Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose?

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Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose?

February 15, 2021

Spreadsheets are popular solutions for recording and analysing work. Besides, they offer several functions that can be implemented in the practice of time tracking. In contrast, work time tracking systems are dedicated applications explicitly designed to record, store and analyse working time. What is the conclusion?

In this article, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both, especially to the extent that the two solutions are useful for tracking working time. We will bring you closer in terms of features, speed, accuracy and the benefits. We will look at their use to track and calculate working time depending on the team’s work. 

Spreadsheets – a great business tool 

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – Spreadsheets – a great business tool

They are widely known to today’s workers. Their main use is analysis and office work. They have everything for creating simple templates for work schedules, as well as more advanced timesheets with formulas that automatically add up and analyse the entered data in various ways.

Advantages of spreadsheets

  • versatility in business tasks; 
  • transparency in the calculations; 
  • enabling sheet printing. 

Graphics in a spreadsheet are also a timekeeping solution. Excel belongs to such sheets. The graphic design in this program is easy to use for most employees, as long as one does not use its advanced analytical tools. Creating comprehensive reports for in-depth analysis requires a high level of knowledge of the program from the user. 

Entering data into a spreadsheet 

However, before using the worksheet function, you must enter the appropriate data into it. This also applies to the work timekeeping option. Using it is equivalent to managing time schedules based on manually added content. In this case – it is the time that its user has spent on a given project or task.

In other words, at the end of a working day or working week, remember what you have been working on. This is quite time-consuming, considering that these timesheets need to be collected and processed or data needs to be retrieved from different sheets.

Disadvantages of spreadsheets for keeping work time

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – Disadvantages of keeping work time in a spreadsheet

Research shows that most people check their time at the end of the day and that an accountant is responsible for filling the sheets by employees. Excel does not notify you automatically. To check them, the accountant must open all of them and check that they are filled. Concluding their downsides, timekeeping spreadsheets: 

  • are time-consuming to enter data; 
  • only offer manual time input; 
  • are characterised by the lack of time measurement options, such as:
    • defining hourly rates; 
    • categorising working time by tasks, tags and settlement status; 
  • generating comprehensive working time reports; 
  • are prone to errors. 

Spreadsheets and time management 

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – Spreadsheets and time management

The most important feature of the time tracking function is its ease of use as everyone in the company will profit from it. With the right amount of time, patience and resources, you may find that a spreadsheet is a right choice; especially with a small team working on one or two projects that have time to manage graphics.

Increasing the scale of work – in the form of projects and employees – usually pays off with a more significant number of graphic designers, which generates additional work. Since spreadsheets are versatile, they can, to some extent, mimic the functions of measuring working times, e.g. by manually adding task columns, tags and billing status. Practice shows that it is tedious and demanding. 

Time tracking apps – benefits and functions 

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – Time tracking apps – benefits and functions

That is why dedicated time measurement applications have been developed, becoming an alternative to spreadsheets. When the team works on sheets in a business sense, entering the second system is much more comfortable. You no longer need to spend energy defining new timekeeping processes and explaining them to your team. At the same time, they offer additional benefits and functions, for example: 

  • the option to define project timing and project-based tasks; 
  • tags for categorising working time; 
  • hourly wages – for further calculation of earnings; 
  • comprehensive and in-depth reporting. 

In terms of filtering reports, they have a significant advantage over Excel sheets. They come with a set of predefined reports that extract data directly from time, expense and workflow recording. This means that collecting and preparing timesheets is no longer needed. Without creating Excel spreadsheets, you can also gain insight into the profitability of internal and external time of employees as well as individual projects and their clients.

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – Time tracking apps analyse the time
Time tracking apps offer a labour cost calculation and profit report that can:
  • facilitate the minimisation of project costs in the future; 
  • help you maximise the time spent on priority tasks; 
  • minimise wasted time; 
  • enable you to make sure how to set hourly rates so that your income aligns with the project costs.

