Harvest: Simple, Online Time Tracking

We here at Web.AppStorm always love a good time-tracking and invoicing app. Today we’re going to be taking a look at Harvest, one of the most popular options out there on the Net. We’ve featured it in a number of our roundups, including our 111 Web Apps to Rule Them All, and today we’re going to have a thorough look through it and its features.

Read on for our full review.

First Thoughts

Harvest is a browser-based time tracking and invoicing program and can be accessed from virtually any compatible browser. The developers kindly offer a 30-day free trial (with no credit card required) so you can test out the program’s features before committing to buying (I signed up to the trial for the purposes of this review).

Harvest Home

The home page of Harvest.

Signing up is an absolute doddle – all you have to provide is your name, company, an e-mail address and your own custom domain (which looks like yournamehere.harvestapp.com), so you can access your invoices and projects directly. On the app’s first-run, you’ll be asked to define some basic settings, such as your preferred date, time and number format and default currency (Harvest supports most world currencies) then you are directed to Harvest’s Dashboard, which gives you a time and invoice summary, along with any recently active projects.

Harvest Dashboard

My Dashboard in Harvest, showing the time and invoice summary as well as any recently active projects.

Working with Projects

Before you can start tracking time in Harvest, you must set up a project in order to assign the tracked time to it. This helps later on when it comes to billing clients for the time you’ve invested in them. Creating a new project is really simple – just click on the Create New Project option from the Welcome screen and you’re good to go. When creating a new project, you can choose exactly who it’s for (i.e. the name of the client), the project’s name and code (if applicable) and the method of invoicing (whether by hours/flat rate and so on). You can even define the budget in this step if needs be (again by the number of hours in total or by a flat fee).

Harvest can send you e-mail warnings when a project reaches a certain percentage of its budget.

Harvest Project Tasks

You can define individual tasks in a project and whether or not they are billable, along with individual people.

Harvest will then let you define individual tasks in a project, the people involved with the project (including the project manager) if there is more than one person working on it and whether or not individual tasks are billable.

Tracking Time

Once you’ve set up a project, you now need to start tracking the time associated with it! Remember, time is money after all. Harvest tracks time in decimal format, so 2 hours 30 minutes is recorded as 2.5, 3 hours and 45 minutes as 3.75 and so on. You can enter time either in this format or by using the timer built directly into the timesheet.

Harvest Timesheet

Entering in your hours worked into the project’s timesheet.

On your timesheet you can also record individual expenses associated either by project or by activity. Harvest will let you add some notes about the expense and you can attach a scanned copy of the receipt as well for your records (expenses are recorded by week).

Harvest Expenses

Tracking your expenses in Harvest.

Working with Invoices

Invoicing in Harvest is really easy. You can either invoice your clients based on the time you’ve done (and using the work you’ve entered into Harvest plus any expenses due) or a free-form, open invoice (useful if you’ve negotiated a fixed rate). For the sake of simplicity, we’ll create an open invoice to show you how Harvest works to its full.

Harvest Invoicing

Creating an open, free-form invoice in Harvest.

You simply add the invoice features (such as purchase order number, payment terms and so on) then enter a description of the product or service, its price and quantity and you’re off. Harvest will create an invoice for you on screen which can then be printed off, saved as a PDF or edited directly in the program. You can also send a link to the so-called “web version” of the invoice so your clients can view it directly on the Internet.

Harvest Invoice Final

The finished invoice in Harvest, ready to send to the client.

The invoice is professional and clean-looking and will suit almost any kind of business or application. You can add your own logo or tailor the invoice slightly to suit your requirements and Harvest can integrate with third-party payment services (such as PayPal) so that your clients can pay you instantly once an invoice becomes due. The app will also send out automatic e-mails (which can be tailor-written to suit your needs) should an invoice become overdue (and you can set how often and when after the payment date the invoice is sent).

