Free time tracking apps can track your employees' hours without adding a new expense to the balance sheet. Here's what to look for in a free app – and what you should only expect from paid apps.
There are tons of free time tracking apps designed to help businesses like yours accurately track how long your employees work each day. Businesses that don't accurately track their employees' time could be costing themselves thousands of dollars a year. Think about it: Do you know exactly how much you and your employees spend on each project so that you can bill your clients accordingly?
Before time tracking apps, employers would ask employees to record time on an Excel spreadsheet, which is limited in many ways. Recording project time manually is not reliable if you do not account for interruptions such as phone calls or talks with colleagues.
In addition to showing how much time you spend on each project so that you can bill your clients accurately, time tracking apps help you keep track of your projects from one easy-to-access location, give your team quick and simple status updates, and improve productivity. According to Google Trends, the last week in April had the highest interest over time for the past year under the search term "free time management apps." It is safe to say that part of the reason for this influx is that more people than ever are working from home because of COVID-19.
What is the best free time tracking app? Since we could not possibly test every single free timekeeping app on the market, we asked a group of business professionals to weigh in on their favorites. Read on to learn about each of the free time tracker apps that made the cut and why.
Clockify, headquartered in Palo Alto, California, was launched in 2017 by a group of friends who also happened to be software experts. Together, they had been developing software for other companies since 2009 and discovered they needed a record of how much time they spent on each project so that they could bill clients accordingly. Today, Clockify has more than 70 employees, 1 million users and 1,300 reviews (with an average rating of 4.7).
"We've tried two solutions, including paid and free. Our previous software was [a paid solution called] Harvest, and we switched to Clockify earlier in May," said Aalap Shah, founder of 1o8, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency. "Clockify has been awesome; it's free, easy to use, and took about 15 minutes to set up and configure.
"What it is lacking is integration with a few of our tools and apps that we utilize, requiring more manual time tracking by our team," he added. "It also lacks the ability to categorize and sort projects by sub-projects. For example, if Client A has three projects, there is not a way to track time against it in one group … you'd need to create three groups instead. [But] it is free and has saved us an enormous amount of dollars compared to what we paid earlier for Harvest."
DeskTime is a free time tracking app born out of tech company Draugiem Group's need to manage its employees' time. When its founders realized how helpful its internal application was, they realized it could be helpful to people outside their company.
DeskTime was designed to increase productivity in an open and empowering environment, according to its website. In July 2011, the DeskTime team welcomed its first customer. In December 2019, the company reached a milestone: 81 million hours tracked, which equals 9,268 years. DeskTime is based out of Chatsworth, California.
Artis Rozentals, DeskTime's CEO, told business.com that DeskTime's free version includes the basic functions you might expect from a time tracking application: automatic time tracking, app tracking, and a mobile app for tracking time on the go. Automatic time tracking means that the tracker starts and stops automatically as the user turns the computer on or off, so no manual input is needed from the user. App tracking means that DeskTime logs what programs and apps are used while the time tracker is on.
With the free version of DeskTime, users can satisfy their basic time tracking needs, understand how they spend their time and see their daily productivity. It lacks more advanced functions, such as time tracking for separate projects, detailed reporting and offline time tracking; these features are included in DeskTime's paid plans.
In summary, Rozentals said that DeskTime's free version is enough for basic time tracking needs but lacks team tracking functionality, which can be important for team management.
Harvest was founded in 2006 at a small office in downtown New York City, according to its website. Its founders ran a web design studio and found that as their business grew, they needed tools to help them scale. Harvest is the well-designed application that helped them take their user experience seriously. While it was immediately embraced by small businesses upon its public launch, Fortune 500 companies also now use it.
Ali J. Taylor, small business owner and CEO of BelMarketing Design Studio, said he uses Harvest for time tracking because it integrates with his project management platform, Asana.
"It is pretty easy to use, and I can set up different categories for both billable and non-billable activities," he said. "That insight lets me know whether I am projecting correctly for projects, which activities are worth my time, and which ones can be delegated to a virtual assistant or intern."
The ClickUp team is passionate about software productivity and, as noted on its website, believes productivity tools in general are broken. So, the ClickUp team created this time tracking app in 2017 to give workers an internal tool that makes "the world more productive." ClickUp is located in San Diego, where it has more than 50 employees.
actiTIME was founded in 2004, and its Toronto headquarters is home to more than 50 employees. The company holds two awards: the 2018 Gartner FrontRunners Award for recognition as a top-20 product management tool and the Winter 2019 GetApp Category Leader for time and expenses tracking.
What are the features of free time tracking apps?
Each free employee time tracking app has its own unique features alongside the more common ones you might expect. Of course, the main benefit of these apps is that they offer basic time tracking at no cost. With most time tracking apps, the major drawback is that the free features are limited. Here is what you can expect to get for free with the time tracking apps we mentioned above.
Clockify free features
As noted on its website, the free version of Clockify comes with the following features:
You can start and stop the timer as you work or enter your hours manually. Clockify lets you track time on a stopwatch, enter and edit hours manually, track time on projects, and mark time as billable.
You can perform these tasks within the projects feature:
- Categorize tasks by time and date.
- View the time that was actually tracked against the estimated time.
- Customize your hourly rates from project to project.
- Check the status of each project.
In less than one minute, you can get a report on each week's worth of tracked time. Activities can be loaded with just one click. You'll easily see how much time you and your employees worked. You also have access to notes, activities and templates.
The dashboard is where you can view the following information:
- Top activities: See which projects you spent the most time on.
- Visual charts: These give you an at-a-glance view of the minutes and money you spent on each project.
- Breakdowns: You can see which projects each team member worked on.
