The 5 best time management apps for Software Developers

Procrastination is hitting many developers who are working from home for COVID hard. For many, teamwork motivates while telework is isolating. Luckily, time management apps can help you stay focused and motivated.

At its best, a time management app provides a combo of time tracking, scheduling, project management, and a to-do list that helps you concentrate on your most important tasks.

I’ve done research to find tools that best fit the coding context. I’ve reviewed five time management apps to help you choose which one is right for you.

My criteria to determine the top 5 apps included:

  • User experience
  • Device coverage
  • Third-party integrations
  • Customization options

I also considered extra features such as invoicing and granting different levels of access for different users (role management). The apps below deliver a well-balanced mix of these functions while providing intuitive design with robust functionality. Listed below in alphabetical order.

1. Clockwise

Clockwise is a smart calendar assistant that optimizes your calendar so that you allocate resources to the projects that matter the most. It creates blocks of Focus Time on your calendar so that you can concentrate on your priorities. It helps prevent distractions from filling up all your work hours and helps ensure your meetings have the smallest footprint on your heads-down time. It also automatically resolves meeting conflicts and automatically suggests the least-interruptive time to meet for both you and your team.

It also syncs your calendar to your Slack status to let your team know whether you’re available.

Clockwise is a Google Calendar extension for Chrome and G Suite. With all these powerful features, it takes your coding productivity to the next level and reduces scheduling conflicts to a minimum.

Clockwise Pros:

  • Integrates with Slack to show colleagues your status based on your calendar
  • Eliminates manually resolving meeting conflicts
  • Fantastic customer support

Clockwise Cons:

  • Somewhat limited range of report options
  • Configuration of settings can be time-consuming

Bottom line: Backed by AI, Clockwise makes complicated things simple by helping you maintain a deep focus on priority tasks. It makes scheduling less of a brain-teaser and features a frictionless Slack integration with Slack. \This app definitely belongs on your radar.

2. Harvest

Harvest tracks the time you spend in more than 70 popular apps and services, including GitHub, Slack, Teambook, and Zendesk. It allows you to track your time by project, client, or specific task. It’s great for solo programmers and teams who want to track their work hours. Harvest boasts a ton of integrations and I found its UI amazingly easy to learn and navigate.

Harvest also works across a wide range of operating systems. In addition to iOS and Android apps, it has a desktop widget for both PC and Mac. The Apple Watch applet brings its features to your wrist.

Harvest lets you track time and expenses, visualize your team’s productivity, produce project efficiency reports, and generate professional invoices you can send to your clients. Harvest tracks time spent on projects while deducting periods of inactivity.

The pricing is straightforward: $12 per user per month. If you go for an annual subscription, you’ll get a 10% discount. Before you make up your mind, I would recommend you give the 30-day trial a shot (it provides you with access to every feature, and doesn’t require a credit card).

Harvest Pros:

  • Integrates with many other tools
  • Compatible with desktop and mobile devices along with Apple Watch
  • Streamlined interface
  • Allows you to track time by project, client, or task

Harvest Cons:

  • Fairly pricey ($12 per user per month) compared to the other apps highlighted in this blog

Bottom line: You cannot go wrong with Harvest if you need a simple time tracking and scheduling tool that produces informative reports. It also helps build trust with clients by accurately calculating the amount of uninterrupted time you are spending on projects.

3. Hours

Hours is a user-friendly time tracking instrument. In addition to multiple simultaneous timers for your current tasks it generates productivity reports. Easily adjust your timeline by dragging the start or end time of a time block. Whereas the Hours app is tailor-made for Apple devices with macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS onboard, you can also add it to Chrome, Safari, or Firefox on any operating system.

Handy color-coding options help you visualize your projects and specific tasks. Hours generates detailed reports in PDF or CSV formats ready to email to your clients. Customizable invoicing is a recent addition to the app. Another cool feature: Make quick adjustments to your timeline by dragging time blocks, so they reflect the start and end times more accurately.

You can get basic time tracking features with the Hours Personal free app on your Apple device. It spans a running list of timers, syncing across multiple devices, automatic data backups, and FAQ support. Note:But Iit doesn’tdoes not provide you with web access.

This tool offers in-app purchases to enhance your time management routine by upgrading to Hours Pro or Hours Teams. Hours Pro delivers advanced time tracking experience and includes invoicing – this plan is worth $8 per month.

The Hours Teams subscription costs $6.67 per user per month and accommodates all features of the Pro plan plus team time tracking, shared project resources, and team management perks. You can try a limited version of the Pro or Team plan for free and get key functionality with no more than five timers supported.

If you choose to use Hours via a web browser, keep in mind that browsers are susceptible to adware attacks. Keep in mind that Hours Web isn’t an extension you can add to Safari or whatever browser you prefer using. Instead, it’s an online account (a web interface) you need to sign in to. If you fall for a phishing scam or unwittingly install info-stealing malware, a malicious third-party may obtain your authentication details.

Therefore, it is in your best interest to follow safe online practices if Hours web access is your “daily driver” in terms of time management. In this scenario, steering clear of malicious code is a prerequisite for keeping your sensitive work data intact.