Time tracking apps – functionalities

  • exporting reports in other formats, like:
    • PDF (the right solution if you want to send the client proof of the work done),
    • CSV (an excellent for payroll calculation as it displays all the time tracked in decimal) and Excel.
  • tracking project costs and profitability; 
  • applying them to payroll; 
  • printing of working time reports. 

Time tracking apps help analyse the time:

  • spent on a given project; 
  • in respect to the profitability of the project (whether the devoted time was worth it); 
  • of those tasks that took the longest; 
  • in terms of performance; 
  • spent on secondary or tertiary activities. 

Probability of error

1. in spreadsheets 

Everyone involved in the timesheet management process can get it wrong. If a manager makes a mistake in defining his formulas, the data added by someone will be miscalculated (which you may not even notice). Anyone can be a source of error – an employee entering data or calculating working time, or a manager creating timesheets, an accountant calculating wages, or a person with HR calculating, for example, paid time outside work – because:

  • everyone enters all data manually; 
  • a single miscalculation or data source causes a chain of miscalculation. 

2. in time tracking app 

With tracking apps, everything is much more comfortable, because adding time is quick and easy for everyone. It’s also unlikely that someone will make a mistake or forget to complete the schedule on time, given that you can define daily and weekly goals for your team. Time tracking apps functions:

  • offering reminders and remind goals; 
  • ensuring better data compatibility. 

All data in one place 

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – All data in one place

The more people there are on the team, the more difficult it is to store, maintain and analyse the timesheet. An essential part of the timesheet application is that it allows your team to keep all timesheets in one place.

Employee accounts store their personal data, where timesheets are completed in one easily accessible workspace. Employees can then select their projects and tasks while tracking time, and timesheets are automatically associated with their names, or groups based on job titles or managers responsible for approving given timesheets. Moreover, time tracking apps enable: 

  • assigning managers accountable for employees’ working time; 
  • adding employees to groups based on job names; 
  • accelerating the process of approving schedules for managers; 
  • reviewing and approving timesheets for customer and payroll settlements; 
  • downloading project hours and converting them to invoices. 

Real-time working time measurement 

Time tracking applications offer real-time activity tracking. The timer starts the stopwatch when you start and stop working. The timer mode allows you to: 

  • track work time for greater accuracy; 
  • have a clear overview of the time spent on projects;
  • see what other team members are currently working on (looking at the dashboard showing what they are presently using the timer for). 

Time tracking for both small and large businesses

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – Small businesses and large enterprises

There is a perception that Excel timesheets are better for small businesses and time tracking applications for large ones. Their benefits do not really depend on the size of the company. A good time tracking system will scale and adapt to the size of your business as it grows.

Indeed, when the number of employees in the company exceeds 15–20, the company’s administration becomes time-consuming. And as it gets bigger, it can become a nuisance. Administrative and analytical requirements or time recording with spreadsheets with fewer employees are relatively easy to manage.

Time tracking applications are suitable for any type of company. Indeed, as the company grows, the need for a more in-depth analysis of time registration is growing. Many timekeeping applications are integrated with the largest financial systems, so the chain from hour registration to research is connected with them. And since all the data is related and the hours are easy to trace, you can control time registrations and track declines and valuations.


The process of measuring, calculating and analysing working time entered into a spreadsheet shows some weaknesses. It’s easy to make mistakes when managing timesheets and they consume a lot of energy. Converting timesheets can bring businesses countless benefits.

Time tracking apps vs spreadsheets – which one should you choose? – The perfect example of time tracking app is TimesheetKiller.

Time measurement applications offer a more modern solution in this regard, considering that their automated system eliminates the risk of error. They are also more accurate and systematic because all data is automatically calculated according to tested formulas and is stored in one place.

The perfect example of the presented programs is TimesheetKiller. It is a modern AI-based working time tracking tool that will make you forget about troublesome duties, and, instead, allow you to fully concentrate on your work.

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