MacFreelance bills itself as 'Invoice and billing software made for Creative Professionals'. Having recently taken on a consulting job, I thought this might just be the software to make things in my life a bit simpler. I don't have any experience with other hour-tracking/billing software on the Mac, so
In the box, you'll receive a CD and a brief, ten-page Quick Reference Guide. Installation of the software is simple and on par with most any other program - open the disc, drag the program to your applications folder. Simple and easy.
Once you open the program, you're presented with the main window of the program, which presents a series of icons along the top edge and shows you clients, projects and ongoing charges tied to those projects. The first thing you'll want to do is set up your business. You can do business and send bills out as John Q. Public, as CreativePublic LLC, or under whatever name suits. You can enter multiple businesses for various project or clients with ease. Importing from the Address Book is also possible.
After getting whom you'll be billing as sorted out, you can now move onto adding clients. You can accomplish this by either double-clicking in the 'Clients' field, clicking on the Clients icon along the top bar, or through the menu system. While there are a variety of ways to accomplish this task, I found this to be somewhat cumbersome: double-clicking in the clients field isn't mentioned anywhere, and I stumbled on it by chance; the clients icon in the top bar is grayed out at various times for reasons not immediately apparent. That said, once you have the clients window up, it is simple to add clients, either manually or from the Address Book. You can also configure how invoicing is handled and which company or companies you use to bill the client.
Setting up projects is simpler and more straight forward than the troubles I encountered with clients, though not without some quirks. To add a new project, simply click the '+' button below the Projects field. You can title the project and enter any additional information in the tab below, who will bill the project, whether to produce a quote, tax information, mileage, discounts and add any dates to the calendar in iCal. Adding various Timed Items or Fixed (rate) Items is straight forward. The program does not allow you to add new items when you've got the clock running, as you wouldn't want to be billing for administrative activities, now, would you?
Once you're set up, you can start working. MacFreelance puts a small icon in the upper right-hand menu-bar icons where you can start and stop time-tracking for any hourly projects you've set up. You can also bring up a larger Task Monitor window to keep track of information. Finally, you can also start and stop timing from the main program window.
Once you've finished a project, or at least come to the point where you need to create an invoice, MacFreelance provides a variety of options. You can customize your invoice header and information through the program preferences. With your invoice preview created, you can easily print or email it out. MacFreelance also has an invoice book which allows you to keep track of the outstanding bills, advances, paid bills, and any other tracking information you might need. The main window in the program also has a Statistics tab which gives a variety of time worked, billed, paid and other information in concise form.
Mileage tracking, which is a must for some projects, is also available. This feature is initially disabled and must be turned on in the preferences. You can track either through the entry of actual mileage or odometer readings. Entering miles traveled was simple, though I could not figure out how to enter the odometer readings into the program, and the help function was of little help, other than to let me know the feature was there and how to enable it.
Generally, I found the software to be adequate. MacFreelance integrates with a number of other applications seamlessly, which makes for simple billing and calendaring. The program itself has some frustrating user interface inconsistencies which keep it from achieving its full potential. Additionally, the help features are relatively thin and not completely up to speed with current version of MacFreelance. With some time to gain familiarity, MacFreelance will enable you to easily take care of invoice and billing tasks, but some of the features are not intuitive. With a few changes, I feel MacFreelance could go from adequate to quite good.