Other Features

Harvest is extremely customisable and features official integration with Basecamp and Highrise, and can also export invoices to QuickBooks. You can manage which modules you want to see as well – for example if you don’t want to see Estimates in your Dashboard then you can disable this easily. If you remove a module from this view then the data associated with that module doesn’t get deleted either, so you can temporarily hide it if needs be for later use.

Harvest Third-Party

The range of third-party support in Harvest.

Harvest also features its own native iPhone, Android and Mac apps and works really well with loads of third-party services. The iPhone and Android apps let you track time and record expenses on-the-go and the Mac app allows you to enter time worked for each project directly from the desktop without having to log in. Apart from the services mentioned above, there is further support for plenty of other third-party programs out there on the Web, such as Google Apps, Outright and Zendesk. There are also a number of extensions created by Harvest (such as Co-op) which really help increase your productivity (for the full list, head over here).

Final Thoughts

Harvest really is a rarity in today’s world, in that it’s a great simple web app to use that’s absolutely blasted (and sugar-coated) full of features. It will really work wonders no matter what you’re in – whether you’re a freelancer or part of a small business, given the flexibility and huge range of third-party service support by Harvest you are likely to find a use that it won’t be useful for. It’s one of the great web apps that have defined the very concept of web apps to many users, along with the likes of Basecamp, Gmail, and more, and even today it’s one of the best ways to track time and make invoices online.

The app gains our highly prized 10 out of 10 rating as for a web-based time tracking and invoicing app, with its ease of use and beautiful interface, you’d be extremely hard pushed to find a better alternative out there!


Summary

A beautiful web-basedtime tracking and invoicing application for freelancers and small businesses.

10
  • Matt Hamilton

    I just started using this web app for my web design/development business. So far it seems great and the reviews are all positive!

    My only initial gripe was lack of invoice customisation (themes, etc) however I soon realised that colour schemes, etc are superfluous as invoices are meant to be simple, crisp and clean – perfect!

    The added benefit of iPhone apps, mobile web apps and desktop OS apps makes it a breeze to track time!

  • http://www.heymonkeydesign.com Lenny Terenzi

    Been a harvest user for years now. I simply will not switch. It’s been flawless and customer service has been stellar!

  • niblettes

    I don’t get it. This app costs nearly $150 a year for a solo freelancer or almost $500 a year for a small shop of 5 people. The billing complexities of operations this small are easily handled by Excel or Google spreadsheets for free (I know Excel isn’t free, but as a business you’ve almost certainly already paid for Office).

    A company could go broke paying for all the high-priced narrow-purposed web apps around.

    • MisteurG

      While I understand the cost of SaaS solutions (I still use Billings, a 35$ app at the time that has long paid itself), comparing it to Excel or Google spreadsheets is really undermining it’s ability. While the price may seem high, it all depends on your cashflow and the thoughtful management of your money.

      When invoices take part anywhere during work days, it’s good to have an application that can handle it from beginning to end. The cherry on top, to me, is the ability to send estimates for approval from the client (rather than awkward email attached PDF to which the client has to reply and / or try to fax you for a physical signature).

      The thing I don’t get, however, is how the app gets a perfect score. Seeing the number of similar apps currently online (Freshbooks and the lesser known Ronin come to mind) that offer additional features such as automatic late fees added on payment and customizable layouts (which, even though they should be simple, could surely benefit from more personnalisation options), I think this should receive a 9 or, at the very least, some hints of other solutions on the market.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m still considering Harvest as a possible choice when I (most probably) make the switch to SaaS, but I think pointing out some of it’s shortcomings might give people a better understanding of what it does and doesn’t do.

  • Carissa Connelly

    I’m sure Harvest is great but I started using TSheets after I saw their review on this site awhile back and am LOVING it. Talk about simple set up and stellar customer service! Our company won’t be switching anytime soon.

  • Sue

    This looks promising. But I have already been using a cheaper one which also works the same as Harvest. It’s called TimeDoctor. It costs me only $ for a solo plan.

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