Updates: Law practice software made simple: Time59, July 6, 2009; A full client cycle with Time59, April 15, 2007.

Chris Monaghan, the creator of Time59, asked me to review his product. He writes:

It provides time tracking, invoicing and accounts receivable functions. It even handles retainer billing. There is a free 30 day trial. One year of service is only $19.95.

The price is certainly right, especially compared to RTG Bills. From what I can tell, Time59 offers similar functionality for significantly less.

Since I just started a contract brief writing project with a very quick due date, I decided to sign into Time59 and give the 30-day trial a go. My project is a summary judgment memorandum, due to my client by Saturday and to the court on Monday, so I should be able to give the full features of Time59 a try.

Signing up was a piece of cake. Since Time59 lets you pick your own password, there is no need to wait for the confirmation e-mail. I signed in, created a new client, added a new project, and copied my time records over from Billing Matters Plus, which I have been using for timekeeping. Piece of cake.

The interface is simple and uncluttered, and it’s obvious where things are. So far, I’m impressed.

One immediate omission, however, is the lack of a timer. RTG Timer has one, and it would be nice to see in Time59. Another question I have is how well Time59 will work if accessed from a Blackberry or smart phone. I have a Blackberry coming next week, so I should be able to answer that question shortly.

Time59 will export time records to Excel, as well. I had difficulty opening them in OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet, however. Since one of my main goals is to move to free software, this is a problem. Looking at the actual file exported, this is because it imports a partial HTML file rather than an actual Excel file. You can work around this by opening the document in OO.org Writer and then copying the table to Spreadsheet and reformatting the resulting output, but this is a clumsy option. Since one of the main attractions to me of online tools is platform independence (I am doing this entire project in Ubuntu Linux, just to see if I can), I would need better exporting capabilities before I could use Time59 as my primary time and billing platform. Incidentally, it works just fine in Excel 2007, although it does bring up a warning dialog when opening the file.

On the other hand, Time59 makes attractive invoices itself, so the only reason to export is to backup data. You can create an invoice easily (although the invoice date calendar popup appears to be broken), save a PDF version to your computer and e-mail or mail the invoice as you usually do.

My first impression is good. Time59 may be just the simple timekeeper I have been looking for, with one or two small changes. I will follow this up when I have gone through the billing and payment with my client, and see how things go.

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