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Using Harvest to Automate Tasks & Improve Work Happiness

Here at Harvest we’re always interested in hearing how customers use our software. A few weeks ago Stephen Thomas gave a talk at the Digital PM Summit that mentioned Harvest as a way to help bring some creativity, flexibility, and innovation to your projects and work life. He’s been kind enough to share his tips and insights with the Harvest community.

How long before the robots attack?

While getting drinks one Friday after work, some friends and I got round to discussing whether it would be such a bad thing if robots took over the world. We didn’t come up with any answers, but the discussion did leave an impression on me. It got me wondering whether my job as a project manager at White October could eventually be fully automated.

I wanted to go a bit deeper than just speculation and really try to find out whether a robot could do my job. To do this I needed to understand what it was I actually did every day and whether any of these tasks could be automated or at the very least delegated. Laboriously logging all this information felt like it would be a step too far for such an idle fancy until I realized that I was already doing this very thing as part of my job.

Timesheets are often seen as a chore, a necessity for agencies, freelancers, and professionals, something we have to do in order to get paid but not a part of our job in which we enthusiastically engage.

However, timesheets give you a minute-by-minute account of your day. There is so much potentially rich metadata and knowledge that we overlook, focussing instead on what we bill. Timesheets can give us insight into what we do.

Continue reading…

Zoom Out the Forecast Schedule

The schedule is at the heart of Forecast. It’s where you assign hours to your team and add milestones to your projects. It’s where you can see the team’s availability and overcapacity. Every week, it’s displayed on conference room TVs in meetings all over the world.

Today, we’re introducing an incredibly useful (and oft-requested) feature to the Forecast schedule: Zoom Out.

The amount of weeks you see in the schedule is based on your browser’s width. A typical schedule used to display only ~3–5 weeks at a time. That wasn’t enough… Perhaps you’d like to see the next two months to get clear insight into when a developer team would be freeing up. Maybe you want a high-level view of when you can take on that next project.

Now, with the click of a button, the schedule will show you ~9–12 weeks at a time.


Everything about the schedule will remain the same when you zoom out. You can still assign time, resize, drag, and split assignments, add and edit milestones, etc. It will simply show you more weeks in the timeline.

We believe this new feature will give you the high-level view you’ve been missing. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team.

As a reminder, you can still navigate the schedule forward or back in time. Make use of keyboard shortcuts to make this even faster: use the left and right arrow keys to navigate weeks, t to return to This Week, - to Zoom Out, and + to Zoom in.

Topping Off Invoices with a New Graph and Summary Numbers

When we set out improving Invoices Overview, we had a vision of love. Okay, maybe not love. Fall’s just making me reminiscent for 1990s Mariah Carey. But we had a vision, it was pretty lovable, and it was called graphs.

Our vision grew out of a few basic desires.

  • First, we want you to be able to understand the overall story of your invoices at a glance, so you don’t have to run quite as many reports.
  • Second, we know comparing month-to-month activity is useful to understand progress and invoicing trends, and want to offer easy access to this info.
  • And third, we want to offer a visual way to analyze your invoicing data.

Over the next few days, we’ll release the results of that vision: a visual invoice summary at the top of Overview, including a new graph and two summary numbers. Currently, the graph shows the present year, and we’re working on support for other years as well.


The graph itself will show you the invoices you issued in specific months. If you hover over a month’s bar, we’ll show you its breakdown: the total amount of invoices with issue dates in that month, how much of that issued amount was paid, and how much of it is open.


We also show you two summary numbers:

  • The total open amount. This includes all unpaid invoices, a great way to know what you need to track down.
  • The total paid amount for invoices issued this year. A simple way to see how much money you’ve brought in for invoices issued since the year began.


Feel free to let us know your thoughts! We hope you find this new graph useful!

Create Assignments Faster with Click and Drag

Be frictionless is one of our core principles on Forecast, and today we’re pulling out the WD-40 and going friction hunting. We’re excited to introduce a better way to create assignments.

Simply select the desired start date on the schedule, hold down your mouse and drag it out to the desired end date. That’s it! You’ve now created an assignment without having to open the date-selector or resize the assignment after.

Not only that, it also works for assigning a new project or person.


