Basecamp now offers time tracking

My favorite web application, Basecamp, just got a huge upgrade. Plus and Premium users now have the ability to use time tracking. I was looking at another web based solution, Blinksale, but having time tracking within Basecamp is so much better than using a separate application.

Basecamp is a web based project management application. It has an elegant design that is easy to understand by my clients, and extends beyond the web with support for RSS, iCal and FTP.

Basecamp has a lot of features (more of this in a minute), but the best feature is the simplicity of the interface. Other applications may offer more, but they are also much more complex to use - and explain to your clients. Basecamp does not take much time to administer, and this is really important if you are busy managing a number of projects simultaneously.

Basecamp has a free trial, so there is no reason not to try it out. You do not get FTP or time tracking with the free account, but it does give you all the other features to try. Setting up your account is rather painless. You can upload a company logo, setup message categories and change your site appearance. All of this is optional, but branding your site is important.

Next you add a company, and associate people to that company. Everyone gets a unique login, and the administrator assigns permissions for each user. A nice touch, the system tracks the latest login by each user. This is great because it lets you know if your client is using Basecamp or not.

The setup of Basecamp might sound complex, but to be honest it takes longer to explain it then to actually set it up yourself. I think this is the reason Basecamp has so many supporters.

Managing projects has never been easier. At the core is a blog-like message board. If you setup a FTP server, you can attach files to messages. This is great for client review. You can manage due dates, or milestone and keep track of tasks with to-do lists.

Basecamp's newest feature, time tracking, is a welcome addition, and well worth for me. I just upgraded to the Plus package so I can use it.

Basecamp will not actually track the minutes you spend on a task. It allows you to attach time to to-do items, and add other line items on the "Time" page. The combined time is tallied and running reports is much less painless then it should be. You can even export the report in CVS format. You can open CVS files in Excel, or import it into programs like FileMaker Pro, which is what I do.

In the months since I first signed up for Basecamp I have been much more productive with my projects. To this day, I have not had one major complaint. The developer, Jason Fried, does take criticism well. He is very active on the message boards answering questions and listening to feature requests. Time tracking has been one of the biggest and longest standing feature requests. Its great to see it realized.

A big thanks to all the hard working people at 37signals that continue to improve Basecamp.

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