Friday, February 13, 2004
A Consultant's Best Friend? Two Peak's BillRate 1.2 Reviewed
Posted by Don Tolson in "SOFTWARE" @ 10:00 AM
Reporting in BillRate consists of a Quick Summary report or an exported Excel spreadsheet or XML file. The Quick Summary provides totals of all entries for all clients. There is no sub-totalling on individual clients or projects.
Figure 11: A quick summary of all entries for the week.
Exports to Excel and XML are available from the Desktop version of BillRate only. When exporting to Excel, you are given the option to select which fields to export and to change the formatting options for non-text fields (date, $$, numbers, etc.).
Figure 12: Selecting fields to export to MS Excel spreadsheet.
Figure 13: Excel Export Advanced Settings.
When I did a test export to Excel, I noticed that where I had billed two and a half hours duration to a project, the spreadsheet still showed the start and end time as 12:00 AM (the default). Where I had explicitly provided the start and end times, these and the correct duration were provided. For consistency's sake, it would be better to have the database (or the export) translate the duration into equivalent start and end times.
Overall settings for BillRate are accessed through the Options selection on the Tools menu.
Figure 14: BillRate’s Options screen.
BillRate's default is that the first day of the week is assumed to be Monday, so entries added for Sunday are assumed to be part of the previous week. This got me a bit confused when I first used it, since I thougt I'd lost an entry I had just added. This was quickly rectified though, when I realized what was happening and changed the default.
The Options screen is also where you define the mileage rate. They've cleverly avoided the currency and kilometer vs. mile conversions by simply making the selection a generic one and leaving any necessary conversion between the systems to the user. :) Again, only one rate for mileage is supported and it applies to all projects. However, you can change the amount billed for each entry separately via the Billing screen. There are also options for altering the look and feel of the user interface and this is where you can change the names of the Custom fields.
BillRate allows you to add information on either the desktop or Pocket PC versions. To keep things consistent between the two, it also provides a function to allow synchronization of the data on the Desktop with the Pocket PC. Synchronization is initiated from the desktop version.
Figure 15: Initiating Synchronization from the Desktop.
The first time this is done, a selection message pops up asking which device should be taken to have the 'correct' version of data. Read this screen carefully! As is warned in the message, selection of which device (Desktop or Pocket PC) is taken as 'correct' is a one-time only option. You have to decide right up front which version of the data is going to have the final say, since it doesn't do the same negotiation review that ActiveSync does. And I couldn't find any way to tell BillRate to change this option once it was set. Thus, if you say the Desktop is the correct version, any entries added on the Pocket PC would be lost at the next synchronization.
When you do a synchronization, only the entries (Time, Mileage, and Expenses) and their associated Clients and Projects are transferred. Your preferences, such as Start of the Week, Mileage rate, etc. will need to be set separately on the Pocket PC.