There’s no shortage of invoicing applications for OS X, with a notable few including Billable, iBiz, Billings, and On The Job. They all offer different functionality, and may fit your requirements perfectly. However, another contender has recently emerged on the scene in the form of Involer.
Rather than attempting to be a complete solution for project management, tracking time, and storing client details, it sticks to the basics — sending and managing invoices. Involer aims to keep this process as simple as possible with an intuitive user interface and basic invoice designs.
This review will take a look at the main features of Involer, explaining what the app does well and where the areas for improvement lie.
The Involer interface takes one of the most simplistic approaches I’ve ever seen. Consisting of four areas: Company, Client, Invoices, and Invoice Preview. While dauntingly sparse at first, you do come to realize that it covers most of the basic functionality you need.
One gripe I had immediately was the lack of any visual hints on how to get started after opening the application. It isn’t possible to actually add an invoice until you’ve entered a company and a client — something which would be easy to explain in any of the empty space when opening the app.
The preferences pane is equally sparse, with only a few options to handle updates and excluding certain items from an invoice.
Adding Information and Creating Invoices
Adding a client and company is as simple as hitting the + icon in the left hand sidebar. This creates a new blank record, which then needs to be double clicked to edit the name. If you don’t add a name straight away, there’s no way of knowing that an empty client actually exists — some form of dialog box to request a client’s name when being added would be beneficial. However, it is possible to import client data from Address Book (limited to their name and email address).
Creating an invoice occurs in an attractive interface, with a simple two column layout for item and amount. You can edit the title and thank you note, and optionally add a tax value. Tax rates are specified for every company on an individual basis and calculated automatically for each invoice sent to them.
Previewing an invoice looks good, and the layout and style retains the simplicity inherent within the app itself.
Sending and Exporting
There are two ways to distribute an invoice — via PDF or Print. Both generate a decent looking simplistic invoice, but I’d appreciate a way to have greater control over customizing the font and appearance to match my branding. In addition, it would be great to generate an email with the PDF attached, automatically addressed to the invoice recipient.
Searching and Organizing
Two of the main aims of Involer are to have “all of your invoices stored in the application, allowing you to refer back to them at any point” along with the ability to “find a specific invoice with just a few keystrokes.” This is achieved through both a timeline-style browser and a search function.
The timeline browser is a great addition, especially if you send out a large quantity of invoices. Unfortunately, the search feature didn’t work at all for me, likely a glitch with the latest release and something which will be high on their list of priorities to fix.
Simplicity Gone Too Far?
Generally, I’m a huge fan of applications which cut back on unnecessary features and execute the bare minimum excellently (WriteRoom for instance). However, I feel that Involer may have taken this concept a little too far in cutting back on features that people do actually need.
One major oversight would seem to be the lack of any Invoice ID. This is almost always a requirement, and while it could be added manually to the title, it makes sense for a piece of software to automatically generate this for you. Design wise, I generally find that companies often use invoices and receipts as a good way to project the professionalism and style of their brand. Stripping all this away may not suit everyone’s taste.
Ironically, many applications which are perfectly production ready are labeled as a beta. Involer is one advertised as a full release, when I think actually it could have done with a few months of limited beta testing. There were a number of issues which made the app feel slightly difficult to use, not least of which was the search function not working correctly.
If you’re searching for an app to create and manage invoices in a basic way, Involer could well be for you. I’m confident that updates and enhancements are being made to fix problems with the early release of the app. An updated version (1.1) was released this past weekend with a whole host of fixes and updates from the original release, with more coming soon.
The concept of the app is great, but the execution needs a little more polish before I’ll be considering using it for myself. Involer is priced at $19.99 and a fully functioning 10 day trial available to download. It requires Mac OS X 10.5 and higher (Mac OS X 10.5.2 or higher recommended). Involer runs natively on bother PowerPC and Intel-based Macintosh computers.