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11 min read

The 5 best time tracking apps in 2023

By Nicole Replogle · November 11, 2022
A hero image with the logos of the best time tracking apps

Knowing how you spend your time is a powerful thing. After all, as the old truism goes: "What gets measured, gets managed." As a freelancer, I wear all the hats in my business—which means I have to guard my time carefully. I keep diligent records of how long each client project and business task takes me, so I can avoid undercharging for hefty projects or overloading myself with work.

But even if you aren't a solopreneur, there are many reasons to track your time: from recording billable hours, to improving personal productivity, to streamlining your business processes. And time tracking apps help make that practice easier, more accurate, and much more consistent.

The best time trackers have both a built-in timer and the ability to edit or add time manually. They let you attribute time records to various tasks and projects, and they provide detailed reports and even invoicing features for turning your tracked time into revenue. After considering several dozen tools, I found the five best time tracking apps for individuals and small teams alike.

The best time tracking apps

  • Toggl Track for a free time tracking app

  • HourStack for integrating with your team's project management software

  • Timely for automated time tracking

  • TrackingTime for visualizing time differently

  • RescueTime for reducing distractions

What makes the best time tracking software?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

When you know how you spend your time, you can analyze your work trends and make smarter business decisions. Whether you're working solo or in a small team, time tracking software can give you a complete overview of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly work. 

What do you do with this information? Perhaps most importantly, project time tracking can help you get paid, allowing you to feel confident about your invoices rather than trying to estimate how much time you worked after the fact. If you're part of a team, time tracking can help you answer the question, "What have you been working on this month?"

When evaluating the best time tracking apps, I considered the following criteria: 

  • Real-time tracking. Nearly all time tracking apps let you track in real time, meaning they give you a running clock that you launch when you start a task, and that you can pause or stop when you finish. 

  • The ability to edit time tracked or manually add time blocks. The best apps let you correct time tracked after the fact, such as if you accidentally leave a timer running while you take off for lunch. You should be able to edit the time log to subtract however many minutes you weren't working. You also want an app that lets you enter a block of time post hoc in case you forget to launch a timer at all. For example, if your phone rings and you jump into a 20-minute consulting call, you might not start a timer, but you do want to log and bill for those hours worked.

  • Reporting features. The most powerful time tracking apps offer dashboards and reports that let you break out daily, weekly, or monthly time spent per project, per person, or per client. 

  • The ability to create an invoice or export data. Once you aggregate all your time spent on your work, you have to be able to take action on it. All these apps let you either automatically create invoices from the time tracking data stored in the app or export that information into PDFs, CSVs, or Google Sheets to share with the right people.

  • Multiple points of access. The best time tracking tools make starting a timer easy and convenient. They have the versatility to let you start a timer from wherever is most convenient to you, whether that's your browser, a desktop app, or your mobile device.  

What's not included in this roundup

Here, we focused specifically on finding a time tracker for freelancers, individuals, and small teams. We don't consider employee monitoring software, which often includes some type of time tracking. We do include two automated tracking tools that monitor users' activities—but the data is for each user's eyes only. With these tools, you choose how much (if any) data to share with your supervisors.

Additionally, we don't include project management, invoicing, or accounting apps that come with an add-on or built-in time tracker. While time-tracking clocks can be very helpful inside these tools, we assume if that's what you need, you're likely shopping for a more robust solution. 

Looking for ways to make tracking time even easier? Add automation to your time tracking app and automatically start events, create projects, and notify your team when you start work on a task.

Best free time tracking app

Toggl Track (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Web, and browser extensions)

The interface for Toggl Track, our pick for the best free time tracking app

If you need a time tracker tool but can't pay for one, you should use Toggl Track. The time tracking tool has a generous free tier of service that gives you access to all its apps (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Web, and browser extensions) and includes all the core functionality you'd expect in a time tracking app. 

Toggl Track works so effortlessly primarily because it doesn't ask much of you when you start timing a task. With many time tracking apps, you have to have a client, project, and task entered into your account before the app will let you track time. If you don't, you have to set your task aside for the time being and enter them. With Toggl Track, you can track your time right away, view your tracked time entries in a grid or calendar format, and worry about the details later. 

Additionally, when you use Toggl Track through the Chrome or Firefox browser extension, a Toggl timer button shows up in just about every web app you could imagine, from Google Docs (and other Google apps) to Help Scout. Because you always see the Toggl Track button while you're working, you have a continual reminder to track your time. 

