Toggl is a cool time tracking application by a company in Estonia that seems insanely simple. It allows you track time right from a browser, computer or a smartphone. The main premise is that you just type what you are working on, hit button Start and a timer starts ticking. When you are done – hit Stop button.
For up to 5 users you can use either Free or the Pro plan. If you have more than 5 users, you have to use the Pro plan that is $5/user/month. The Free plan leaves you with no Excel exports, no company logo on reports, no Tasks, no report sharing, it is harder to calculate billable times, no option to limit who creates the project and no integration – compare the plans for more details. It is available for every platform. Below is a detailed Toggle review with a lot of screenshots and text – if you are in a rush – just skip to the Summary.
Web time tracking in Toggl
That is probably as clean as you can get explaining different moving parts in a time tracking software. The Toggle gives you this structure to work with:
- Projects associated with Clients and Teams of your employees assigned to work on it
- Tasks (related to a project) – activities, set usually by Admins. These are available in a Pro version only.
- Activities – these are the actual time entries with an optional description that you write on the line with the Start button.
- Tags – just user-defined labels that you can assign to activities (but inconveniently not to tasks or projects)
Note that all of this is optional and time tracking will happily start even if you have not selected anything and have just pressed Start.This is a good clean structure for a time tracking application. But if you are lost – do not despair – we will explain each of them in details below.
Type the Description of what you are working on (this is usually named “Tasks” in similar products, but in Toggl “Tasks” are reserved for pre-defined activities set by an admin), optionally select a task, a project and a client and hit Start to start tracking:
you can press “Play” to resume working on that task, you can add “Tags/Labels” – useful thing in categorizing tasks or click on the dollar sign to create a billable time entry (Pro version only).
Did we mention the web version can continue tracking while offline? Seriously cool.
Toggl’s web tracking is great and it may be be all you need. Lets see if the Desktop version has any advantages.
Desktop time tracking in Toggl
Once you download, install and login to the Toggl’s desktop version, you get the screen with familiar objects and a nice surprise – if the time tracking was running on the web, it continues to run on the desktop:
It allow just the same operations as on the web, but in a bit more cumbersome interface. For example on the web you can edit task description right in place, but in the desktop version the click on a task brings you to a separate screen:
While nothing too complicated, it is not as convenient as on the web and seems like a generic HTML-based interface that was designed to fit for mobile platforms as well as desktop.
This leaves us seriously wandering what are the advantages of the desktop version? We see none and our advice would be just to use the web version.
Desktop version shortcomings comparing to competitors
There is a reason Toggl competitors use desktop software and not just a web-based time tracker. The reason is to have features like auto-stop, auto-start and, of course, screenshot monitoring – all are currently missing from Toggl Desktop.
One of my biggest problems with Toggl is that I constantly forget to stop the time tracking and it just continues running for days. In other time tracking programs (e.g. Screenshot Monitor), the tracking automatically stops after a few minutes of inactivity. Once a user comes back to work and touches a mouse or a keyboard – the tracking resumes. This allows users to forget about pressing buttons every time they need to step away or take a break. In Toggl this seemingly small omission adds up to a lot work and tons of incorrectly tracked time.
Time tracking applications have replaced punch cards in offices in part to save time. If this makes sense, why do we force employees to press any buttons at all? When they come to work and start using computers – it is very often useful to start the time tracking automatically. Screenshot Monitor has this option for example, but Toggl does not.
A huge functionality missing from Toggl is screenshot monitoring. This is a feature to take periodic screenshots from employees’ monitors at random intervals and upload them to the web where managers can review them. It is not universally useful, but there are many jobs where screenshot monitoring allows to keep employees accountable and significantly boost productivity. Again, you would need to use something like Screenshot Monitor to get this feature.
Mobile time tracking on iPhone or Android
There is nothing to write home about Toggl’s mobile version. Toggl’s time tracking on iPhone or Android seems exactly the same as their desktop version – see the screenshots above. Yes it is simple, but comparing to their website, the apps are plain and boring.
Toggl reports are the best I have seen in any tracking application. They look simple, but they are flexible and give you all the information you need. CSV export is available in both free and paid versions. But the export to Excel export is available in the Paid version only and it won’t be missed – comparing to CSV it just adds grouping in a quite a cumbersome way. Maybe Excel export is work in progress, but in its current implementation I see no use for it at all.
The Summary report is one of the best I have seen: you can filter by date range, Team/Users, client, project, tags or task. You will get a vertical bar chart for the time worked and a breakdown by project with doughnut chart :
The doughnut chart is quite useless : when you have several projects, you have no idea to what project each of the colored doughnut sections belong to. You have to mouse-over a particular section to see a project’s name.
You can get a nice PDF report with the same information or a simple CSV export that looks like this:
|Client||Project||Registered time||Amount ()|
But no Excel export in the Free version – this is reserved for Professional.
The CSV report gives the format like below:
|User||Client||Project||Task||Description||Billable||Start date||Start time||End date||End time||Duration||Tags|
|Togglemail@example.com||Client1||Project1||Task 2||No||3/22/2014||22:52:48||3/22/2014||22:54:07||0:01:19||tag2, tag3|
Again – all makes sense and overall probably the best report you can get in time tracking applications.
Other web settings
The Dashboard give you the graphs similar to what you get in the Summary report, but most importantly – a list of currently active users and what they are working on.
Editing team (your users), clients, tags is basic, but straightforward.
Pros: Toggl has the best web interface of any time tracking program we have ever tested. You can easily track your own time or the time of your employees spent on a specific Client/Project/Task. The interface is simple, intuitive and flexible. The reports are great. It has versions for the web, Windows. Mac, Linux, iOS, Android. The Free version, available when you have up to 5 clients, is limited in some features, but is still quite functional. $5/user/month for a Pro version is industry standard.
Cons: Toggl’s Desktop (same as Mobile) version is just a dumbed down variant of the web interface. It brings no advantages comparing to the web interface and misses on some core functionality available in competing products like Screenshot Monitor. In particular it has no auto-stop feature. When you walk away, it just runs forever if you forget to press the Stop button. It has no auto-start, so employees starting their day have to always remember to press the Start button. More importantly, it has no screenshot monitoring feature – an extremely useful in some scenarios option to take screenshots at random intervals and upload to the web where managers can review them. The company behind Toggle is based in Estonia, this may present problems to some US-based businesses.
Conclusion: Toggl is a leading time tracking program with an outstanding web interface. It lacks some core functionality of the competing products (auto-stop, auto-start and screenshot monitoring), so if you intend to use it primarily for employees working on PCs, consider Screenshot Monitor that has equally great web interface and gives you more features on the desktop. But if you do not need screenshot monitoring or have to have Mac, Linux or mobile support, as of 2014 Toggl is the best choice on the market for time tracking applications.