Blog Post

freckle Offers Hassle-Free Time Tracking

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Based on the number of time tracking applications we’ve covered here on WebWorkerDaily, and the frequency with which new ones are being introduced, it’s obviously an area that’s in high demand.

Even among the team here we all seem to be on our own missions to find the perfect time tracking solution. Dawn recently wrote about her experience with Harvest and I’ve certainly tried my share of apps over the last few years. But after a couple of months of trialing, testing and tweaking, I’m ready to commit to freckle.

I had the opportunity to talk in depth with Amy Hoy, lead designer of freckle, about what it is and isn’t. It is designed to be simple, easy to use and unobtrusive. It was developed to address what they saw as problematic with the time tracking solutions that they were using.

It isn’t for teams requiring time sheet approval, org chart hierarchies, assignments or permissions.

freckle acknowledges that while time tracking is a necessary task, it isn’t our real work, but rather an interruption of it. The thought is that if it were easy and painless to use, we would be more diligent about our time entries.

With freckle it’s all about the syntax. Once you learn it you can log time amazingly quickly.

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The time entry form can be accessed from any screen on the app. It’s just three boxes: time, client or project, task and/or tag and then done. With careful naming, and by taking advantage of the auto-completion functionality, you can do this in just a few keystrokes.

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Any new project or customer data I enter here is created for me on the fly. There is no need to go in and create a client, create a project, create a task for a client, and then log the time. In one step I can create, log and tag everything I need. I can always go in and add more detail later when it fits my schedule.

Not only is time tracking critical for billing, but I am also realizing that I need to keep better track of where the rest of my hours are going. A simple asterisk after a tag flags an item as non-billable and the reports make it obvious to distinguish between the two.

A nicely designed “Pulse” page gives a good overview of time logged by day and by project. You can hover over the pie charts for more details.

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Like time entry, reports can also be run from any page. You can narrow down your data by project or tag, and then download your results as a CSV file for use in your invoicing application.

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Sometimes it’s the little things that make me smile when using an application, and freckle is full of these surprises. For example, as easy as it is to log time, I do sometimes need to go in and add things at a later date. If I start to enter in my time information and realize that I’m on the wrong date, it doesn’t erase what I’ve entered when I choose another tab to make the correction. A little thing but a nice surprise.

Time rounding increments can be set on a per-project basis to reflect the different billing arrangements you might have with individual clients.

Once I had settled on a tagging structure which worked for me, freckle just feels “right” to use. I wish there were more integration options but an API is currently in beta so they should be forthcoming. It is already possible to log time along with code commits with the Beanstalk Hosted Subversion service.

As of now there isn’t a widget or any other means to log time externally to the application, but as I always have a browser open that hasn’t been a barrier to my adoption. I did suggest the ability to log time via Twitter like I can do with tasks using Toodledo. The quick-fire syntax would suit that well.

My big issue with freckle is the cost. For a single user on the $12 per month solo plan I am limited to ten active projects, which just isn’t enough for me. All other plans feature unlimited projects as well as increased users and SSL connection but upgrading to the next tier runs to $24 per month.

Perhaps accurate time tracking will help me recover that difference, but as part of the suite of applications that I use to run my business, an updated Freckle plan would be the costliest. I am finding that with clever use of projects and tags I can make the cheaper plan work, but it is less than ideal.

There is a free one user/one project plan to use to check things out, and all of the plans offer a 30-day free trial.

How are you tracking your time? Would freckle be a good option for you and your team?

10 Responses to “freckle Offers Hassle-Free Time Tracking”

  1. @Bradley – freckle does have multi-user and team capabilities but it is loose on approvals and such.

    @Adam – agreed, and it is one of those solutions where it either just seems to click or not with certain people.

    @rb3m – Am not familiar with toggl – will give it a look.

    @Alex – Thanks

    @John – Your solution might work for you (I hope it does..) but some small teams might not need that extra overhead. That’s why there are so many choices.

    SB

  2. Wow – xpenser. I hadn’t hear about those guys in over a year. Glad they are still going strong (I was looking at writing an app to track mileage for tax deductions at the time and they had some similar functionality).

  3. Xpenser recently added time tracking. I like it because I can submit time and set timers from any thing (email, sms, im, twitter, etc). I’m using it with their gtalk bot from within gmail mostly, really liking it.

  4. Lately I’ve been using toggl.com for time tracking. It’s pretty simple to use and has the option of creating various projects and sharing with a team. I quite like it.