Toggl Track has some of the most detailed options I've seen in a time tracking app. For example, in the Toggl Track Chrome extension, you can automatically start and stop tracking time based on whether the browser is open or not. It also has excellent idle detection, which helps you maintain high accuracy across your records. When the app detects your computer has been idle but a timer is still running, it offers ways to correct the recorded block of time. That way, if you're interrupted while working and get sucked into a 20-minute conversation, Toggl Track can knock out those 20 minutes from your record. Toggl Track even has a Pomodoro Technique setting, so that you can work for a set amount of time on a project that requires your focus and then take a short break, all with simple stopwatch-like reminders. 

For even more flexibility, use Toggl Track's Zapier integrations to connect Toggl Track with your favorite apps, so you can start new time entries in Toggl Track when calendar events start, add new entries to a spreadsheet, and more.

Start Toggl time entries when Google Calendar events start

Start Toggl time entries when Google Calendar events start
  • Google Calendar logo
  • Toggl logo
Google Calendar + Toggl

Who Toggl Track isn't right for: While the free plan is simple and easy to use for basic time tracking and reporting, if you want granular insights into your work, saved reports, or billable hours, you'll need to upgrade to Premium for those features. For your money, another app on this list would probably work better for you. And there's no task management or planning feature, so if you're looking for a way to schedule and track your team's workload, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Toggl Track pricing: Free for up to five users; $9/user/month when billed annually for the Starter plan, which includes time rounding, billable rates, saved reports, and more.

If you're looking for a simple time tracking app without extra bells and whistles, consider Clockify. While the free plan doesn't offer the same level of functionality as Toggl Track, it does include unlimited tracking, unlimited users, unlimited projects, and unlimited reports—all for free. 

Best time tracking app for integrating with your team's project management tool

HourStack (Web, Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge)

HourStack, our pick for the best time tracking app for integrating with your team's project management tool

If you're looking for a project time tracker that integrates smoothly with your favorite project management tool to help your team both plan and track your time, HourStack is worth exploring.

Possibly the most pleasant surprise during my app testing, HourStack is a sleek and easy-to-use combination calendar and time tracker. The app has native integrations with popular project management tools like Asana, Google Tasks, Trello, Todoist, and even Google Calendar. When you connect to one of these apps, you can view your tasks from a sidebar from within HourStack—and drag and drop them directly into your HourStack calendar to schedule your team's workload. 

And the best part? The integration works both ways, so you can mark tasks completed from HourStack, and they'll update in your project manager. As a productivity tool nerd, I was impressed and excited by this feature.

The power of HourStack is in its simplicity. There's no danger of being overloaded or distracted with complicated settings or interfaces. The Calendar page shows you your planned tasks and lets you schedule and record work time. The Reports page, which is filterable by clients, projects, and labels, displays your scheduled vs. logged hours along with how many tasks you've completed. And with the browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, you can quickly add or start tracking project time without needing to input a task or project first. 

If you need to connect HourStack to a tool that isn't supported natively, you can make your own HourStack integrations using Zapier. Connect HourStack to thousands of apps, so you can coordinate your time tracking however it's most useful. Here are a couple of examples.

Who HourStack isn't right for: Those who want a desktop and/or mobile app. HourStack works in your browser and through browser extensions, and while it's very responsive for mobile, some users might feel constrained by the limited points of access.

HourStack pricing: $9/month for one user; $12/user/month for teams.

If you're in the market for time tracking apps optimized for team project management, I'd also recommend Harvest and Everhour. Both apps are built to handle collaborative workloads reliably and easily. Harvest works offline and has a robust free plan, and both tools have multiple native integrations that make it easy to incorporate your team's project management tool for scheduling. 

Best time tracker app for automated time tracking 

Timely (Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox)

Timely, our pick for the best time tracking app for automated time tracking

The best time tracking apps make it as painless as possible to capture an accurate record of how you're spending your time. What's more painless and accurate than an automated time tracker?

Timely is a relatively new time tracking app from Memory AS that makes "Memories" of every software and website you use during the day. Then whenever it's convenient, you can drag and drop these Memories into their assigned tasks or projects to create a Timesheet. 

If you're a part of an organization, a tool like this might seem a little scary—but Timely isn't an employee surveillance app. All the data it collects is private to you, and only you decide how much to share on your Timesheet. And if you don't want the app to track your activities at any point, you can easily toggle off the app from your menu bar.

The great thing about Timely is how easy it is to start using it. After downloading the desktop app, you'll be prompted to connect to your calendar and/or conferencing tools so that Timely can incorporate your meetings into your work schedule. You can also easily add projects, tasks, and clients and set up your hourly rate for people and projects. 

Then, just let the app work in the background. There's no need to remember to start and stop a timer—just spend a few minutes at the end of the day dragging and dropping activities into their respective projects on your time sheet, and you'll have an accurate and detailed accounting of how you spent your time. 

