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Time-tracking tools, which allow users to log chunks of time spent on various tasks and projects throughout the day, help you audit how you spent your past to better plan for the future. They’re great for tracking billable hours or managing complex projects. In a past edition of Work Tech, we covered the best time blockers, which can help you more effectively manage your daily schedule. Time trackers are another type of valuable aid for those who want to better understand and control how they spend their days.
We tested five different tools that allow users to track how they spend their time and recommend Toggl Track for its ease of use, suite of useful features, and its solid free plan.
Note: We tested each of these tools for individual use, not for team use, though many of the tools we tested offer solutions for the latter as well.
- Its free plan is great, meeting the needs of most individual users.
- The web app has a clean and fairly intuitive interface.
- It has a variety of useful features, including exportable summary and detailed reports.
- The web version doesn’t have a function for the Pomodoro method, a well-known productivity technique.
- The Google Calendar integration, though generally solid, was occasionally glitchy.
We evaluated five time-tracking tools—Toggl Track, Timely, Clockify, ATracker, and Harvest—on their features, ease of use, integrations, and price. Ease-of-use was our most important criterion—no one wants to spend time figuring out how to track their time!—followed by features, like the ability to generate clean reports of your time-use data. We tested each of these tools during the workday to see how seamlessly they would fit into a real work routine.
After testing each of the tools, we narrowed down the pool to just Toggl Track and Timely, which performed at similar levels. Toggl Track, however, offers a good free version, whereas Timely starts at $9 per user per month billed annually or $11 per user per month billed monthly. Toggl Track’s free offering made it our sole top pick.
Here’s how our Toggl Track performed on our key criteria:
Features: One of the most useful features of Toggl Track is the ability to add projects, tags, and more to each time entry, making it easier to get fine-grained data on time usage. At Charter, for example, a reporter may want to know how long it takes them, on average, to produce an article from idea to publication. They also may want to know how much time they typically spend on each of the different activities involved in that process, such as reading articles and research papers, interviewing sources, writing, fact-checking, and so on. Toggl makes it easy to attach projects, clients, tasks, and tags to time entries. Finally, you can mark whether a given time entry is billable, which will show up separately in your time reports. (You can also create invoices through Toggl Track, though we didn’t test this feature.)
Under “Reports,” users can log how they spend their time by category, and they can look at it by day, week, month, year, etc. This could be helpful for months-long projects that require detailed reporting, like a funded research project, or for standard billable work for a client. You can also find your data displayed on graphs like the ones below, which show a percentage breakdown of time spent on projects and time entries. You can hover over each slice to see the corresponding project or entry.
One important feature missing from the web version of Toggl is a function for the Pomodoro method, a well-known productivity technique, where users work in 25-minute intervals separated by five-minute breaks. Though this seems like low-hanging fruit for a productivity app made for tracking time, according to this article on Toggl’s website, it’s currently not available for the Toggl Track web app, which is the version we spent most of our time testing. It is available for the desktop version, the browser extension, and the mobile app (Android and iOS).
Ease of use: Toggl Track is easy to use: Users simply start and stop the timer when they want to log their time for an activity. The web app has a clean and fairly intuitive interface. It’s pretty easy to navigate, and the help button is useful (that’s what made it easy to find the Pomodoro article). It also has a bot that answers user questions about the platform. With each answer, it provides the underlying article it pulled the information from, allowing users to read more about the topic if they want. Based on our testing, the bot’s answers were mostly helpful.
Integrations: Toggl Track integrates with iCalendar, Google Calendar, and Outlook Calendar. We tested it with Google Calendar and it was mostly seamless, though it did struggle to load a couple times. There are also integrations for Salesforce, Jira, and Asana, and plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe XD. Finally, there are Toggl Track browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, which allow you to access the application on other web pages.
Pricing deep dive
Toggl Track has four different pricing plans, and every plan comes with a free 30-day trial of Toggl Track’s premium features:
- The free plan, which has features “designed with freelancers in mind,” can accommodate teams of up to five people. This plan gets you many of the features you would need for your everyday work, including exportable summaries and detailed reports on your time usage and the ability to track an unlimited number of projects and clients.
- The starter plan, which is designed for small teams, includes everything in the free plan plus some extra features, like the ability to automatically round time for reporting and to add billable rates. It costs $9 per user per month, billed annually, or $10 per user per month, billed monthly.
- The premium plan includes everything from the starter plan plus features like timesheet approvals, the ability to send time-tracking reminders to your team, and more. It costs $18 per user per month, billed annually, or $20 per user per month, billed monthly.
The Enterprise plan is designed for “large or complex organization[s]” and it includes everything from the premium plan plus expert training and assistance with the platform, priority support, and more. Inquire for pricing.
How we chose what to review
Time-tracking tools can broadly be split into two categories: Tools like Toggl Track are more manual, requiring users to add the projects and tasks they want to track. Tools like RescueTime, on the other hand, are more automated, running in the background of your computer to track how much time you spend on websites, applications, documents, etc. Though the latter set of tools has its appeal—namely that it requires less effort on the part of users—it’s more useful for understanding your digital habits, and less useful for managing projects. Our goal was the latter, so we focused on the first set of tools. (Note: The Toggl Track desktop app also has an automatic time tracking feature, though we didn’t include it in our test.)
We sourced ideas on what tools to test from Reddit, product reviews, and ChatGPT. We tried to avoid tools designed to let managers monitor their employees, though many of our picks have team options that allow team leaders to oversee tasks and projects.
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