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New Feature: Record Start/End Time on Timesheets

Today we’re launching one of the most requested features for Harvest: the ability to record start and end time on timesheets.

Right now, when you record time in Harvest, you can only put in the duration of a task (such as “1 hour“). With this new feature, instead of typing in the duration, you can put in the start and end time of the task, such as “9am-12pm“. Harvest will then calculate the duration for you and record the start/end times, which are then shown on the timesheets, time reports, and invoices. Here’s a quick demo video of how it works:

To get this started, just go to Manage > Account Settings, click on the Edit Preferences button and turn the feature on under Timesheet timestamps. Once the timestamp feature is enabled, go back to the timesheet’s day view. In place of the duration field, you’ll now notice two new fields for start and end time. Here are some tips on how to use the new fields:

  • To start the timer: leave the fields blank, or type in the start time and leave the end time blank.
  • You can type in your time in the following format: 3, 3.15, or 3,15. Type in “a” or “p” for AM/PM. Or leave it blank and let Harvest figure it out.
  • Type in “.” (period) for the time now.
  • You can also set a preference for time format (12 hour vs 24 hour) on the Edit Preferences page under Account Settings.

Here are some limitations with the new feature that you should know:

  • Once you turn on the new feature, it will apply to the entire account. So everyone on your Harvest account will see the new start/end time fields.
  • Unfortunately, you will not be able to put in start/end time via any 3rd party tools (such as the Harvest Widget or iPhone app). You can still use those tools – and if you start a timer on your iPhone, Harvest will still record the start and end times. But if you add a duration on a widget or iPhone, there won’t be any timestamps saved.
  • The Week View will not be editable once you turn on timestamps.

We’re really excited about this new feature for Harvest Timesheets, and we hope you find it useful! Kudos to Barry for making this long-awaited feature live.

Thank you all for your feedback and support. Please let us know if you have any questions or feedback!

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This was posted in New Features, Product News, Time Tracking.
  • Steve Zych on January 27, 2010

    This new feature is almost awesome. As a user preference it would be a real winner, as an account level only option it falls incredibly short. Is there a technical reason this wasn’t implemented as a user preference?

  • This is a great feature with one exception. It would be much better if for any entry you could chose to either do a start and stop time or just enter a duration. Basically just merge the old way and the new way so as a user you can pick which to use depending on the situation.

  • TJ Stankus on January 27, 2010

    Thanks for adding this feature! Is there plans to add this to the API?

  • Barry Hess on January 27, 2010

    @TJ Expect the API to be available shortly.

  • wes pierce on January 27, 2010

    I agree with Jeff. To have the ability to choose the method per task would allow much greater control. I would also be very excited if Harvest could track and date stamp duration entries, so while I prefer to use the duration method, I could also see when those entries began and ended. This would allow me to fill holes in the day when I may have started a timer late, or left it on a bit too long.

  • David Zuelke on January 28, 2010

    I strongly disagree with Steve, Jeff and Wes. The feature should be global or per client / per project. Under no circumstance should it be per user or even per task – after all, you want a consistent way of tracking across a project (or even for all projects).

    I do think the start and end times need improvement, though. Don’t display them inline, but rather above and below the duration value or so. Would be much nicer.

    Also, I haven’t checked, but is there a way to toggle the start and end times in detailed time reports (for users who send those to clients along with an invoice).

  • Greetings,

    This is a great feature, I can’t wait to see how it improves moving forward. But with that said, I wanted to express a concern that this feature will not become the default time tracking method for this system.

    My company tracks all of our time in real time each day. I assumed most companies / people using Harvest did this, it is actually the reason we choose this application because it fit perfectly with our time tracking and true time report needs. With that said, I hope you do not plan / intend on forcing users to move to a new start/end timer method. This would force our company to move to another application.

    To agree with the guys above, I feel like this feature should just improve upon the default tracking not be a forced option.

    I like having the single line item for that task throughout the day with the current system, but I was hoping and update might come to where you can program the system to know dynamically about a users time segments and they would just showed up beneath the time. For example: if you worked on a task from 1-2 and then on that same task from 3-4 you would simply have two smaller notes for those time lines under the over all task. This would allow for time tracking throughout the day but not lose the normal functionality we have all grown used to.

    Another additional great feature could be a view that would sort your day by time segments. Think of using iCal and the daily meetings/items, but instead it would be your time and the task you worked on. This would be a great away to view time gaps in your day.

    Once again, just some ideas I have for further development, but my main point was for the concern that Harvest would potentially move away from their great time tracking, to a system that doesn’t allow timers to run in the back ground, and switching between task on the fly.

    Keep up the great work!

    Thanks.

  • David Zuelke on January 28, 2010

    Josh,

    that would quickly become too complex in my opinion.

