software application

A review of Mac OS X timesheeting/tracking applications: Billings vs iBiz (and now Studiometry)

STOP PRESS: am now (partially) including Studiometry in this comparison.

Since I (Dr Darren) work primarily as a consultant for Webel IT Australia, and primarily (these days) with Mac OS X, I've been on the lookout for a really good timesheeting application. Unfortunately, neither of the timesheeting applications reviewed here (iBiz and Billings) is even close to really good, even if, for some reason I can't possibly fathom, Billings is "award winning". I certainly did not vote for it (although I do offer some discerning five-star votes here). This story is about the lesser of two evils Evil, and currently Billings is less evil, but only just, and it is missing many features that are successfully implemented in iBiz. I hope this dynamic, living, evolving review helps to change that, because I have now given up on iBiz, and I want Billings to come up to speed. I hope that this sometimes scathing review helps you save some of the time that I wasted already !

Neither iBiz nor Billings offer solid time data integrity, and since TIME=MONEY Cash, they do not offer financial integrity. I've found I have to watch the invoices generated by these applications like a hawk, and I in fact use the far more robust and highly recommended Wink Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) for the final invoicing and for the financials.

WARNING: Do NOT trust either iBiz (at all) or Billings (yet) to manage your financials !

The developers of iBiz and Billings do not seem to have understood Model-View-Controller properly (if at all), nor the importance of persistence of report generation parameter/variable state Puzzled, being of course the 2 things I need most as a consultant using time-tracking software, all day, every day.

And sadly, neither iBiz nor Billings at the time of writing comes even close to successfully integrating with iCal on Mac OS X, which renders them near useless in some important respects. Angry

So both applications earn from me a big fat yet partly rotten Golden Raspberry for Poor Software (which means not ripe yet, and yes, the concept is completely stolen from the award of the same name for bad movies), and I offer a humble sticking-out-of-my -tongue Tongue and a perpetual farting sound with a bad miasma, one each for each application for these shocking behaviors:

  • iBiz: for hogging consistently up to 90% of the CPU of my Mac Book Pro, most irritating, because the developers do not understand threads, priorities, processes and processors, quite sad really for people dealing with time keeping.
  • Billings: for offering a global setting for only letting one timer at a time run, which DOES NOT WORK, so that the entire integrity of time data management, and therefore of generated invoices, is corrupt.

These raspberries dated 17th Jun 2010 can't be undone; Billings and iBiz have earnt them permanently forever, for releasing software with such awful unripe stuff in them.

So far, I've found the support for iBiz pitiful (especially considering that I am helping them for no money), and the support for Billings far more helpful, even if some of the suggestions made in replies are clankers (such as suggesting that, since they only write full day events to iCal, I can adjust those by hand in iCal, which is probably the silliest, most time wasting idea I have heard in over 30 years working with computers).

To developers of software applications everywhere. Dr Darren says:

Your customers are NOT your happily unpaid beta testers ! Test the !@#!@# things yourselves, first, properly, before wasting our time (and your own, too).

Enough freestyling already. The rest of this Webel review is database-driven thanks to Drupal™ CCK custom types and Views. My aim is single: shock the software houses that develop time-sheeting applications for Mac OS X into finally getting their act together, so they will stop WASTING MY TIME !

The table below compares many Features of iBiz and Billings (and some features of Studiometry); to view a single table for app please visit:

Sorry, the application column below is not sort-clickable, most other columns are.

Application Featuresort icon Dr Darren's Vote Test result Remark
Billings (Option to enforce) only one timer runs at a time.
0.05
buggy

It "beggars belief" that the single most important feature for time data (and thus money) integrity fails this simple test (which I performed on Billings 3.6.1, and MarketCircle obviously did not). Leaves me with a very bad taste and them with a "golden raspberry" for untested, unripe software Tongue These people should be paying me for saving their arses, instead of "winning awards".

iBiz (Option to enforce) only one timer runs at a time.
0.05
passed
iBiz Access contributing items and their property sheets directly from reports
0.05
failed

No, the reports are "static", and the developers do not understand Model-View-Controller. There should be an option to "freeze" reports if that is needed. (This very useful feature should be well known to users of MYOB.)

Billings Access contributing items and their property sheets directly from reports
0.05
failed

No, the reports are "static", AFAIK one can't get from the reports back to the items that contribute to them. (This very useful feature should be well known to users of MYOB.)