- Live status: Want to know who is working on which project in real time? You can find out in the live status box.
Every business owner or manager needs reports from software they use to help them analyze their return on investment. Clockify offers these free reporting features:
- An overview by day, activity and user
- Filters to drill down data
- The ability to share reports with a link
- Easy export options for PDF, CSV and Excel
You can invite an unlimited number of users, manage each user's role, set individual hourly rates and manage different employees' access levels.
DeskTime free features
The single-user Lite plan, according to DeskTime's website, offers automatic start-and-stop time tracking. For more features and users, you will need to purchase a higher plan.
ClickUp free features
ClickUp gives you access to unlimited tasks and users for free, with 100MB of data storage included.
actiTIME free features
actiTIME's free features are very limited, with access for only one to three users. The free version pretty much is just a mobile timesheet, but this could be enough for a small business that needs free time tracking.
Harvest free features
The free version is available for only one user with two active projects and is very limited in features. It does let you send unlimited invoices and have unlimited clients, however.
While the free features are limited, Taylor said Harvest is exactly what he needs as a small business owner. "It offers just enough to help me manage my time and projects. I do not see a need to upgrade to the paid version at this time and think many small business owners would agree."
What are the added features of paid time tracking apps?
Sometimes your business needs more extensive features than are available on free time tracking app plans. The additional features on the paid plans vary by app.
Clockify, for instance, has three different paid plans with varying features.
- This plan charges a monthly flat fee of $9.99.
- You can hide time data from certain users.
- You can lock timesheets so that employees can't modify them.
- You can require certain data fields.
- You can set time to round up or down.
- Time auditing lets you filter out suspicious entries.
- You can get reports with company branding.
- You can enable employees to receive an automatic email reminder when they forget to log their time.
- This plan charges a flat monthly fee of $29.99.
- You get all the features from Clockify Plus on this plan.
- You can add time for your employees.
- You get templates to create multiple projects.
- You can get an email alert when a project is near or over deadline.
- You can edit reports and projects in bulk rather than making the same change multiple times.
- You can hide select pages from employees.
- You can automatically lock every time entry as needed, preventing employees from making late edits to their time.
- This plan costs $9.99 a month per user.
- You get all the Premium features on this plan.
- You can add more information to entries with custom fields.
- Single sign-on saves you the trouble of managing passwords.
- You can manage and edit your employees' accounts.
- You can move your workspace over to a custom domain.
- You can define your labor and profit costs for reference in the app.
DeskTime has three similarly structured plans with the following features:
- $95 per month
- Automatic time tracking
- URL and app tracking
- Productivity calculations
- Idle time tracking
- Project time tracking
- $124 per month
- All the features of the Pro plan
- Automatic screenshots
- Absence calendar
- Shift scheduling
- Integrations with project management, HR and payroll tools, such as PTO tracking
- Offline time approval
- IP restrictions
- All the features from the Premium plan
- VIP customer support
- Unlimited team onboardings and demos
- Unlimited number of projects and tasks
- Unlimited data history
- Custom API functions available
ClickUp also has three tiers of paid plans, with the following features:
- $5 a month per user
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited views
- Unlimited integrations (more than 50 native integrations available)
- Unlimited dashboards, such as customizable reports
- Unlimited read-only guests and custom permissions to let you choose what your employees can do in the app
- Goals, portfolios and custom fields
- $9 a month per user
- Access for 10 guests plus five extra per seat
- Unlimited read-only guests
- Custom fields
- User permissions
- Branding and customization
- More than 10,000 automations each month
- Data history views
- Unlimited activity views
- Cloud storage
- Real-time collaboration
- Multiple teams
- Future recurring tasks on calendar
- Reminder delegation
- Workload management
- Custom exporting
- Private, protected and default view
- More than 50 native integrations
- 24/7 customer support
- Two-factor authentication security
- Google single sign-on
- Custom pricing (must contact a rep)
- All the features from the Business plan
- Additional single sign-ons
- HIPAA compliance
- Contract and legal review
- Custom permissions
- Option to restrict public sharing
- Option to restrict who can add guests
- API to add or remove users
actiTIME paid versions
- 1-40 users online: $6 a month per user, billed yearly
- 41-200 users online: $5 a month per user, billed yearly
- 200+ users: Fixed cost for unlimited users (contact a rep for details)
- Self-hosted: $120 per user
- Flexible configuration (set up your own work structure and turn off any functions you do not need)
- Customizable, colorful reports
- Billing and accounting feature (data can be exported to QuickBooks)
- Automatic leave management to save time and reduce errors in calculating your employees' paid time off (almost like a built-in timecard app)
- API that lets you pull data directly from your database, create new entries and connect with other apps
- Integrations with helpful browser extensions
- Timesheets where you can record time spent on projects and leave comments
- $12 a month per user (10% discount for paying yearly)
- Unlimited users and projects, with team view to see who is working on which projects and who can handle more work
- Time and expense tracking as you work
- Invoices that automatically pull your billable time and expenses
- Extensive reporting
- Project budget alerts
- Integration with sister app Forecast, letting you schedule your staff and see how long projects take to complete (which can improve your billing)
- Timesheet approval
- Phone and email support
- Over 100 apps and integrations (also available on the free plan), including Basecamp, GitHub, Trello, QuickBooks, Slack, Zendesk, Apollo, Databox, Google Calendar and Stitch
- 30-day free trial
Free time tracking apps for iPhone
These free online time tracking apps are available on iPhone:
Free time tracking apps for Android
Each of the best free time tracking apps we discussed in this article are also available on Android:
Free time tracking apps for Google Chrome
These apps are also available as Google Chrome extensions: