Keeping Track of Your Business with TimeNet

Today, I’ll be taking a look at TimeNet, a long-standing player in the field of time tracking and project management. The application allows you to take control of your clients and projects, easily send invoices, and stay on top of who owes you what.

It offers a fairly simple window-based interface, to show you only the information you need at any given time. This makes it pleasant to navigate, and slightly different from more complex competitors.

Basic Interface

As mentioned previously, TimeNet works on the basis of multiple windows. The primary interface you’ll deal with most of the time, however, looks as follows:

TimeNet Interface

TimeNet Interface

This shows an overview of all the clients and projects logged in the system, allows you to quickly add a new to-do item, or access the application preferences. I’d recommend taking a look through the preferences at a fairly early stage, as you’ll need to add your company information and certain details about your hourly rate charges before you can use TimeNet to the full.

Clients and Projects

Adding a client is a simple process, and I found a nice surprise to be the way in which the system integrates with Address Book. When you begin typing a new client’s name, a live search is performed within Address Book to try and automatically retrieve the information for that particular contact. Multiple currency support for different clients is also a nice touch – vital for freelancers working with different clients worldwide.

Adding a Client

Adding a Client

Projects are similarly easy to manage, with a simple one-window interface. The total amount owed for the project is shown in the top right, project details in the top left, then a list of the different chargeable items underneath. These can either be expenses, single-price items, or hourly charged items. Everything works as you’d expect, and inputting/editing charges is very straight-forward.

Managing a Project

Managing a Project

It’s also possible to generate reports for a particular project, showing a visual breakdown of different charges.

Tracking Time

Before tracking time, you need to enter the application’s preferences to input different types of hourly charges used. These can then be added to any project within TimeNet:

Adding Charges

Adding Charges

Tracking time is handled well, through the TimeNet interface and a indicator in the OS X menu bar. I would have welcomed a way to initiate a new timer session directly from the menu bar, but this didn’t seem to work for me during testing. You can, however, quickly add a new fixed charge, or ask the application to “buzz” you with a reminder about something after a set interval (this can also be used to notify network users).

Creating Invoices

The mainstay of any billing application is it’s ability to produce good looking invoices, and TimeNet doesn’t fall short in this category. Before creating an invoice, you’ll need to add your company information (and logo) into the preferences pane:

Creating an Identity

Creating an Identity

After doing so, just go to a project and select “Invoice” to start the process. In addition to generating a new document containing the invoice, you can also automatically save a copy to disk if you so wish. Various templates are available, some of which look slightly better than others!

The resulting document is created as a Rich Text file, and opened in TextEdit:

An Example Invoice

An Example Invoice

This system works well, though I’d welcome the ability to produce the invoice as a PDF instead of Rich Text. In addition, some form of email or web integration could work well, to automatically send the invoice through to a client.

The final functionality to note is the “Manager” window, which helps you stay on top of the invoices sent, and those which are now overdue. You can visually see which are paid or unpaid, sort in a variety of different ways, and archive those which you no longer need to deal with.

Criticisms

Although the interface is enjoyable to use on-the-whole, I did feel that the use of panels for to-dos and notes feels a little dated. Most applications have now moved on from this slightly clunky aspect of the OS X interface. In addition, the fonts and spacing in the design of the interface also appear slightly archaic and in need of a facelift.

Finally, it wasn’t immediately obvious that you are required to add an “Hourly Charge” item before time tracking becomes available. A slightly better explanation of this when opening the application for the first time would be appreciated.

Conclusion

TimeNet also has a few other features that we didn’t go into during this review; the ability to collaborate on one database across a network, and solid integration with Address Book, Spotlight, iCal and Time Machine. To really get a feel for how the application works, be sure to download a trial and give it a go. The full version costs $45 – a fairly competitive price for this type of software. Before purchasing, you may also like to take a look at Billings, which offers similar features for a comparable price. Both applications excel in different areas.

I certainly enjoyed trying out TimeNet, and feel that it does offer a genuinely good solution for freelancers needing to keep track of their clients and payments. We’ll be running a competition later today to win a copy of TimeNet, so stay tuned for more information coming shortly!