    When you’re tracking time, you most likely want an accurate representation of the tasks you worked on. If you do two hours of, say programming, and then an hour of meetings, and then you re-start that programming task, then this should create a *new* entry for the programmin task, starting after the meeting ended.

    This is, by the way, exactly what Harvest does now if you have startend time recording enabled – it duplicates the entry for you. Everything else would mean a loss of information. And really, having a timesheet for a day like “7:30 programming”, “0:30 morning meeting” is pretty bad. There should be breaks in the programming task.

    I’ve put quite a lot of thought into how such a feature could work, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the way the Harvest guys implemented it now is exactly the right one – it’s simple and consistent. If you add a bunch of rules here and there, the complexity quickly gets out of hand.

    Especially mixing of duration-only and start/end entries would be horrible. I add a 10am-11am for task A, then 2hrs for task B, then 1pm-2pm for task C… and then I change task A to end at 11:30am… what happens now? Are the other tasks pushed back or not? They are not right now, which makes sense, sometimes you *do* want overlapping time entries for different clients, e.g. when billing the same item to two clients, for instance.

    Besides, what start and end time would duration-only entries have? Midnight? Something else? What about items that wrap around midnight of a day? And so forth. It quickly becomes a nightmare. The only solution is to keep it simple.

  • The feature I am referring to is would not be complex at all. We have used another time tracking app that did exactly what I described and was not confusing at all.

    Duration only entries don’t have a start and end time. Start and end time entries do.

    It is obvious that some people think this feature would be very valuable and some don’t like it, so why not make it optional? In the admin have a “start/stop,” “duration only,” and “Both” options.

    If you want to see an example of how this would work, check out http://www.myhours.com. We moved away from this app because the reporting is lacking in very significant ways but the time tracker functionality is simple, easy to use and has both duration and start/stop functionality built in.

  • Steve Zych on January 28, 2010

    Frankly, I strongly disagree with you David!!!

    How dare you address peoples opinion and dare to assume that yours is better or more valid than another.

    If you stopped and thought about it for a minute, you would realize it doesn’t matter if this is user level or account level setting. Time is time and a simple system conversion factor would result in the same total hours amount weather you enter in actual hours or the traditional Harvest decimal factor method, in the end your total hours will eb equal. It is simply detrimental limiting factor of this new feature that it can only be implemented on an account level because this means that the whole of larger organizations must adopt a significant change across the board when individuals may have different preferred preferences which could be accommodated with a little foresight in development.

    I also find it offensive Mr. Zuelke, that you would assert yourself to tell Josh how to enter his time and I totally disagree with your assessment that time must be entered in a linear fashion with multiple entries in chronological order. Ever stop to think that a company or client may want to easily see the total number or hours each day an employee worked on an individual task?

    So lets play nice David and keep your comments short and directed to Harvest, after all this is a Harvest blog not your forum. :-)

  • David Zuelke on January 28, 2010

    Steve,

    which part of “I disagree” and “in my opinion” did you not understand? How dare *you* accuse me of assuming my opinion is better or more valid than another? It’s called “arguing”. I was merely saying that I disagree. Nothing more, nothing less.

    And I completely agree that the setting should be per-client or per-project, not per-account. That’s what I said initially. I’m merely arguing that having it per-user doesn’t make any sense, since then you’d get timesheets where some items have durations only, and some have start/end times, but usually, you’ll want it consistent across a project (or across all of a client’s projects).

    As for the linear fashion *entry*, that should of course not be the case. It should be possible to add entries at any time. However, the *representation* should be linear. An example:

    I have start/end time tracking, and worked on task A starting at 10am. So there’s
    – Task A [10am-12pm]
    Next, I have a meeting:
    – Meeting [12pm-1pm]

    Now, I go back to working on Task A for another two hours. Re-starting that should *absolutely* duplicate that entry, not merely resume it, so that the end result is:
    – Task A [10am-12pm]
    – Meeting [12pm-1pm]
    – Task A [1pm-3pm]
    and not:
    – Task A [10am-2pm]
    – Meeting [12pm-1pm]

    That’s the loss of information I was talking about earlier. The items need to be duplicated, otherwise it won’t work.

    And seeing the total number of hours per task would be a reporting feature, not a timesheet feature, right?

  • So you don’t have to create an account, here is a screen shot of how our other service did it. (sorry about the ads above and below, it was just an easy way to upload a screenshot.)

    It works the way David is explaining above except that duration only entries just default to the top of the list and start/stop entries are sorted by time. You can enter overlapping entries too.

    http://show.simpload.com/index.php?filename=01284b61ab9e3f0de.png

    If a system is more flexible it be default will always satisfy the needs of a larger audience. Just make these features optional and that way all the people arguing for different solutions can implement it as they prefer.