Billings Access stored timesheet data by SQL
0.05
passed

Billings uses SQLite3, so you can easily get at your precious data by connecting to the Billlings .bex output files (used for backups) with any good SQL client like Navicat or RazorSQL (the Netbeans SQL Plugin failed on this at the time of writing Jun 2010). It is easy to therefore create custom web reports using, for example, PHP.

iBiz Access stored timesheet data by SQL
0.05
UNKNOWN
Studiometry Access stored timesheet data by SQL
0
failed

Not as far as I can tell. And there does not seem to be any export of time data, only of computed financials.

Studiometry Associate project with local files
0.05
passed

The make this one easy. Drag n' Drop local files onto a files pane. Well done.

iBiz Column-delimited data export (easily imported into spreadsheet applications)
0.05
failed

The text export is a god-forsaken mess combining different types of data and without clean columns. Can't be real in 2010.

Billings Column-delimited data export (easily imported into spreadsheet applications)
0.05
passed

The text export is in tab-delimited columns, but I found it has in some places double-tabs, and I could not load it into OpenOffice3 or Mac OS X iWork Pages. The devil Evil knows why they did not just CSV, because only a fool would try to read that output as plain text. (However, one can connect via SQL client to the SQLite3 dump instead.)

iBiz Convenient and quick editing of job event title and notes
0.05
failed

The iBiz web site claims "Faster Editing and Entry", but in fact I found that sometimes when editing just the title of a job event entry in the property box took over a second sometimes for the cursor to move along, and highlighting made it grind to a halt. I'm giving this a fail (the feature exists but is not as claimed). Do not believe the hype Tongue

Billings Convenient and quick editing of job event title and notes
0.05
passed

Seems to work, and works while event is active without killing the app. One has to go to a separate Comment tab to enter notes.

iBiz CPU usage efficiency
0.05
failed

Appalling. The iBiz version 4.1.1 typically hogged 90% of my Mac Book Pro with 2.5Ghz Core 2 duo, rendering it and all other applications unusable. Clearly not tested properly, put me off this app forever. Awful ! Angry

Billings CPU usage efficiency
0.05
failed

I wrote mid Jun 2010: "At the moment of posting this I am running Billings on a Mac Book Pro with 2.5Ghz Core 2 duo. Billings is taking about 2.1% CPU with one timer running. I can live with that." I revoke that 20 Jun 2010, it is hogging my CPU with just 1 timer running (see attached image) and why on earth does it need 1GB virtual memory ?

iBiz Customisable reports
0.05
failed

Not AFAIK.

Billings Customisable reports
0.05
passed

Definitely one of the strengths of Billings; lots of different ways of viewing the same underlying data.

Studiometry Default currency choice known to all newly created timers
0
buggy
Billings Default currency choice known to all newly created timers
0.05
passed
Billings Documentation easily navigable
0.05
failed

Bless their souls in the 21st century, the index of their PDF is not hyperlinked to the chapters, and the chapter/structure overview failed (at least in Mac OS X Preview on Leopard).

iBiz Documentation easily navigable
0
UNKNOWN
Billings Easily select all job events within a subset of projects
0.05
failed

I simply can't believe they don't have this. See online support suggestion quicktime movie for how you are expected to do it, namely multi-select all "Slips" for a given project each time. Clumsy, impractical, error prone, and painful if you have to regenerate a report often, especially if one has to select a number (only) of projects for a given client.

iBiz Easily select all job events within a subset of projects
0.05
passed

They almost got this right under Advance Invoice, however one has to reselect the subset of projects each time, i.e., there is no proper persistence of the chosen project subset parameter.

iBiz Easily start/pause/restart timers (without completing/closing job event)
0
passed
Billings Easily start/pause/restart timers (without completing/closing job event)
0
passed
Studiometry Easily start/pause/restart timers (without completing/closing job event)
0
passed
iBiz Easy access to start/stop timestamped logging of job sub-events
0.05
passed

Nice optional display in right pane with clear start/stop indicators.

Billings Easy access to start/stop timestamped logging of job sub-events
0.05
passed

Under the slip properties editor one can bring up an editable time log, but not embedded in the main view.

iBiz Editable log of start/stop of job sub-events
0.05
passed

Not as far as I can tell.

Billings Editable log of start/stop of job sub-events
0.05
passed

Yes, under properties dialog for a "Slip" (cumulative job event).

iBiz Export reports (not invoices) as PDF
0
failed

Not AFAIK.

