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Summary:

When I started Tackle Technology, Daylite was the first killer application I bought for the company. Organization is productivity, and Marketcircle did a fantastic job with Daylite 3 in helping me keep people productive when the situation could have been chaotic. Shortly after that purchase, I […]

When I started Tackle Technology, Daylite was the first killer application I bought for the company. Organization is productivity, and Marketcircle did a fantastic job with Daylite 3 in helping me keep people productive when the situation could have been chaotic.

Shortly after that purchase, I received an email from Marketcircle sales letting me know about their new product. It was called Billings, a time based invoicing tool that looked very slick. I tried it out, found it didn’t do everything I needed and I let them know why.

They took these words from their customers and didn’t stay down. Billings 2 makes up for a lot of those lost areas, but still has some minor issues with designing and managing invoices.
There is minimal integration with Daylite. I don’t get this at all, the company’s flagship product is all but almost forgotten in Billings. I asked Marketcircle about this:

We are working on a proper solution for Daylite users who need billing features; their needs, we’ve found are somewhat different than users who use only Billings. Billings is designed for one thing, Daylite for another, and because we are aware of the overlap, we’re working on a solution that will do the right thing. However, right now, you can import contacts, organizations, projects, and opportunities from Daylite. It’s not integration, but it lets people who use Daylite get some of their most useful information into Billings.

Billings isn’t a sister application to Daylite, and that’s great if all you need is integration with Apple’s Address Book. Once I understood more accurately who this app was for, I simply went to Daylite and sync’d it to Address Book. Once that is done, copy the customers to the ‘Billings’ group.

Things started to make more sense at this point. At first I found myself trying to drag all my customer’s vCards into the Billings customer list from Address Book. This didn’t happen, though it seems it would make sense that it could add these contacts to the Billing’s group. Then I was ready to create some invoices and get paid!

Not so fast, cowboy. Billings has some great default invoice templates, but there is a good chance that it is not good enough. This is where I pulled my hair out the most. The template editor is in my opinion overly complicated. It understands layers and object inheritance, which seems a bit overkill for making a simple document. If Marketcirle wanted to support layers, I would have liked to see an XHTML format perhaps. This way it could be exported to the web easily as well as provide a markup language most of their demographic users would already know. I dug in, read the flippen manual, and got familiar with the concepts. Annoyed that I had to read how to use a program, it left a sour taste in my mouth.

Once I got over it and I had the pieces in place, cranking out invoices was a breeze. Billings main interface is very clearly designed:
Billings Main Window

So the bottom line is Billings is very good at what it is supposed to do, time tracking, invoicing, and minimal project management. Getting passed designing an invoice was the hardest part, but once it is done and there are a few templates for whatever situation is at hand, making them is quick and easy. The integration with Address Book is nice, and forcing a separation of clients and personal contacts into a Billings group is a good idea anyway. I was annoyed when I made changes in this group from Address Book, Billings would complain about the missing contact rather than ask what to do about it. I would like to see a network-enabled version that is more of what Daylite can do, so I eagerly await their offering as they seem to be working on. For a version two of what could become a monster application, Marketcircle has done a great job of keeping their ears tuned to the users. At $59 with a free trial, Billings is worth the time it saves.

Check it out.

  1. SAP and Movex ftw! :P

    Looks like a good app, shame about the overly complicated template editor. I suck at making templates.
    But I could probably learn. Will see if my wife allows me to buy this app. Could be good for her new started business.

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  2. Let me explain why we didn’t use XHTML, HTML, CSS or RTF. Those technologies don’t allow for proper page breaks, page numbers, totals at the bottom of the page, stretch line items table even if there aren’t enough line items etc…

    We’ve tried all those technologies and many others and they just aren’t good enough. If we used those technologies, Billings would produce similar invoices to all the other time billings apps out there – and that is just not good enough.

    What we have in Billings is more powerful than it needs to be – but better that then not enough power. Remember also that all reporting is also done through the designer and you can build a report that pretty much does anything you want (with the data we have).

    So while there are some complications, we are going to make things simpler as we move forward (for example the Options dialog which allows you to customize an existing template with just a few clicks).

    AJ

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  3. I agree about the template editor being extemely complicated at first glance however onece you get used to it you suddenly realise that complicatd = extremely powerful. It allows you to create extremely detailed invoices and reports and is worth the price of the app alone. Version 1 of Billings was really not very good so props to MarketCircle for doing all the work to make Version 2 such a huge improvement.

    BTW: Billings is currently being offered for sale at maczot.com at a 41% discount. Today only.

    http://www.maczot.com

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  4. Comment and Question – I’ve been using Daylite for years and have in that same span of time been on a quest to find a more useful, intuitive application for my Mac CRM needs. Daylite still doesn’t integrate with Mac Apps well enough, makes exporting ANY data nearly impossible. And, as a CRM, makes it hard – unless you are willing to do hours of work customizing the shit out of it – to do simple things like set up a timed follow-up phone call. This is not an intuitive app and has cost me untold hours of productivity. Having said that, there aren’t any good alternatives in the mac CRM market yet.

    Billings. I hate MYOB. iBank, a recent purchase, simply isn’t advanced enough – I can’t for the life of me figure out how to create a simple balance sheet. I’ve been searching for the right app to handle invoicing in order to separate my invoicing from my accounting. Billings looks promising except that best I can tell Marketcircle has once again created a completely standalone app. Nice app but completely useless if you can’t export a file an accounting app can read … MYOB is not a competitor of Billings. Why can’t the developers see that by creating an app that works WITH an accounting app is good for sales?

    The question: Can Billings export a QIF file?

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  5. Saying that Billings template design/customization interface is “complicated” is like saying that a nuclear explosion is “inconvenient” – An understatement if there ever was one.

    Billings “design interface” is downright UNUSABLE. Half the time the “Cmd+Z” (undo) is unresponsive, trying to copy+paste elements between open templates messes up their relative spacial arrangement. There are are hardly ANY context-sensitive (right-click) menus, and to add insult to injury, there is absolutely NO DOCUMENTATION WHATSOEVER detailing the customizing process. (Yes I watched your 3 minute movies, wow!).

    I’m VERY DISAPPOINTED and will probably end up going back to QuickBooks, even if it is total overkill for what I need.

    You folks have a product with a lot of potential, but customizing invoice look/feel (and reports) is the cornerstone of your product whether you realize it or not. Your interface (customization) utterly stinks! Its like a maze of madness! “fields” do not display the data they should, it’s just a nightmare. Getting help from you guys has equally been impossible – I’m Willing to PAY FOR IT.

    Ugghhh!!!!

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  6. Check out iRatchet. Much preferred over Billings and simple to use.

    The developer is also very responsive and dedicated to his product.

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  7. [...] wrote about Billings 2 shortly after it debuted in early 2007, and if you compare 2.0 vs. 3.0 you’ll immediately see [...]

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  8. Invoy is the most stunning app for invoicing you’ll find. Much much better then billings. Doesn’t allowed edit template, but the app is so cool to use that you should really give a try. Invoy website and company http://www.emptyfactory.com

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