Archive for January, 2012
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I’ve been looking for a good method for tracking time on projects and tasks. My previous solution was GnoTime, which worked relatively well, but had a few points I was unsatisfied with. Deciding to try something new Google lead to this post from which I discovered Harvest, which is a hosted time management solution. Previously, I’ve only used desktop applications such as GnoTime, Ktimetracker, etc. though I liked the idea of a web tool, as easily accessing it from both work and home was appealing, as well as mobile support for Android. Not having to sync files via Dropbox between systems was certainly appealing, and Harvest offers some very nice features including reporting and even invoicing capabilities.
Setting up a Harvest account takes about two minutes, and I had an initial project and tasks defined right away. The web interface is easy to navigate, and provides start / stop timers for each task, which is a feature I wanted. I should note this is a paid hosting service, however pricing is reasonable, there is a 30 day trial, and the website also is currently promoting “The Harvest FREE FOREVER Plan – 2 Projects, 4 Clients, & 1 User, absolutely FREE” – perfect. Update: Once signed up, you can change simply convert your 30 day trial account to the free account under you account management, upgrade settings.
But it gets better. The first day I left a timer running at work, and the next morning received an email from Harvest informing of this. Nice. Also, over the course of the first week I received some helpful emails (non-spam) to get new users started using some of the features, a web cast invite for how to do invoicing, etc. I also sent them a ticket asking about converting to the free account, and if they had a referral program, and received a response the next day. The referral program credits you time for anyone you refer, though does not credit them – though they of anyone can join the referral program. The big orange button at the top of the article is an example of one of the referral buttons you can get.
You can also export your time to a csv file, which is quite handy, and the invoicing capabilities might be extremely helpful for those needing them (I do not currently use this feature, but it is very nice it is there.)
Editing time in the web interface is flexible and easy. If a field already contains 9.43 hours, you can add or subtract time by simply appending say -4.15 and it will automatically calculate the new time, nice for reducing simple mistakes. You can use the ‘n’ hotkey to add a new task, and tab / enter to complete it.
Now, the icing on the cake would be a Linux desktop widget. While the download site has widgets for OSX and Windows, none was listed for Linux – and, unsurprisingly, the OS X one does not work when installed in plasma. However, this post pointed me to the Harvest Command Line Tool (hcl), a ruby tool designed by Zack Hobson which provides a command line interface which uses the Harvest API to allow task management via the command line. Wow. The Harvest devs are also apparently looking at providing an actual widget in the future per this feature request, but hcl is fine for me. The fact there is a useful API which is being used for tools like hcl is another huge benefit to Harvest.
Installing Harvest Command Line Tool
Installing hcl is extremely easy, as it is available as a Ruby gem. You may also install it from source via the hcl git repo.
Installing with gem was simply a matter of installing rubygems for my distro and then the hcl gem:
#zypper install rubygems
#gem install hcl
(For Ubuntu and Fedora users, this should simply be a matter of installing rubygems as well via yum or apt-get.)
Running hcl the first time prompts for your Harvest account credentials, and your Harvest subdomain – this is the yourdomain part of you yourdomain.harvestapp.com account you created earlier. You may now list your project and start / stop tasks, etc. For example:
[email protected]:~> hcl tasks
1782588 1165030 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – ARM
1782588 1165024 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – Admin
1782588 1165031 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – BDS
1782588 1165029 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – DAAC
1782588 1165032 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – GPGPU
1782588 1165034 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – ITSD
1782588 1165025 Prime Enterprises – ORNL – Project Management
You can view the time for a specific day:
[email protected]:~> hcl show last friday
8:09 total (as of 10:12 am)
And of course start and stop the timer for a project / task and include a log message:
[email protected]:~> hcl start 1782588 1165032 Testing hcl
Started timer for Prime Enterprises – ORNL – GPGPU (0:00) (at 10:21 am)
Additional options are available via hcl –help and further usage examples are available in the documentation at git hub, such as: https://github.com/zenhob/hcl/blob/master/README.markdown
So far I am quite impressed with Harvest. It provides the features I needed, and the inclusion of an API and tools like hcl are all I needed. I’m looking forward to using it over the next few weeks on my projects.
The referral program is a nice bonus. I had very good success with the Dropbox referral program, so we will see how this one goes.
If you are looking for a time tracking tool, Harvest might well be worth test driving.