track your time and billable hours with office time

OT logoOfficeTime is a powerful yet easy to use time tracking application. It comes in desktop versions for Windows and Mac (build 1.64—$47) and a mobile version for the iPad and the iPhone (build 3.9.6—$8.49). While OfficeTime helps you keep track of billable hours and can generate invoices, it is equally useful outside a business context. You could, for example, use it to monitor how much time you spend on volunteer or club activities, hobbies or new habits, or as a study tool. Think of it as a pedometer for the brain.

This is an independent review. I have used the OfficeTime desktop version for Mac in my home office (OS 10.8.3) to track a number of commercial and private projects. While OfficeTime has the capacity to track work and billable hours across employees and teams, I have not explored those features.

Setting up Office Time is easy. The app comes pre–loaded with some sample entries and you can browse through a series of tips until you have figured out how the app works. The preferences panel lets you adjust options such as the start day of the week, rounding and back–up arrangements.

OfficeTime is built around three concepts: projects, categories and sessions. Creating a new project brings up the screen shown below, which lets you associate the project with contacts from your address book, specify a default category for work undertaken as part of the project and link project sessions to iCal if you like.

2013-05-05_OT new project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is easy to set up your own categories and to associate them with an hourly rate.

OT's 'add category' screen.

OT’s ‘add category’ screen.

Once your projects and categories are set up, you can start a new session in the OfficeTime default screen (see below).

OT deafult screen

The colour–coding is helpful: green cogs mean you are recording your activity. The icon changes to a yellow ‘pause’ or a red ‘stop’ button when activity tracking is paused or ceased.

You may have noticed the four icons in the OT menu bar in the screenshot above. Clicking on the first one starts a new session; the second one lets you enter an expense associated with your project. The third icon lets you show or hide notes associated with your session or your project and the fourth button lets you generate a report.

If the OT screen is in your way, you can use the minimised version (which is similar to the iTunes mini player) or simply use the green OT timer button in your global menu bar to start, pause or resume an OfficeTime session from within any application. The timer button dropdown menu (see screenshot below) also lets you quickly switch between projects.

timer button dropdown menu

A lot of thought has gone into this app to make sure that it is viable to use in a real–time work environment. And should you forget to start or stop the timer, you can always manually edit session entries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generating reports could not be easier. The menu bar gives you instant access to standard reports that show your time use by project, category or employee over the past day, week, month or year. You can customise these time periods and other report parameters.

The screenshots below are part of the standard reports of activity by category and by project. The full reports also include session details.

Extract from an OfficeTime standard report, showing time worked by category.

Extract from an OfficeTime standard report, showing time worked by category.

Extract from an OfficeTime standard report, showing time worked by project.

Extract from an OfficeTime standard report, showing time worked by project.

If you generate an invoice based on your report OfficeTime will place a tick in front of the sessions included in the invoice to avoid double charging. OfficeTime provides a number of invoice templates, which can be edited. Report data can also be exported.

A feature I particularly liked was the reminder function. You can, for example, effectively turn OfficeTime into a Pomodore technique app by reminding yourself to take a short break after every 25 minutes of sustained effort. OfficeTime also alerts you when your computer has been idle for a while (you specify the duration) and asks you to confirm whether the time lapsed should be deleted, added to the current session or allocated to another project.

There is something very gratifying in looking back upon a day’s or a week’s work and reviewing where all that effort was spent. Time tracking can provide crucial feedback about your productivity. And if you need to track your billable hours, OfficeTime provides you with a versatile, well thought–out app for doing so. The app has been around since at least 2005 and appears to have attracted consistently enthusiastic feedback from users and professional reviewers alike.

Strengths of OfficeTime

  • ease of use
  • informative views and reports
  • sophisticated tracking of time, projects and billable hours
  • supports expense tracking
  • capacity to generate invoices
  • highly customisable
  • iCal calendar integration
  • mobile apps for iPad/iPhone
  • single purchase—no subscription costs
  • value for money
  • free 21–day trial of Mac desktop version
  • 120–day money back guarantee.

Area for improvement

  • make the FAQ help file searchable.

OfficeTime is a solid, versatile and easy to use time tracker for both personal and business use. It is unobtrusive, well–thought–out and reliable and provides accurate and informative views and reports. In addition to tracking billable hours and invoicing clients, OfficeTime is a valuable productivity tool that will help you reflect upon whether your current work practices are aligned with your priorities. The desktop version syncs instantly and reliably with the mobile apps for iPad and iPhone. Simple in its execution, compelling in its power and fun to use—what more could you wish for?

Please share your thoughts if you have used OfficeTime. Did you use it to track billable hours only or to monitor activity on personal projects? How effective was the app for you?

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4 thoughts on “track your time and billable hours with office time

  1. Looks good, but like other alternatives (unless I read it wrong), at the end of the day one has to manually track the time they spend with a project (i.e. you click on start / stop and then the app computes the time spent, billing etc.)
    What would be nice is an app smart enough to calculate time spent by associating a project with certain documents that you asignate to it, and track how much time you spend working on those documents, even better if it discerns whenever that doc window is active in the foreground (as opposed to when you have it open but at the same time you’re taking a break and checking the news on your web browser).

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    • Thanks for your comments, Kiko. The ‘manual’ tracking in OfficeTime is limited to stopping and starting the timer. I can see the attraction of your suggestion but doubt that it would work in practice: marking documents so time spent on them can be tracked within a project seems cumbersome. Also, not all project work is computer-based; and OfficeTime is able to record, for example, the time I spend reading a hard copy manual. Even better, if you need to keep an accurate record of travel time, you can start the OT timer on your phone or iPad when you get in the car and turn it off when you arrive at your destination. The app automatically collates all of that information across platforms to give you a detailed snapshot of your day’s activities.

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  2. The ipad version doesn’t support corrections of timesheets in the past. And no reports year to date.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Maarten. I have version 1.9.1 on the iPad and that lets me make changes to old timesheets and sync them back to the desktop version. While there is indeed no standard YTD report in OT, I find you can easily create a custom report by specifying the dates.

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