As a CEO of a time tracking software company, I need to know what my competitors are up to. That means I’m often researching about and/or playing around with their products… you know, it’s part of the job. Here, I share my findings from that research, giving credit to those competitors where credit is due and being honest about which products I believe you really need to avoid. And so, there you have it, this DeskTime review. And in it, I try to be honest, fair, and insightful.
This review covers:
- What Do Users Like About DeskTime?
- What Don’t Users Like About DeskTime?
- What Pricing Plans Does DeskTime offer?
- What are the Standout Features of DeskTime?
- Selected Positive User Feedback
- Selected Negative User Feedback
- What are DeskTime’s Review Ratings from Review Sites?
- What’s My Final Verdict on DeskTime?
DeskTime is a cloud-based time tracking software that is designed to monitor productivity and manage the workflows of freelance employees and small teams. It is also particularly useful for businesses with remote employees who need to be kept abreast of progress and important developments. It features fully automatic online and offline time tracking and a host of productivity-boosting features that are touted to increase employee productivity by a whopping 30% within the first few weeks of usage.
Aside from these, Desktime also boasts of accountability features that are designed to ensure that employees are laser-focused on tasks and nothing else when on company time, promoting a spirit of transparency, fairness, and accountability among the ranks. These include screenshots at certain intervals and real-time tracking of app and URL usage, whether online or offline, as long as workers are clocked in. These are purported to provide visibility into individual productivity, empower employees, and avoid a sense of mistrust between employees and their employers. But do they really? Read on the rest of this review to find out.
Marketing claims aside, I really admire DeskTime’s ease of use, the reduction of time traditionally spent on planning, monitoring, and other management concerns, the pretty handy project cost calculation and billing system that streamlines payments based on accurately calculated work hours, and the very insightful reports generated by the automated time tracker that shows users exactly where improvements could be made to enhance productivity. It also plays nice with third-party integrations.
The Pomodoro timer also deserves special mention, as it is a scientifically proven method to enhance productivity by alternating intervals of work with short breaks. This reduces mental fatigue and helps stave off burnout by balancing activity and rest. The clean and sophisticated interface with lots of green and touches of orange is also very appealing, as it comes off as relaxing without being too boring, with splashes of tasteful vibrance that keep things upbeat and snazzy.
But here’s the deal. I promised you an honest review, and it’s not gonna be totally honest if I just harp on about DeskTime’s pros without warning you of its cons as well. While it does have a lot of cool stuff going on, sometimes a lot is not what’s needed, but clarity. Case in point: the analytics can be a little confusing, and with the level of detail that it offers, sometimes it can be difficult to determine which specific projects or clients time is spent on unless each entry is manually labeled, which is rather cumbersome. And because of all that’s going on in the reports, it can take a fair bit of investigation sometimes to make sense of the results I see — I wish there was an easy way to make the reports show that, say, Effect A happened because of Cause B.
DeskTime’s app and URL tracking can feel a bit invasive as well. Coupled with the screenshotting function, I think it borders on micromanagement and doesn’t exactly empower employees — rather, it fosters a sense of being untrustworthy to the point that even one’s smallest moves must be logged by hawk-eyed capitalist overlords managers.
In addition to that, there are the usual suspects — pesky crashes, glitches, and delays that are especially aggravating when they affect the time clock’s ability to record time accurately. And speaking of time records, I’ve noticed that once a time entry is deleted from DeskTime, it’s gone… forever!
And yeah, it’s a bit pricy if a business needs all of its awesome functionalities because the free version is just so limited, but before we jump to any conclusions, let’s take a deeper look at DeskTime’s features, pricing, and what users have to say about it, shall we?
What Do Users Like About DeskTime?
- Pomodoro timer
- Automatic time tracker
- In-depth and highly detailed reporting
- Handy cost calculation and billing system
- Smooth Integration with multiple apps and software
- Private time option for much-needed downtime
- Cool interface with lots of green
What Don't Users Like About DeskTime?
- Screenshots violate the privacy of employees
- App and URL tracking doesn’t exactly empower employees, but fosters mistrust
- Analytic reports are confusing
- Random app crashes
- Does not record work hours accurately
- Productivity tracking doesn’t count attending meetings and other activities as productive
- Optimum functionality comes with a hefty price tag
What Pricing Plans Does DeskTime offer?