Hours Pros:

  • User-friendly UI
  • Suitable for individual use (Hours Personal or Hours Pro plans) and collaborative environments (Hours Teams) alike
  • Flexible invoicing
  • Terrific visualizations

Hours Cons:

  • Lacks integrations
  • Non-Apple platforms are not supported (only a web version is available)

Bottom line: Hours strikes a balance between simplicity and time tracking functionality. But it can make you feel kind of restricted in several ways. It is only compatible with devices running macOS, iOS, and watchOS, and the integrations gap has yet to be bridged. That said, Hours is great for solo developers who work with Apple gear only. For teams, especially large ones, it’s a fairly expensive option that might not be worth its salt.

4. Toggl

Toggl is another time tracking tool aimed at increasing your productivity and pinpointing where you’re wasting time. Toggl is not the most feature-rich app on this list. It doesn’t support sending invoices over email automatically and lacks an overtime calculation option. But, it might be your best bet if you are looking for a tool that tracks your time and generates reports in CSV, Excel, or PDF. Its tagging feature allows you to arrange your timesheets by clients, projects, or other criteria.

You can quickly generate PDF invoices reflecting your billable hours as well. Another awesome feature is extensive role management. It allows you to provide different co-workers with a different scope of access to your workspace by specifying who is a regular user, a project manager, and a workspace admin.

Toggl is cross-platform and works seamlessly on both mobile and desktop devices. Chrome and Firefox extensions are available, too. It also integrates with more than 100 popular tools, including Assembla, Google Calendar, Teamwork, Todoist, and Trello.

I find Toggl’s UI a little hard to navigate and not very intuitive. Combined with limited hotkey functionality that makes you use your mouse a lot, this quirk might throw a wrench in the works when you need to add a new project or client.

If your team consists of up to five members, you’ll be good to go with the free plan that provides time tracking and reporting essentials while supporting any number of projects with no strings attached.

There are three paid subscription options to choose from:

  1. Starter ($9 per user monthly)
  2. Premium ($18 per user monthly)
  3. Enterprise (custom pricing)

Even with the cheapest plan, you get perks such as unlimited team sizes, saved reports, project templates, and time estimates.

Toggl Pros:

  • Desktop, web, and mobile apps
  • Free for teams of up to five people
  • Easy to use
  • Great for teams of freelancers

Toggl Cons:

  • Somewhat basic functionality
  • You may have to go the extra mile adding new projects or clients
  • If you set up several instances of Toggl on different devices, you may encounter message syncing issues

Bottom line: Toggl is a multiplatform solution that, despite its simplicity, can provide an organizational boost. It is close to ideal for freelancers and small teams of programmers looking for a simple, free time tracker.

5. Timely

Timely tracks how much time you spend on your projects and uses artificial intelligence to learn from your work patterns to increase your personal time efficiency. By predicting how much time it will take you to complete specific tasks based on your past speed, you can better plan your work and your team’s work.

Intuitive calendar-style dashboards display project resources, provide an easy way to sync appointments with Outlook, Google, or Apple calendars, allow you to keep tabs on budgets, and make it amazingly easy to assign tasks to specific developers. You can also check the workloads of your team members in a snap. Generating payroll, employee performance, or invoicing reports with Timely is a piece of cake due to readily available templates.

The tool offers a competitive network of integrations. Aside from the hugely popular Google Calendar, it integrates with dozens of project management, development, communication, design, and accounting apps and services.

You can use this app on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Unlike Toggl, Timely does not have a free plan. But they do offer a 14-day trial. The pricing model is as follows:

  1. Starter ($8 per user per month)
  2. Premium ($14 per user per month)
  3. Unlimited ($20 per user per month)

Timely Pros:

  • A no-brainer to use
  • Supports many devices
  • Informative dashboard

Timely Cons:

  • Smartphone apps could use UI and performance improvements
  • No free plan (the 14-day trial is kind of cold comfort)
  • Expensive for large teams

Bottom line: Although Timely is not specifically intended for software devs, its time tracking and scheduling power is praiseworthy. Its mobile apps are somewhat crude in terms of both UIs and features at this point. If you are used to scheduling on-the-go, this tool might not be the best choice.

Going forward

They say time is money, and for a good reason. In an ideal world, finding the happy medium between work and distraction is no big deal. In practice, it is a challenge few software developers can take up on their own.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all time management app. Your choice depends on a handful of criteria that run the gamut from aesthetic preferences and supported devices to integrations and the price tag.

If you work on your own and do not need all the bells and whistles beyond basic time tracking, create a free Toggl Track account and move on with your day. If you are on a development team, you might need extra features built into some of the other tools on the list. Do your homework and select your best service now to be a more productive coder tomorrow.

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David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 17 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs MacSecurity.net and Privacy-PC.com projects that present expert opinions on contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, malware, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy, and white hat hacking. David has a strong malware troubleshooting background, with a recent focus on ransomware countermeasures.

Read next: The best focus app for you.

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Time Management

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