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Punch 2 Go: Professional Time Recording Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Friday, 01 June 2007
For mobile professionals, who need to account for their time on projects or for clients, with the right software the smartphone is an ideal tool. Punch 2 Go is designed to make any S60 smartphone a professional's punch clock. Richard Bloor spends some time with this application.

For the mobile professional accurate time recording can be a burden. Unlike deskbound workers, who may have access to a PC or corporate time recording system, mobile professionals often rely on a combination of memory, paper notes, and spreadsheets. Punch 2 Go offers users of S60 smartphones a way of eliminating these time recording blues.

Punch 2 Go organizes time recording around a collection of independent projects, which can be associated with an agency, and tasks. Agency, project, and task details are accessed from Punch 2 Go's main view using the View item on the Options menu.

Agencies are defined with a name and optional identifying code and description. Apart from the obvious use, setting up agencies can be a useful tool for adapting Punch 2 Go to various time recording and reporting styles, more on this later.

Projects are Punch 2 Go's primary time recording and reporting mechanism. Each project can be given a name, identifier, description, hourly rate, associated agency, start and end dates, and a flag to indicate whether it is active or not. Most of these fields are straightforward to use, however the hourly rate field is entered in cents or pence rather than in dollars, pounds, or euros.

Time worked within a project can be further identified with a task. Tasks have a name, identifier, description, and a billable flag. Tasks are not directly linked to projects. A relationship is created by recording time against a combination of the two.

Once the desired agencies, projects, and tasks have been created it is a simple exercise to record time. Time is recorded from Punch 2 Go's home view's Punch tab. This view displays details of the active project and task, the time recorded for the current activity including any break time, and a summary of the total time recorded for the current day, week, and month. An option, available in Settings (accessed from the Options menu), allows the summary times to be shown as hours and minutes or decimal hours.

The functions available in the Punch tab are punching in and out (starting and stopping time recording), starting and stopping a break, changing the active project or task, altering the current session's or break's start time, and manually inserting a time log record. All of these tasks can be performed from the Options menu or a key shortcut.

To start recording time it is a simple case of selecting the right project and task, then "punching" in. Cleverly the project list displayed when selecting a project includes currently active projects only. Active projects are those that have their active project flag set and for whom the current date falls between the project's start and end date. This is a useful feature that keeps the project choice list as short as possible.

While punched in, breaks can be recorded as a time within the work. When on a break, a separate break timer, to the left of the session time, is active.

If the project or task being worked on changes it is not necessary to punch-out, change the project, and punch back in again. All that needs to be done is to select the new project or task. Punch 2 Go then logs the current work session and starts timing a new one.

With Punch 2 Go on an S60 device it should be easy to record work time accurately; however there will inevitably be times when you forget to punch in on time, or miss an entire work session. Punch 2 Go offers two features to cope with this; it allows a corrected start time to be entered for the current session and for the manual creation of log entries. However, care needs to be taken with these features as Punch 2 Go does not check for overlapping time logs.

When a project or task is switched while timing or when the user punches out, Punch 2 Go creates a log entry. This log record details the project, task, start time and date, end time and date, and the accumulated time on breaks. Each log entry can be given a comment; however a comment can not be added from the Punch tab; only by editing the log after it has been recorded.

Recent log entries can be viewed on the second "Logs" tab in the home view. This view lists the most recent sixteen entries. The logs are titled with the work time recorded and their task. Depending on how you normally work, displaying the task may or may not be useful. If you undertake mainly the same task over multiple projects, locating an individual log item in this view will be somewhat challenging. However, this view is also employed in the reporting option, where task is a more logical descriptor for the log items.

From the log tab, log entries can be added, viewed, edited, and deleted. Editing allows any of the recorded information to be changed. While the ability to edit log entries is useful, for example where the wrong task or project was recorded, as previously mentioned care needs to be taken when updating start or end time, as Punch 2 Go does not check to see if logs overlap.

Multiple log entries can be deleted by first selecting the items to be deleted, using the edit and scroll keys or Mark item on the Options menu. Selected entries are indicated with a tick.

Once time logs have been recorded Punch 2 Go allows you to create summary information with reporting and export features. These features are accessible from the home screen through View > Report on the Options menu.

The report view consists of five tabs, the reporting criteria (Sel tab), selected log records list (Rep tab), a time and cost summary (Summ tab), agency billing summary (Agency tab), project billing summary (Proj tab) and task billing summary (Task tab).

The reporting criteria are selected from the Options menu. The criteria allow reports for either all agencies or an individual agency, or all projects or an individual project. Within the agency or project selection the report can be for all tasks or an individual task, an interval (week, month, quarter, or year), and a range (last, current, last before, or selected). The selected range option allows a specific period, matching the interval type, to be selected.

Once a set of reporting criteria have been chosen, the logs and summary information can be viewed on the remaining five report tabs.

The log list view also allows logs to be viewed, created, edited and deleted, in much the same way they can be from the main log tab. However, unlike the log tab, all the log items matching the reporting criteria are listed. As with the Log tab, multiple records can be selected and deleted from this view. The Mark options includes a Mark All, which is a useful feature when it comes to managing the size of the log file, however remember to export the log entries before deletion if you want a permanent record.

The next tab shows the reporting period and includes a summary of billable and non-billable time, along with the income associated with the time recorded.

The last three tabs show a summary by agency, project, and task.

Punch 2 Go's settings allow the currency symbol used in the reports to be set. There is also an option for selecting the number of decimal places amounts are shown to, but it does not seem to have any effect.

While viewing time information in the report may be adequate for many, Punch 2 Go also provides for those who wish to export their time records for analysis and reporting on a PC. Data is export in a comma separated value format. Using a Settings option the export format can be customized to use a comma, colon, semicolon, or period as the separator. These exported files can be saved to the device or sent via MMS, e-mail, Bluetooth, or infrared connections. In addition, the send option also allows data to be uploaded to a Web site. This Web site is one hosted by Wib Software or, presumably, a self hosted site. As yet Wib Software has not launched a public upload site, but one is planned.

Interestingly, although the option to export is provided on each of the five results tabs (the log list and summary tabs) they all export exactly the same information; the log entry list upon which the report is based.

Punch 2 Go works well, however it may not at first sight suit every user. This is because the projects and tasks are maintained independently. For many professionals who need to account to clients for a common set of tasks, for example phone calls, meetings, research etc. Punch 2 Go is ideal. However, for those who need to report time against specific activities within projects, a little lateral thinking is needed to use Punch 2 Go effectively. For this type of time recording simply create agencies for each "project" and then use Punch 2 Go's project items for the "activities" within the project.

The only problem I found in Punch 2 Go was that the currency decimal place option seemed to have no effect. Other than that it worked well on both a Nokia N80 and Nokia N93. On the N93 Punch 2 Go switches between landscape and portrait modes flawlessly.

Punch 2 Go is well thought out and easy to use. It provides solid and reliable time recording. The key functions - starting and stopping recording, switching projects and tasks - are conveniently available on shortcut keys, making time recording a breeze. When this convenience fails, Punch 2 Go allows log entries to be added or corrected easily. The period-based reporting is likely to be more than enough for most users. Where it is not, logs can be exported for analysis and manipulation on a PC. For anyone with the requirement to record time, whether on the go or not, Punch 2 Go should head straight to the top of their list of essential S60 applications.

The latest version of Punch 2 Go can be downloaded from Handango.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 28 August 2007 )


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