  • Karen Schoellkopf on January 28, 2010

    Hey everyone, thanks so much for the feedback! We’re going to take some time to process all of this, and know that your comments and opinions are being heard by the whole Harvest team. Thanks again, and we sure appreciate the support!

  • David Zuelke on January 28, 2010

    Jeff: I wonder what the use case is though… couldn’t you simply enter an entry with a start time of 00:00 to achieve the same thing?

    P.S.: Harvest supports overlapping entries, too, which I think is a big plus. It also keeps it simple as retroactively changing an item doesn’t shuffle the other, later ones around; that’d be too much magic and often probably do more harm than good.

  • David,

    The case is that sometimes we do things that have a start/time and sometimes we do things that are just not based on a start stop/time. For instance, if I estimate over a full day that I spent 2 hours following up on emails but that is over a 10 hour period in very small increments it is easier and more accurate just to add 2 hours without an artificial start/stop time.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  • David Zuelke on January 28, 2010

    Jeff: right, but on the other hand, if only the effort of typing “emails” is the problem, then that new Harvest feature might actually come in handy, as you only have to enter it once, and then click it again to pick it up, and Harvest will duplicate it.

    (Personally, I usually don’t stop a running timer when quickly doing something else that takes less than five minutes).

  • Great… this is the one missing feature preventing me from completing the Klok connector (http://getklok.com). I can’t wait for the updated API.

  • Personally, I love the new feature. Thank you Harvest!

  • My 2 cents: I came to Harvest from a very simple free online time tracking tool in order to be able to track invoices. I have been asking for this ability to enter a start and stop time since the beginning.

    However, since it makes the week view uneditable and I can no longer enter a simple “1 hour of emails” I will not be using it.

    This looks like the worst of both worlds to me. I wish I could find the other time tracker, but it was simple and had 3 fields. If you filled in the times, it calculated the duration. If you filled in the duration, it emptied the time fields. Simple, easy, and worked in a week view as well.

    To me, this rollout seems unnecessarily crippled and entirely misses the point of the feature.

  • Good feature. Thanks for adding it. It is something I’ve looked for… but don’t like that it kills the week entry and I don’t want it to be on the detailed report. I want to see that but I don’t necessarily want my clients too. Also, I may work on the same thing 3 different times in the day. Don’t want to see a new entry. But better reporting would fix that part.

  • David Zuelke on February 2, 2010

    I just realized that Excel exports of times don’t include columns for start and end time. That’s a big problem, of course; any idea when this will be fixed?

  • Barry Hess on February 2, 2010

    @David We will be updating Excel exports to reflect these new fields very soon. Thanks for writing!

  • Sorry to have caused controversy / issues on this blog post. I was simply offering a way that would look good and have a good reporting feature for my company.

    David,
    I felt this would be the best example of how I would want the report to look:
    – Task A [10am-12pm]
    – Meeting [12pm-1pm]
    – Task A [1pm-3pm]

    But with that data, TASK A is still TASK A so you could view based on total time. I just thought that since harvest had updated their system, it would be great to see an daily view of the hours broken down over a reporting feature.

    I currently have 2 or 3 task that I am in and out of each day, when I click and jump to another task, it is logging me stopping the current task. I guess that would then be considered a “Time Stamp” which would allow TASK A to have a break in time.
    When I come back to TASK A the click to start the task would start the Time Stamp entry and when I left, that would end it.

    I do not see how that would be a big programming nightmare, but maybe I am wrong.

    Once again, just an idea, I understand if it doesn’t work with Harvest business model, but I think the current update is missing a few features because they are limiting or forcing changes that may not be as easily implemented by an entire group of people. Having the individual preference is ideal, but they need to make sure the reporting functions still work correctly.

    thanks

  • I have to agree with Jessica, if enabling this feature
    means we can’t enter time in the week view,
    how does any missed entry get added ?

    We have a mix of users and most have to clean up missing entries at the end of the month (our billing cycle). We switched from an internal system that handled this properly, because the other features that Harvest provided.

  • Like. Lack of this feature is why I never user Harvest before. Now, its the reason I came back. I am solo so I don’t much care if its a user / system option. Cheers.

  • This is a welcomed addition but would be most helpful if it worked with the Harvest widget — which most of my staff utilize. Also, it would be nice if the feature were not global. Meaning that in some instances, duration is still preferable to ‘punch lock’ — though I do love the option. Perhaps it could be on assigned to a user (or not) in the admin panel … or even by project. Hm. Keep fine tuning. Good development though…

  • Please add the ability to *pause* the timer also. As many times as I’m interrupted during a single task, I end up with that many separate timesheet entries that I then need to go back and merge.

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