviously a pre for this type of
application.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks only uses your preferred currency. It is not
possible to specify a currency per client different from your company’s
currency. Other than that it seems OK. The selection of reports is
larger than in Harvest, but the feels more clunky. There is a lot
more mouse-clicking in order to get things done.

Harvest

This is the only of the tested products that has a full set of
features. It offers a free starter package for up to two projects. And will also allow you to try out the full
product for one month before deciding. I’m quite disappointed with the
iPhone application though. While neatly formatted; the only list view
shows all work items for a single date and selecting a date is done
through a spin wheel! However it does help keeping track of time.

According to Danny of getharvest.com we can expect solid improvements to the
iPhone app. So I’m really looking forward to that one.

SmartInvoice

The user interface is OK, but it does have a few layout problems,
at least on Opera. The formatting
changes while the page is being loaded. This could be due to a
bandwith/site problem as it appears to be on the slow side.

One of the real nice features of this product is that it does
support multiple currencies properly. You can specify a currency per
invoice and per project which should be sufficient for most. Billing
options for projects are also good. As with the best of these services;
invoices can automatically generated from unbilled hours (and expenses)
which makes the task straightforward.

Tempo

Tempo probably has the best time-keeping capabilities of
all the projects I’ve tested. But it does not have the capability to
produce invoices. However this can be done by integrating Blinksale
or Quickbooks. It does not allow you to enter cost per task or
project so it’s sorely lacking in that respect.

Conclusion

Of all the solutions I tested, SmartInvoice appeared to
have the best feature set despite lacking the mobile client. However the
service was slow and not easy on the eyes. So I decided to give Harvest
the proper spin. I’ve been using it almost daily for a couple of weeks,
both for logging hours and for producing invoices for one project. I have to say I’m
pretty satisifed with it. It does have a few quirks though. For instance
you must remember not to add notes to a time entry while the same entry
is running on your iPhone. Next time you sync, the hours value will be
wrong. Also the invoice summary only show invoices in your home
currency, not the currencies actually used. Despite this I
think I’ll stay with Harvest.

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