Time is valuable. This is not just true for freelancers, but for everyone who has to be accountable for the time spent on a task. When you are in a creative mood, eager to start on a project, or when you are drowning in work, hastening to get everything done in time, the last thing you want to be doing is working through a complicated time tracking process.
With Tictoc, a new app to be found in the Mac App Store, you can set up time tracking in a matter of seconds and then get to what you do best.
Read on to find out how Tictoc can integrate into your workflow…
What is Tictoc?
Tictoc is an unobtrusive little app which finds a home in your menu bar and helps you track your time. You can start it with a single click, export your records to XML or CSV to import into your accounting app and … well, that’s about it.
The app is not about setting hourly rates, dedicated project management or accounting – its focus is simply on tracking time and staying out of your way while doing so.
Working with Tictoc
After Tictoc has been installed from the Mac App Store – which means everything happens automatically, you don’t need to worry about anything anymore – you’ll start it and Tictoc immediately takes up residence in your menu bar.
By default, you’ll see the name of the task you’re currently working on, to its right the time you’ve already spent, and to the very left a tiny indicator to show whether tracking is active (green) or paused (grey).
As you can see, the task “Review Tictoc for Appstorm” has a green indicator in the task window and up in the menu bar, meaning I am currently tracking my time for this project.
To add a new task, simply click the + button on the upper right and type in the name of the task. If you’re in a real hurry, you can just leave it as an “Untitled Task” and change the name later on.
As far as I could see, there is no way (yet?) to have the active task on the very top of the window which I find more convenient, especially if there are more than six or seven tasks. Then the tasks on the bottom of the list vanish and need to be scrolled up. Since this is a fairly young app, I think small adjustments like these might be part of later versions.
If your screen estate is limited – for example if you are on a Macbook – you have the option in the settings window of removing the title of the task from the menu bar display, leaving you only with the time and the tracking indicator.
Exporting Recorded Time
Once you are done with your task, you can either just enter the recorded time into your accounting app of choice or, if your app or web service supports the import of CSV or XML, you can have Tictoc export the recorded time to the format of your choice.
While XML is a pure data file, CSV files can be opened with iWork’s Numbers or with Microsoft Office’s Excel. The result of my tracked review process, which I paused and resumed a number of times, looks like this:
I myself needed quite some time to figure out which column means what, but then I am not a huge fan of numbers and figures. I prefer nice graphical user interfaces!
As I am also a user of Billings for my accounting purposes, this export is not really doing me any good since Billings isn’t able to import either CSV or XML. You should check with your accounting application – if you use any – to determine whether it can import any of those two formats if you’re not willing to enter the recorded total of time manually.
If you really like what you see in Tictoc, but depend on importing data into your accounting application and can’t do so via CSV or XML, you should check out Eon (which we have reviewed here). This is another lightweight time tracking app that does integrate directly with a large number of desktop apps and web services. It’s priced considerably higher, at $29.99.
Tictoc is a very simple app that focuses on thing – time tracking – and it does so very well. The lack of features make the app easy to use and easy to understand, allowing you to spend only a minimal amount of time to enter a task name and clicking the record button.
Since the app is still quite young, there are the above mentioned interface challenges which can probably be addressed easily in upcoming versions. How useful the export to CSV and XML proves is something that has to be judged by each user individually since it will depend on your workflow – do you use a full blown accounting app that can import those formats? Do you even have to import the record or is it enough to copy the time total?
Overall, I think the app will be useful to those who need a lightweight solution that stays out of your way and enables to you get working quickly. It will also be attractive to those using web services for accounting since it doesn’t require you to be connected to that web service permanently to track your time. You can leave that to Tictoc and then enter or import the resulting data.