TimeTable 2.0.2 review

iCal is an easy, default choice to track your meetings, events, and appointments. It's installed on every Mac, and--provided you have a MobileMe account--it synchronizes your calendars simply and seamlessly between your computer and your iOS devices. But iCal isn't much help when it comes to calculating the amount of time you spend on each task--the program doesn't even have a list view. TimeTable mines your iCal data to tabulate the time spent on particular tasks, making it a good tool for consultants and other people who need to track their time.

When you start TimeTable, you select one or more of your iCal calendars, and TimeTable displays a list of all the current month's events in each calendar. (You can instead choose to display the events from any time frame.) For each event in the list, TimeTable shows the start date, the duration of the event, and the event's name. Right-clicking (Control-clicking) any column head allows you to add additional columns such as Start Time and End Time. A search field in the program's toolbar allows you to filter your results--for example, you could display just the events for a particular client. (One feature I'd like to see is a setting to exclude particular calendars from TimeTable's sidebar. For example, I'm never going to care about time tracking for my Birthdays or Holidays calendars.)

For billing and invoicing purposes, you can assign a single pay rate to all calendars or a different rate for each calendar; each calendar's rate appears in TimeTable's sidebar. The program automatically calculates the cost of each event (rate times duration) and displays the total in the Cost column.

After filtering and selecting the calendar data you want, TimeTable lets you export it as a plain-text file, an e-mail message, or a comma-separated-values (CSV) file, ready for import into a spreadsheet or invoicing program.

Before exporting information, TimeTable shows you a preview of selected events in your chosen calendars and calculates the total time and charges for those events.

TimeTable has gained several improvements since Macworld last reviewed it, back in 2009. You can now view events in multiple calendars simultaneously, instead of just one. Event durations can now be viewed as decimal numbers, as total minutes, or in hours:minutes format. And the program now shows you a preview before it exports your data to a text file or e-mail message.

However, the program has also increased in price by $5 since that review, and at $20, it's getting closer in price to $40 programs such as Marketcircle's Billings or IGG Software's iBiz that are considerably more feature-rich, including extensive options for customizing invoices and payments. These programs also allow you to capture billable items that you might not put into iCal, such as timed telephone support or reimbursable expenses. iBiz even synchronizes events with iCal, albeit in a considerably more complex fashion than TimeTable.

(Compatibility note: If you use BusyCal, the popular iCal replacement, and you sync your calendars via MobileMe--specifically, the new WebDAV-based MobileMe Calendar that debuted in October 2010--you'll find that calendars and events created in BusyCal won't appear in TimeTable until you've launched iCal and let iCal sync with MobileMe. The reason for this is that TimeTable uses OS X's CalendarStore feature for retrieving calendar information and BusyCal doesn't save your calendar data to CalendarStore. Launching iCal syncs your MobileMe calendar data to CalendarStore.)


Still, TimeTable does a good job of extracting data from iCal, and if your main goal is to track the amount of time you spend on different activities, it will probably be all you need--it's dead-easy to use and worth the $20.

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