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What timekeeping software do you use?
to keep track of projects on a fine-grained level

 1:17 am on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm a programmer. I usually work on-site through an agency on a hourly basis. Sometimes I've done work directly for a client, but it's generally been on a bid-for-job basis, and not hourly. I spent a few years as a partner in a financial trading firm, as well, and so my hours didn't much matter.

Now I've accepted a contract assignment where I will be doing the bulk of the work at home.

When I work on-site, it's pretty simple. I just keep one plain sheet of paper each week where I write-down the time I arrive, when I leave for lunch, come back from lunch, and leave. At the end of the week I add-up the hours and enter it into the agency's timekeeping system online (QuickBooks - ugh!). It just takes the number of hours per day.

At home, there are many more distractions than lunch, and, frankly, one of the attractions is the greater flexibility.

I know my attorney has an elaborate system made for attorneys - with a little device on his desk where he punches a button and selects a client when he picks up the phone. (Smart, these attorneys - this way he can bill his 15-minute minimum three times, for 3 different 5-minute phone conversations. I always try to shoot the bull for 14 1/2 minutes, to make sure I get my money's worth. ;) )

I don't need anything nearly as elaborate. A single client, and I don't need the ability to bill the same time more than once.

What I would like it to do is let me easily "log on" to a project (I only need it to support one, but I presume any such package will support several), and then have it monitor keyboard activity. No keyboard activity for "n" minutes, and it logs me out of the project. Perhaps configurable as to what it does then (log me out as of the last keystroke, as of the last keystroke + "n" minutes, etc.)

Maybe a "working away" mode, say, if I have to read some paper documentation, or are on a phone conference. Maybe then it would beep every few minutes and ask me to confirm I'm still on the job.

I know there has to be scads of software out there to do this. And that's just the problem. I don't want to spend a lot of time evaluating them. I just want something simple, so that I have a record, and know that I am billing accurately. This isn't required - it's something I want to do to minimize questions.

If it's a very popular package that others might recognize, so much the better. I can casually mention that I'm using such-and-such to keep track of my time, and that should be reassuring.

Free/open source is good. Especially since we can't mention commercial software here. :) Either Windows or Linux will work, though the project itself is under Linux. Oh, if it's Linux, it needs to not have any problems with virtual keystrokes, as I use a single keyboard/mouse on my Windows machine, and Synergy send keyboard/mouse actions to the Linux box.

I'm sure there are more than a few here who use such software, and probably a few more who should. ;)

What do you use to keep track of your time spent on projects?



 5:20 am on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I wrote a program in Visual Basic that uses an Access database to store the data, it has a tiny desktop footprint and I've never needed to use anything else.

But recently I've been introduced to the open source PHP based dotProject, a web-based project manager. Has a timer built in, all sorts of stuff, and it works pretty well.

Fortune Hunter

 11:34 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)


I use a program called TraxTime from a company called spudcity.com where you can buy it. I can't remember what I paid for it, but it was $20-30 bucks for it. It works really well, you can create projects you are working on in there and it has a neat little "time clock" feature where you punch in and out while working on specific projects and it will give you a little report of how much time you spent on each project by day, week, month, etc. This is the only thing I use and then dump the time into my accounting package to do invoices. System has worked perfectly for me for over 4 years.


 2:14 pm on Dec 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

We use some internal tools when we need to do any type of time-tracking, but nothing "fine-grained" as titled in the request. I have some ideas that I think would be really cool, like grabbing timestamps from CVS/SVN and in a parallel table(s) I could track billing progress -- perhaps eventually creating export files (Quickbooks, etc.). Yeah, pipedream stage at this point though. It's the old shoe-maker's daughter plague on this end. There just aren't enough hours in a day ...

Also, like you, I'm an open source advocate. I downloaded dotproject today to have a look at it. I see that it has an Eclipse plug-in ... anybody try that yet?


 3:25 pm on Dec 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

grabbing timestamps from CVS/SVN... I downloaded dotproject today to have a look at it. I see that it has an Eclipse plug-in

Funny you should mention this.

Mylyn is a plugin for Eclipse which is included in the Fedora 8 Eclipse distribution. I'd explored it's predecessor, Mylar (name was changed for trademark reasons), but disabled it because of some kind of conflict between plugins. One of the features of Mylyn is time tracking in projects.

It's a "task-focused UI".

What the heck does that mean?! It seems ideal for dealing with a large number of bug fixes or feature requests (it integrates with Bugzilla, etc.). What is unique and nifty about it is that when you select a task, the files and tools needed for the task are automatically loaded and "brought into focus" (I assume you have to do some kind of tagging for this to work), while others are hidden. So, it allows you to "focus on the task at hand".

I may take another look at Mylyn, as I've upgraded to Fedora 8, and it's there by default. It does monitor activity within Eclipse, and there's something about monitoring activity outside "with a plugin".

Maybe more fine-grained than I was looking for. For example, the default (but can be changed) inactivity timer is 3 minutes. But as this particular contract is primarily dealing with bugs/feature requests, it might be a good fit and bring some additional benefits.


 9:33 pm on Dec 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Mylyn is a plugin for Eclipse

Even funnier is that you should mention this! I use Eclipse as my primary development tool and have that particular extension installed, I just never took the time to dig into it. I did a brief overview and am viewing a webinar linked from the Mylyn doc pages but agree with you that the extension seems more applicable to task/bug tracking than it does for the tracking level you requested (time tracking).

It's a "task-focused UI".

What the heck does that mean?!

From the webinar ...


  • see only what you're working on
  • Aluminized film used to avoid blindness when staring at an eclipse
  • Task Focused UI to avoid information blindness when staring at Eclipse

So, it seems the name was more appropriate prior to the name dispute and consequential name change.

Robert Charlton

 4:08 am on Dec 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

Another vote for TraxTime. It's a great little utility. Should definitely suffice for simple needs, and some not so simple. Interface is extremely clean and intuitive. I've managed lots of projects with it and have used it for years.

I wish it would let me set up sub-categories within my projects, a need I'm feeling with some clients who like that kind of detail. Apart from that, it's been more than sufficient.

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