Assignments are at the core of Forecast, and our users create more than 30,000 of them each week. At that rate, the time and energy lost to a few extra clicks can really add up. We want Forecast to help you do your best work without getting in your way.

We’ve found this change makes Forecast even more pleasant to use. We hope you will too!

Harvest for iPhone 4.0: Faster Time Tracking

The Apps Team at Harvest is very proud of our latest work on Harvest for iPhone. One of our major goals this year has been to make your mobile time tracking experience faster by simplifying and streamlining the interactions required to do basic tasks.

In this release, we’ve focused heavily on how you get around the app. The new tab bar navigation gets you between Time, Expenses, and Invoices with a single tap. And it’s close to your thumbs, which is increasingly important as screen sizes continue to grow.

Harvest for iPhone 4.0

The Weekly Summary Bar allows you to see a full week’s worth of totals, plus it will let you jump between individual days with just one tap. You can quickly go back and forth by swiping: swipe on the bar itself to jump backwards and forwards by a whole week; swipe on the Timesheet to go backwards and forwards a day at a time. And if you need to get back to a specific date several weeks ago, you can now go directly there using the Jump to Date calendar. As part of this improved Timesheet navigation, we’ve also optimized the way we load Timesheet data. In general, we think you’ll notice a much snappier UI with significantly reduced load times.

We’ve also exposed start and stop buttons in timers directly in the Timesheet view. Need to re-start a timer quickly? Open Harvest for iPhone and in one tap that timer is running. Did you forget to stop a timer before you packed up your laptop? No problem, just open the app and tap the stop button.

There are many more updates in this version that we think you’ll enjoy: from miscellaneous bugfixes to a faster receipt chooser to an improved Account & Settings section. Rather than detail all of our updates here, we invite you to update your app today and see these great improvements for yourself. As always, if you have feedback on Harvest for iPhone, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Share a Project’s Budget Progress with Your Team

One of Harvest’s most useful features is the Project Analysis page. Here, you can see reports on your project’s progress–how much time was tracked and how much of your budget remains. In the past, only Administrators and Project Managers could see this page. Over the next few days, we’ll be releasing a change that’ll allow you to open up this report to the rest of the team on a project by project basis.

Why the change? In a nutshell, transparency! You can give non-project managers a read-only view into project progress so that everyone can be more proactive about keeping the project on track. Project Managers will no longer need to update the team on how they’re doing against the budget–the whole team can see it for themselves in Harvest in a few clicks.

All you have to do is select Show project report to everyone on the project in the Permissions section of the project form and the project team will have access to the Project Analysis report.


What can your team see with this permission?

  • Total time for the project, broken down by billable and non-billable hours
  • Their own hours, broken down by task
  • Hourly budget progress (for the project as a whole, or their own)

What can’t they see?

  • Breakdown of each team member’s hours
  • Fee-based budget progress
  • Expenses
  • Billable rates and amounts
  • Costs

Here’s an example of what the team will see:
Project Analysis for Regular User

And if you don’t turn this new permission on for a project? Regular users won’t be able to see the Project Analysis page at all. They’ll just see their own timesheets and expenses (same as they do now).

You’ll see this new permission on your projects within the next few days. If you have any thoughts or questions, let us know!

Behind the New Invoices Overview

Ever wonder about the inner-workings that make Harvest tick? There are a lot of continual updates to our codebase that our users never see. In the lull before our next update to Invoices Overview, we thought it a good chance to give you a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes work our developers do to make Harvest run better and faster. In this post, our developer Pez gives you a first-hand glimpse into his work to improve the code for Invoices Overview.

Here at Harvest, we like to ship new features, but also take great care to continually improve existing functionality.

We launched Harvest back in 2005, before Rails had hit version 1.0 and Ruby was still at version 1.8. That means we have our fair share of legacy code. Recently some of the legacy code had started to become a blocker to our aim of continual improvement.

When we decided to update the Invoices Overview screen, we had a choice: develop new functionality on top of the existing code, potentially making the problem worse, or rewrite our code.

We decided to take a step back and re-architect this section of Harvest. This meant we could bring the area up to modern standards with feature parity, and then start implementing a few new features to make the section even more useful.

What’s the Problem with Old Code?

Why is legacy code such a bad thing? If it isn’t broken don’t fix it, right?

