When you are a contract worker or someone with more than one job, the topic of how to keep track of billable hours will always come up. Documenting total time spent or hours against multiple projects can be a pain but for the last couple of years I have been using a clever app called Toggl to do just that.
With this free program, I can create different clients which may then have many individual projects under each. Further, each project can also have its own set of tasks. Every time I begin a new activity I simply start the timer for that task and Toggl tracks it for me. At the end of the week, I can have a report sent to me via email or I can view it online. From there I can bill out the appropriate amounts easily.
One of the coolest parts of this app is the desktop widget. It’s an Adobe Air application that syncs in the background with their Web site, freeing you up from the need to have a browser open.
There is also an iGoogle Gadget (which I haven’t tried) and a desktop application that has a much lower memory footprint than the Air version (according to my coworker Nick Staroba).
Of particular use to me is the AFK (away from keyboard) feature. If my work happens to get interrupted and I am gone for five minutes, the app begins tracking how long I’ve been away. When I return to my computer and begin typing, Toggl pops up and asks “You have been away for X amount of time. Remove that from Your Task?” It’s perfect for any distraction filled environment.
Data can be exported to PDF or CSV for easy documentation and they now have integration with Basecamp the popular web-based project collaboration tool. The site also has different graphs and charts for viewing your tracked time and an option to add up to 20 other users if you need to track multiple team members.
I’ve been very satisfied with Toggl's excellent reliability and have yet to find its rival. It will save time in both senses of the phrase and it’s high on my recommendation list.