Small business finance on the Mac

A bit of an unusual one this. A few weeks ago I was asked to take a look at a new beta version (2.5) of some Mac software called Billings. I was slightly surprised to be asked, since I’ve only just started to talk about OS X on this blog, but I figured that as a newcomer to the Apple world I might be able to offer a different angle to other writers.

Billings is financial software from a company called Marketcircle. It enables you to track the time spent on different tasks, and then put together billing information and generate invoices.

You start out with a project, and subsequently can add notes, estimates, and timed slips to the project which all go towards the final account. I set my locale to the UK, and Billings knew the VAT rate automatically – it seems to have a pretty comprehensive list of tax rates in a wide range of different countries, too (I checked with Ola that the values for Poland sounded correct). I was then able to set an hourly rate for a new timed slip, and the timer started running. The timer sits on the menu bar and can be paused with a simple click.

The application seems to be nicely integrated with OS X… when I first started up it took all of my personal details from the Address Book, and it will also use Mail to send invoices if you want it to. Unfortunately I found a small issue in this area, since when I first went to generate and send an invoice, the check box noted that “Thunderbird will be opened” (TB is my default mail application), but Mail was opened instead. I reported that issue to Marketcircle, so hopefully they can resolve it prior to release.

Another niggle I have is that when Billings is running, Ctrl-Space opens the Billings Timers window. As a Quicksilver user, that bothers me… it can be changed in the application’s preferences, but I’d suggest that it is probably not the most sensible default. Mind you, maybe not everyone uses Quicksilver.

I’m not a small business myself, and I don’t (currently) have a need to do any invoicing. However, the actual creation of invoices is very straightforward, and a range of designs are included. These can be customised with the addition of logos, or entirely new ones can be designed. I noticed a couple of issues with layout in some of the invoice templates: the Raspberry template couldn’t cope with the length of my address, for example; but in general the templates are smart and useful. The application can automatically email a PDF version to the customer.

It’s an interesting application and I can see that it would have some uses. Well implemented, but needs a couple of few issues ironed out (not surprising for a beta). I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface. Give it a look if this is your bag.

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3 thoughts on “Small business finance on the Mac”

  1. Having seen your mini-review I thought I’d take a look. Didn’t get far. Insistence on using Mail as the place where addresses are kept (Tbird? Gmail?) and an insistence that projects are time driven – are they all?

    Nah – way too limiting.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Dennis – and I know you know a LOT more about financial software than I do, so I appreciate the perspective.

    I hadn’t thought about pointing it at something other than the default OS X Address Book – I know it (should) let me use my choice of mail client for sending, but hadn’t thought about the address data.

    Agree on the point about projects being time-driven. As another reviewer mentioned, this is not always the case.

    Ironically, as I posted this I received an email alerting me to another new beta version, so I’ll update the post if there’s anything notable in there.

  3. Actually I’ve just re-checked, and when you add slips to a project they don’t have to be timed, they can be Flat, Expense, Mileage etc.. so this may be a little more useful than it first looks.

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