At a Glance
One of the most frustrating and tedious aspects of working as a freelance designer is keeping track of project incidentals. Billable hours, invoices, design notes, project files, and the like often end up scattered to all corners of your hard drives and workstations. If you want to rely on something other than your memory, handwritten notes, Stickies, or the Mac's hierarchical folder system, you need an application that organizes your projects in an efficient and easy-to-access manner. The project-management application Studiometry 1.1.4, from Oranged.net Software, attempts to corral your work in one central location, and it almost succeeds. If you don't mind using Studiometry for all your file-management and organization chores except invoicing, then this application can be an asset. But Studiometry falls flat when it comes to accounting: its billing feature is more work than it should be.
Organize Projects Visually
Studiometry's familiar and intuitive layout takes interface cues from Apple applications such as iTunes, iPhoto, and Address Book: it displays one large window broken into functional panes. You can easily move from the window to Studiometry's main sections: Client Info, Contact, To Do, and Projects. Studiometry's design resembles that of Apple's Address Book, which is sometimes an asset and sometimes a limitation. Address Book, while a convenient tool, is not a professional-level contact-management system, and its limitations become clear when you import information from Address Book into Studiometry.
Studiometry's project management begins with the client file. You can start a client list from scratch, or you can import client data from Apple's Address Book or any vCard-based contact-management list. Studiometry lets you drag and drop vCards right into its Contacts section. Unfortunately, not all designers use the vCard format. I wish Studiometry could also import tab-delimited data, since that would accommodate users who keep their contacts in database applications (FileMaker Pro, for example).
A Studiometry client file contains the same basic information as an Address Book file. Regrettably, Studiometry doesn't allow multiple contacts under one client. Also, you can't import Address Book groups as one vCard. If you have more than one contact at a client company, you must record that information somewhere other than the Client Info section or the Contact section of the program. This inflexibility is a major oversight.
Once you've created a client file, you can assign working files to a project. Studiometry assumes that projects will have clients attached to them -- otherwise, there'd be no one to pay you. Therefore, you can't open any working files without first establishing a contact. This extra step may limit how you manage your information. All further organizational actions and relationships stem from the way you set up this window; it's how you access your invoices, reports, and other information pertaining to the project.
You can add folders, graphics, or documents to a project by dragging and dropping them into that project's window. You can also track the relationships of linked files in a project.
Creating a to-do item, a report, and other information is easy to do. You can attach a to-do not only to a client file but also to a specific project -- or to nothing at all. The progam's To Do feature does a good enough job to replace your handwritten notes.
Studiometry's Running Timers feature is an efficient way to track your billable time. Clicking on the large Running Timers icon that sits atop the main window lets you attach a work session to a given project. If nothing else, this is a handy utility for figuring out how much time you spend working on a project.
A Few Limiting Features
For all its ease, Studiometry has some time-consuming and nonsensical drawbacks. Its bill-tracking and invoicing system is confusing and difficult. In spite of the program's comfortable Aqua interface, Studiometry's Debt/Credit feature lacks the convenience and efficiency the rest of the program provides. The feature's name is confusing enough. I really didn't feel confident enough in this complex, byzantine system to submit my billing and financial information to it.
Studiometry's project-identification system is also limiting. It assigns numbers to projects according to individual clients, rather than letting you create a code for an entire company. Multiple clients can have the same invoice numbers, differing only in their client code prefix. Unless you're in love with complex and cryptically redundant codes, Studiometry is not the billing solution you want. I was very disappointed that Studiometry offered the invoice templates only in HTML code. These days, thanks to WYSIWYG editors and Web-design suites, many users forgo code-oriented layout for visual layout schemes. The same principle should govern Studiometry's invoicing features. Most designers are visually oriented, but Studiometry's templates are not.
Studiometry's documentation can be confusing, but for the most part, it takes you quickly into this application's universe.
Macworld's Buying Advice
Oranged.net Software has put many project- and contact-management pieces in place to build a powerful and useful application. Unfortunately, not all the pieces make perfect sense. While Studiometry 1.1.4's project and client files, To Do section, and timer feature work well together, limitations in the program's Client Info interface, and a complicated invoicing and billing system, bring this management vehicle to a screeching halt. The company needs to improve the program's limited features. I'm looking forward to the next version of Studiometry.
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