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:
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.