Billings Export reports (not invoices) as PDF
0.05
passed

Yes via PRINT (then Mac OS X handles it).

Billings Filtering and sorting of job events by date across projects and/or client
0.05
passed

This is where Billings is particularly strong.

iBiz Filtering and sorting of job events by date across projects and/or client
0
failed

Not AFAIK.

iBiz Financial information cent-accurate
0.05
failed

Definitely not. For some reason the data walks away, there are bad rounding errors somewhere.

Billings Financial information cent-accurate
0
UNKNOWN
iBiz Generate invoice/report for a given fine-grained period (hh:mm accurate)
0.05
passed

And the choice is persistent between report and invoice generations.

Billings Generate invoice/report for a given fine-grained period (hh:mm accurate)
0.05
failed

AFAIK sadly missing for invoices, i.e. it does not detect which job events ("Slips") are within a chosen time bracket, one has to painfully select each Slip (check a checkbox) from within a table of slips (the line items of which are BTW not able to be opened to the Slip properties box). The invoice creation Slips table does not even have a "select all" feature for the Slips, a real time waster.

The report generation has date filters, but only day-accurate (not hh:mm).

Billings Hyperlink job event to external resource as URL
0
suggested

C'mon guys, it is the 21st century, we use links. Look at iCal events !

iBiz Hyperlink job event to external resource as URL
0
failed

As in iCal. Not in iBiz AFAIK.

Studiometry Hyperlink job event to external resource as URL
0
failed

AFAIK one can't link to a remote URL for a web site page, (howevever one can drag files onto a pane to create convenient file links to local files).

Billings Job event groups with weighted time and service rate averages of sub-events
0.05
suggested

Sadly missing and sorely missed.

iBiz Job event groups with weighted time and service rate averages of sub-events
0.05
passed

Very useful feature, done well.

Studiometry Newly created timer knows project/client through context or selection
0
failed

This one really bugs me. Even when a project within a client is selected (and thus a context for the client is available) the new timer dialog asks me to choose the client, offering All Clients by default (which of course could corrupt timesheeting data easily if not changed). This is really annoying when creating lots of timers.

Billings Newly created timer knows project/client through context or selection
0.05
passed
Billings Newly created timer knows project/client through context or selection
0
passed
Billings Option to show unbilled items in reports (and/or invoices)
0
failed

Has an option "For your eyes only" for each Slip (which then shows an eye icon near the total in line items), and one can show such unbilled items on some reports, however one can't AFAIK show unbilled items easily together with billed ones on an invoice. I mostly don't want "For your eyes only", I want plain ol' unbilled, so that I can show myself and clients what they are NOT paying for (example, lots of time spent debugging Drupal modules that can't be billed). I want to be able to easily show unbilled and billed side-by-side, at least in reports (not necessarily in invoices, but I'd like that, too sometimes).

iBiz Option to show unbilled items in reports and/or invoices
0.05
passed

This is nicely displayed in reports as greyed out service items next to normal billed ones, for those job events where "unbilled" is selected. AFAIK, one has to, in order to send this to anyone (which I often need to do to show clients what they are NOT paying for), take a screenshot of the report.

iBiz Pie-charts and percentages of time spent by project/client.
0.05
passed

In case you like this kind of visual overview, can be handy.

Billings Pie-charts and percentages of time spent by project/client.
0.05
failed

Not AFAIK. It might be there somewhere.

Billings Reliable export of start/finish job event data to iCal
0.05
failed

Billings only exports (for reasons I can't fathom) timed events to iCal all day events, which is next to useless. Their support wrote to me: "you can edit the event in iCal to show the time range you would like it to. " This might just be the most disconnected, unrealistic software support response I've ever received. Sorry, how should I spend my time after spending money on an "awarded" time-tracking app ? Tongue

iBiz Reliable export of start/finish job event data to iCal
0.05
buggy

iBiz completely mangled my iCal entries Angry (and if you Google "iBiz sucks" you'll find I'm not alone). Whatever you do, switch OFF iBiz to iCal "integration" in both directions. Do not even bother to test it. Let their developers test it this time ! And maybe they should change this claim on their site:

'With a completely new iCal sync engine, iBiz 4 takes a leap forward in management and scheduling of billing, projects, job events, to do lists, alarms and more.'

Piffle Tongue !

iBiz Tag completed job event by completion state: like PASSED, FAILED, etc.
0
suggested
Billings Tag completed job event by completion state: like PASSED, FAILED, etc.
0
suggested

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