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Tech Review: “Hours” time tracking

By Ron Scopelliti

There’s a lot of talk going on about the “gig economy.” Like myself, many people aren’t just working one full-time job; they’re freelancing, either as a main or supplemental source of income. When you are freelancing, it becomes vital to keep track of how much time you’re putting into each project, whether the information is used directly for billing, or simply for your own reference.

It seems like it should be easy enough, but when you’re switching back and forth between projects, doing research for one client’s job, and pausing to take a phone call for another client, it can be a major pain.

The “Hours” time-tracking app seeks to remedy this. Available only for iOS, “Hours” is a free app that can be installed on an iPhone, iPad, or iWatch. It allows you to set up timers for all your different projects, and keeps a running log of the time you’ve spent on each one. It also preserves a graphic timeline of each day’s work so you can review your activity in detail.

The app allows you to color code your timers for different tasks. For example, I’ve got mine set to green to track the time I spend working on my “Smithfield Times” articles, and grey for the time I spend working on my Greyledge Press projects.

You can also add notes to blocks of time, to specifically record what you were doing or where you were doing it. If you should accidently leave your timer running on a task, which I’ve already done, “Hours” allows you to go back and edit the time block to its correct length.

It also lets you to set rounding rules for fractions of hours, and reminders to tell you to turn on one or more timers at the beginning of your workday, and turn off your timers at the end of a workday.

“Hours” currently allows you to connect to “Freshbooks Classic” accounting software, but not the latest version of “Freshbooks.” Because of the uncertainty about whether “Freshbooks” will discontinue support of their older software, I decided not to explore this option.

So far, I’ve found little not to like about the app. The user interface is straightforward, and there’s an easy-to-use help system that answered all the questions I had about getting started with the app. I’d like the ability to switch to landscape mode on my phone to make typing easier, but it hasn’t proven to be a major problem. Also, the timelines are kind of small when it comes to editing them on my iPhone SE, but for most other “normally” sized iPhones, this probably won’t be much of an issue.

While the app is free, “Hours” also offers a $7.99 monthly Pro subscription. This adds online data backup, detailed reporting and data visualization, synced data across all your different devices, team creation and management, and web access to www.hoursforteams.com.

Since, in the past, my time tracking device has been a piece of scrap paper in my back pocket, the free version of “Hours” seems like more than enough sophistication for me. However, the ease of accessing your timelines on a computer and the more detailed reporting features might make the Pro version attractive to freelancers with a long client list, or those who create time reports to send to their clients.

The free “Hours” app takes up 45.7 MB of space. For more information, visit www.hourstimetracking.com.