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Marketcircle’s Billings 2.0.5 is designed to take the aggravation out of invoicing for freelancers and the self-employed. The program’s sleek interface is full of thoughtful touches, and despite its wide array of customizable features, Billings is rarely confusing or intimidating.
From the first time you launch it, Billings makes things easy. A setup assistant lets you import client information directly from Apple’s Address Book. You can then choose one of the application’s dozens of tax setups, including standard tax rates for all 50 U.S. states, European VAT rates, and other tax rates from many countries. (You can also customize tax rates and establish collectively applied sets of compounded taxes if necessary.) From the main Billings window, you can select a client, create multiple projects associated with that client, and set up a slip to track each billable item within a project. Each slip appears as a line item on the final invoice.
Billings’ slips cover hourly rates, mileage, quantities of goods sold, expense reports, and flat fees; you can use slips to create invoices and estimates. A free-floating timer lets you start and stop the clock on timed jobs. The timer effortlessly handles multiple slips, projects, and hourly rates simultaneously while tracking earnings for each task. It stays visible on top of other windows and keeps the clock running even when you switch from Billings to another application. Billings had no trouble sending my slips and deadlines to iCal; it can also export slips or projects as tab-delineated text files, in case you later want to import them into Excel.
To send an estimate or invoice, simply select the slips you want to bill for, and then preview your document. Billings offers a variety of appealing, professionally designed document templates, which it can print, save, or e-mail via Apple’s Mail. In the program’s Preferences, you can add a vector or bitmap graphic as a custom logo; unfortunately, clicking on the Clear button to remove my logo had no effect until I quit and reopened the program. A Marketcircle representative says this glitch will be fixed in an update.
Billings’ robust report editor lets you further customize your invoices and estimates. Big, user-friendly icons and drag-and-drop elements make its sophisticated tools less intimidating. Even novice users can adjust fonts, colors, and object placement. However, some of its interface features are spotty—for example, the Undo command works in the main window but doesn’t work when you’re editing text—and attempts at in-depth customization may send non-programmers lunging for the Help files.
But the current version of Billings falls short when it comes to its Help files. The documentation is well written and thoroughly covers the program’s basic features, but it directs you to Marketcircle’s Web site for questions about the report editor. In my copy of the program, though, the provided links didn’t work. Digging through the company’s site turned up a useful, if incomplete, set of video tutorials for the report editor, and I found a link to a PDF file with more complete documentation buried in one of the support forums. Again, the company assured me that the gaps in the program’s Help files would be corrected in its next update.
Macworld’s buying advice
At nearly $60, Billings 2.0.5 is about twice the price of two similar invoicing programs, Clickable Bliss’s Billable and IGG Software’s iBiz ( ), which both offer simpler versions of many of its features. However, Billings 2’s superb interface, comprehensive feature set, and amazing customization tools make it a great choice for all but the most frugal.
[ Nathan Alderman is a copy editor and a writer. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia. ]From one window, Billings 2 lets you track clients, projects, and various expenses. A floating timer tracks time spent and wages earned.Billings 2’s powerful drag-and-drop editing features let you customize your invoices.