Timely offers very detailed and customized reports. Easily view unbilled hours and reports for the whole workspace or just a specific project. You can also create report templates for customized views, filtered by clients, projects, people, tags, or teams. Then when it's time to invoice, Timely connects to QuickBooks to create invoices and push them to QuickBooks Online when they're ready to send. 

And if you like planning ahead, Timely also offers a task planner feature for an additional $5 per month. You can plan out tasks by the assignee or the project. Then every day, drag and drop your activities into their respective tasks on your Timesheet to compare planned vs. tracked time for each task.

To get the most out of the app, you can integrate Timely with Zapier. Connect Timely to the rest of your tech stack to streamline processes like creating new clients or projects in Timely.

Who Timely isn't right for: Users who don't want an AI tool to track their every move on their computer. Also, if you do a lot of work off-screen, Timely may not be the right fit for you; it's focused primarily on tracking and categorizing computer-based work.

Timely pricing: $8/user/month for the Starter plan (up to 50 projects and 3 teams). The Premium plan is $14/user/month for unlimited projects and teams.

Best time tracking app for visualizing time differently

TrackingTime (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Web, Chrome, Firefox)

TrackingTime, our pick for the best time tracking app for visualizing time differently

TrackingTime is a collaborative time tracking tool that looks different from many other time tracking apps. It represents time in blocks or windows, just as if that working time were an event on your calendar. It's not the only app that lays out your time in this fashion, but it does offer the most opportunities for customization. For example, you can choose between a day, week, month, or team view.

The daily view has the most helpful layout I've seen, showing the full month's calendar on the left (with each day displaying an icon to show the amount of time tracked) and the day you select on the right, color-coded and organized by blocks of tracked time.

TrackingTime also puts more emphasis on planning your time before you start working compared to other apps. For example, you can schedule blocks of time on your calendar for tasks you intend to work on later in the week or for recurring events, like meetings.

And TrackingTime's Chrome extension integrates with several productivity tools, allowing you to start a timer directly from apps like Airtable, Asana, and Notion. Or you can connect TrackingTime to Zapier to help it talk to all the other apps you use.

Who TrackingTime isn't right for: Users who don't care about time blocking or scheduling specific tasks in advance.

TrackingTime pricing: Free for up to 3 years; $5/user/month for the Pro plan for unlimited collaboration, advanced reporting, and time management features. 

Best time tracking app for reducing distractions 

RescueTime (Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Brave)

The interface for RescueTime, our pick for the best time tracking app for reducing distractions

RescueTime is an automatic time tracking app with a version for just about every platform you could want. To start using RescueTime, first install a small monitoring app on your computer. This software works in the background to observe your computer usage and powers the RescueTime Assistant, "a digital wellness coach."

The Assistant is accessible on your desktop's menubar, taskbar, or system tray, and helps you manage your daily work progress, goals, and reports. For example, it may alert you when you're distracted and multitasking more than normal.

RescueTime's most interesting set of features are designed to help you focus and take on deep work—high-value, mentally-demanding projects. RescueTime refers to this type of work as "Focus Work." You can determine the activities that qualify as Focus Work in your settings and set goals for how much Focus Work you want to complete in a day. 

When you're ready to tackle this kind of deep work, you start a "Focus Session." During this session, RescueTime blocks all websites that you've identified as personal activities (like social media sites or YouTube). It keeps track of how well you're concentrating, and at the end of the session, it will give you a detailed report. 

There's a learning curve with RescueTime. You have to familiarize yourself with all these terms and how RescueTime defines and categorizes certain activities. But once you feel comfortable with the vocabulary and the settings, you won't have to tinker with much else and can immediately dive into your deep work.

This is also the only app in this roundup that does not let you export your hours or automatically create an invoice. RescueTime is for the person who wants to track their hours worked for their own benefit, learning more about their working habits and how to optimize their productivity.

You can do even more with RescueTime by using RescueTime's Zapier Integrations. Zapier can connect RescueTime to all the other apps you use, so you can spend more of your time on that Focus Work.

Who RescueTime isn't right for: Users who want to track time for individual projects and tasks. RescueTime is focused on reducing distractions and increasing "Focus time" without distinguishing between specific work activities, so it places tracked activities into only three categories: Focus Work, Other Work, and Personal Activities.

RescueTime pricing: Free Lite plan for individuals, which doesn't include activity blocking, advanced reporting, goal setting, or offline time entry. RescueTime for Teams starts at $9/user/month.

What makes the best time tracker?

The right time tracking app takes the guesswork out of scheduling and accounting for your workday. Easily start and stop timers, add or edit time entries manually, and export or review your data for more accurate invoicing and planning. And you can save even more of your valuable time by automating the data flow between your other apps and your time tracker of choice. That way, you're spending your time where it matters most.

This article was originally published in September 2018 by Emily Esposito. The most recent update was in November 2022.

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