Friday, October 31, 2003
Trackin' My Time...a Review of BOnTime v1.6.1
Posted by Don Tolson in "SOFTWARE" @ 10:02 AM
Tired of filling up your calendar with fake appointments in order to record time you've worked on projects or with clients? BSystems Ltd. has released the latest version of BOnTime, a time tracking/accounting/reporting application which is geared toward those of us chained to the weekly timesheet, and actually makes time recording a lot simpler!
For those of us involved in consulting or other 'contract-based' work, timesheets have always been the bane of our existence. They're required (so we can get paid), but they can be a royal pain -- especially when you're working for multiple clients, on multiple projects and everyone wants details on what you've been doing for whom. Well, BSystems Ltd. has released version 1.6.1 of their BOnTime application which looks like a pretty reasonable time recorder with enough output options to maybe fill in those timesheets for you! :mrgreen:
Over the years of my time with PDAs, I've tried to make the best use of the available tools to keep track of my work so that timesheet day wouldn't be so difficult. For the last year or so, I've been creating appointments in Pocket Outlook to track time spent on projects for each of my clients, then translating those -- day by day -- on Fridays when I need to submit my timesheets. Now, I'm not saying that using Pocket Outlook as a time recorder is necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of advantages -- including automatic backup to my desktop whenever I synchronize; having a single source of information about what I've done; and integration of documents and contacts with recorded work. The down side is an incredible cluttering of my calendar with stuff that isn't really appointments or meetings, which gets even worse when I'm actually working on multiple clients' projects simultaneously. What I end up doing now is to simply fill in appointments for the day with guesstimates as to the number of hours allocated to each. If it's a really bad week, I sometimes wait until the end of the week and simply share the time between the projects I worked on during the week. I need something easier, so I decided to give BOnTime a try.
When you first start up BOnTime, there is an initial splash screen, then a display of the current client/project/task/job tree structure.
Figure 1: BOntime's main screen
Looks a bit blank, huh? Well, never fear, BOnTime includes a Help file with a pretty thorough description of the functions available, and they're arranged in chapters which follow you through the normal work flow. However, here are some 'quick start' hints. First, it's important to remember that BOnTime uses a Client/Project/Task/Job hierarchy -- which you remember from reading the documentation, right? ;-) So the first step is create a new client. This can be accomplished from either the New menu at the bottom of the screen, or by tapping and holding anywhere within the tree display area. This will bring up a context-sensitive menu of options, including the New menu, from which you select Client.
Once you've created your client(s), you then create projects for each client by highlighting the client in the tree, then selecting New/Project from either the New menu or by tapping and holding within the tree display. Similarly, you'll need to create Tasks for each one of the Projects, since you can only record actual time spent by creating Jobs assigned to a specific Task. This is one of the unfortunate parts of having to use the entire hierarchy -- there's no way to record work at a higher level, such as directly against a Client or a Project. I got around this by creating dummy 'Stuff' tasks for each of my projects where there weren't specific tasks, or where I didn't need to record to that level of detail. Once you've got this structure built, subsequent initiations of BOnTime take you to the Client level depiction of the tree.
Figure 2: Main screen with Clients
Fortunately, BOnTime lets you duplicate the names of Projects, Tasks and Jobs between Clients, so you can have multiple Clients involved in the same Project, and use similar Task names (like 'Stuff') in different Projects. You can also go back and change the names of Clients, Projects or Tasks by selecting them in the tree and tapping Edit/Properties from the menus.