For freelancers, time tracking can be the bane of our existence. We know we need to keep track of all the time we spend on client work but, more often than not, we sometimes forget to start that timer or even can’t remember how much time we spent on that mockup. It’s an inconvenience we all wish we could avoid but when you’re in charge of your own time, keeping track of it should be a priority.
To make time tracking simpler, AppBieger have released an app called RealTime which — instead of just a simple timer — automatically tracks the time you spend within apps.
Time Tracking Made Simple
Time tracking is simply keeping track of the amount of time you’re doing work. For many people, this is done in a spreadsheet and for every hour (or any other unit) of time you work, you will either fill in a cell or write it down. It’s the same as adding events into a calendar, the only difference is you’re focusing even more on the exact amount of time.
The idea of RealTime you create a new timesheet for each project or client that you’re working on in the same way you would do normally but without any of the bloat that you’d get with something as generalised as a spreadsheet application. Timesheets can be saved and re-opened for you to continue and you’re able to view your tracked time in a day, week, month or yearly view.
At A Glance
RealTime has a clean and unobtrusive interface with only three sections of the app that you can navigate to – Time Tracking, Application and Configuration. There’s also a timer that appears in the top-right of the window to give you an overview of how much time you’ve spent overall.
A red line slowly travels through the timesheet to represent the current time and for every hour that you track, you’re given a summary of the amount of time spent in that hour.
The layout isn’t a typical calendar view but, instead, optimised for keeping track of minutes in the day. In a day view, you still have the hours in the day listed in the vertical axis but across the horizontal axis you have the minutes of the hour. If you’ve been tracking time in spreadsheets then this will feel right at home. For those used to seeing their minutes tracked in a calendar app such as iCal or Google Calendar then it’ll take a little getting used to.
Configuration provides only options to name your project, add a description and optional photo, handy if you’re keeping track of many different projects.
Manual Time Tracking
Tracking time manually is very straightforward and can be done in any of the calendar views. In the day view, simply click on the area on the sheet you wish to add some time and it’ll automatically add a 10 minute block. For week and month views, this selection changes to hour blocks. To remove a block, simply click it again.
You can also do the same in the yearly view but this adds a block of 24 hours which will likely be inaccurate unless you’re working yourself too hard! There’s no way to change these preset time blocks so, for example, you can’t add 30 minute blocks to a daily view, you’ll have to add 3 blocks of ten minutes.
Automatic Time Tracking
The core feature of RealTime is its automatic time tracking. Using this feature, you can automatically track the time an application is open. If you’re using Adobe Photoshop, for example, you can add this to the list of apps that RealTime keeps track of and as long as the app is running, it’ll add the time automatically.
Adding an application is relatively straightforward but it must be an app that is currently running, you can’t add an app to the list that isn’t open. It would be nice to see the ability to add apps that aren’t open since some apps (such as the apps within the Adobe Creative Suite) can take quite some time to launch especially if they’re loaded with plug-ins and fonts.
RealTime will constantly monitor the app and every 10 minutes that you’re working in the app it will update the usage in your timesheet. You can specify an activity delay where if the app is inactive (as in, not the front running app you’re using) then it will stop tracking time after a certain amount of time which you can specify in increments between 1 minute to 4 hours. This is done at the same time as adding an app to track but the wording is somewhat confusing.
The benefit of this is that if you switch to another app that isn’t relevant to the work you’re doing (such as a sneaky 20 minutes on Facebook) then you can be sure that you’re not incorrectly billing for time you shouldn’t be. Don’t forget though, if you leave your desk but remain in the app you’re tracking then it will continue tracking.
For many people who often forget to track time spent in a project then the ability to keep track of an open application is great. Whilst you can track as many apps as you want, there’s no way to differentiate between different apps that are tracked – they’ll all appear as a blue line. Additionally, there’s no option to add notes to any part of the time that’s tracked so if you are required to provide additional explanations on the time then you might find RealTime somewhat restrictive.
At first I couldn’t really see myself needing to use this app beyond the purposes of a review. But as a freelancer, I’ve actually found it quite useful.
Whilst the app’s window is well laid out and uncluttered, it does suffer somewhat when reducing the window’s size below a certain width. The calendar buttons begin to overlap and text becomes hidden and impossible to read. If you’re wanting to run the app in the corner of your display then just make sure you keep it above a certain width.
Overall, the time tracking works very well. You can easily see the time you’ve tracked and if you need to then input your time into another system, there’s an option to export timesheets as CSV. It would be very useful to be able to add comments or notes to tracked time just as a reminder of what specific task was tracked.
Although light on features, RealTime is a very useful app that make time tracking a lot less of a laborious task which means you can spend less time tracking and more time working. Although only at version 1.0, RealTime is off to a great start.