While it’s true that features written in legacy code will work, legacy code can eventually become a barrier for improving existing functionality for a few reasons:

  • It often has less test coverage, meaning it’s easy to break things without realizing.
  • It’s usually harder to understand, having drifted from the originally engineered design.
  • The additional complexity makes it harder to debug and more complex to add functionality to.

But why does “legacy code” exist in the first place?  Continue reading…

Two Improvements to the New Invoices Overview

The new Invoices Overview has been out in the wild for about a month. Since its release, we’ve gotten great feedback that the new filters and search are pretty darn useful! We’re not the type to be easily satisfied, though, and we’ve been hard at work on some improvements.

First, we’ve added a Paid On column to your All Invoices tab. And, it’s sortable. Just head to your All Invoices tab, click the Paid On column, and you’ll be able to see invoices sorted by payment date. This’ll make catching up on your recently paid invoices much easier, and you’ll be able to work more smoothly when recording payments or sending thank-yous.


Second, we made two updates to the way retainer invoices are displayed in Overview. The problem was that retainer deposits aren’t usually considered revenue, so we needed a way to separate these retainer invoices from your overall total. That way, you’d have more accurate numbers to understand your income.

If you have retainers in your account today, we now show you two separate totals: one that includes standard invoices and invoices that draw from retainers (this is usually revenue), and a second total for retainer deposits (this is usually not revenue).


Also, we now visually distinguish retainer invoices in your table, so you can easily track them down. Check it out:


We’re continuing work on this section, so stay tuned for more improvements coming your way!

Drill into Tasks and People on your Project

Our Project Analysis pages offer a great way to quickly check the status of a project, but sometimes you may want more detailed information on the time tracked to a project. As of today, we’ve made digging into your project information even simpler, with the ability to drill into tasks and people. Let’s go through an example of how these data points can be useful:

You’re one month into a three month project, and you’ve noticed you’re already close to the end of your budget. When you check things out on your Project Analysis page, time logged to Design has eaten away at most of the budget. What gives?

Now, with one click, you can see all of the people who tracked time to Design. You realize that the person you assigned as backup for design has logged more hours than the primary person – time to have a chat with the team to see what’s going on!

Mid-level Drill-down Blog Post Image

And if seeing the breakdown of people who tracked time to a specific task (or tasks to a specific person) isn’t enough detail for you, you can also click on the Total Hours to see the individual time entries on the Detailed Time Report.

Detailed Reports Image for Blog Post

These changes should help you understand the numbers, and where they’re coming from with just a click (or two)! If you have any questions or feedback, just give us a shout.

Introducing the New Invoices Overview

Two weeks ago we gave you the heads up about a new Invoices Overview. Today, we’ll start releasing that Overview—you’ll see it in your account soon!

For this first phase of our update, we had one primary goal: offer ways to more easily access the invoices you need, all in one place. You’ll notice an improved the design, but more importantly, we’ve added ways to search by ID, filter by client and timeframe, and manage your invoices without ever having to leave Overview. Get acquainted with the new view with this quick and handy intro:

First, you’ll notice that Overview’s design has been refreshed. In addition to being easier to scan, the new design is now home to two tabs: Open and All Invoices. We think of the Open tab as your invoice inbox. It’s a quick stop to view all your most important invoices, the ones that need action to get paid.


What if you want to see all invoices, or invoices for a specific client or timeframe? Hop over to the new All Invoices tab. This is where you’ll find the new client filter, so you can see just the invoices for a specific client.


Interested in how much a client owes or paid you? Use the status filter in the top left of the All tab to view just open, closed, late, sent, or draft invoices. And if you need to see invoices issued during a certain timeframe—like this fiscal year—just use the new timeframe filter to get just what you need.


Finally, we also added the ability to search by invoice ID. Let’s say a client’s emailing you about a specific invoice, or you just received a payment you need to record. Head over to search, type in the ID, click, and you’ll be brought straight to the invoice page for fast access.


We hope these improvements make it easier and faster for you to track down the invoices you need! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing a few other features as well, like handy visualizations so you can better understand your income at a glance. Stay tuned!

If you have any feedback, let us know in the comments. Or, write to us at—you’ll be in touch directly with the team working on this change, so questions or feedback are always welcome there!