DeskTime offers three paid plans and a very limited free version. More features are unlocked as the tier and price go up, but all three plans offer a free month if users get an annual contract. Let’s take a closer look at the plans and their features.
The Free Plan is called DeskTime Lite, and rightly so because it has only four features: automatic time tracking, URL and app tracking, integrated web timer, and mobile app. It can accommodate only one user and is a very pale shadow of DeskTime’s true capabilities.
If DeskTime Lite is too light for proper functionality, the paid plans offer better selections of features beginning with the Pro Plan. For $6.42 per user per month when paid annually or $7 per user per month with a monthly arrangement, users get all the time tracking features of the Free Plan plus productivity calculation and idle time tracking. They also get time and project management features such as document title tracking, project time tracking, cost calculation, private time option, and Pomodoro timer. In addition, they also get workforce management and custom features such as team contacts, custom reports, and user integrations.
The Premium Plan is touted to be DeskTime’s best value offer, and at $9.17 per user per month when billed annually or $10 per user per month on a monthly scheme, users can enjoy all the features of the Pro Plan plus automatic screenshots for detailed time and project management. Aside from that, users will also get workforce management and custom features such as the absence calendar, shift scheduling, booking, offline time approval, IP restrictions, and company integrations. They will also get the ability to plan human resources and manage all employee shifts in one place, view who’s sick, on vacation, out-of-office, and more, sync DeskTime with popular project management tools to reduce and automate workload, and approve or decline employees’ filled-in offline time requests.
The Enterprise Plan is the most expensive at $18.33 per user per month when paying annually, or $20 per user per month when paying monthly. At this hefty price, users can enjoy all of DeskTime’s features — that means all of the selections in the Premium Plan, plus VIP support, personalized onboarding, unlimited projects, tasks, and data history, as well as custom API.
The discrepancy between the Free Plan and the Enterprise Plan — or even between the Pro Plan and the Enterprise Plan — is quite a huge one, and with the way the tiers and pricing are designed, I’d say that DeskTime is not budget-friendly, particularly for small businesses and startups.
What are the Standout Features of DeskTime?
1. Automatic Time Tracking and Comprehensive Shift Scheduling
There is so much that I personally love about DeskTime’s automatic time tracker. As a CEO of a time tracking company myself, I appreciate the intuitiveness of its design and its unobtrusiveness. Users can literally begin tracking time the moment they open their computer, eliminating the need to manually input anything — DeskTime handles that, so workers can focus on actually working while it runs in the background.
How does it work? Employers send out invites to their employees via email, and the employees then log in to the DeskTime main page using the credentials presented in the email invitation, download the DeskTime app to their computers or mobiles, and log in to the app using the same credentials. This enables DeskTime to start tracking time automatically without any need for input from the user. It automatically records the user’s arrival time, left time, productive time, time at work, idle time, productivity, and effectiveness. It also records DeskTime time or the sum of automatically recorded and manually logged time, manually entered offline time, and private time — more on that bit later.
The Productivity Bar shows a visual representation of the day’s work hours, classifying it as productive (green), idle (gray), or unproductive (orange). Productivity is measured by the frequency and duration of using apps designated as productive or not by the management, and idle time begins once a user’s computer becomes inactive for at least three minutes, or as defined by admins.
While clocked in, DeskTime continuously tracks productivity with app and URL usage, as well as screenshots. This might feel invasive for many people, and a break from monitored activity may be required from time to time. This is where the private time option comes in — when activated, it disables all activity tracking so that workers can have a bit of me time without the fear of having their private online activity being seen by admins. The same effect could also be achieved by simply clocking out.
These functions of the DeskTime automatic time tracking feature help to improve productivity by cutting down on input time and allowing employees to jump right into work from the moment they open their computers, and by helping identify ineffective practices that hinder performance and ultimately, company growth.
In addition to this, DeskTime’s comprehensive shift scheduling feature allows admins to effortlessly distribute shifts that are organized into neat rosters that show if the person scheduled is working at the office or from home, allowing teams to see important details of work schedules at a glance. Employees working for businesses without set working hours can also request shift times for themselves in a matter of a few clicks, requiring only a few details such as planned duration, start, and ending times, as well as preferred locations that managers can approve or decline.
The DeskTime absence calendar works in the same manner and allows users to see entire teams’ planned time off so that they can plan their own accordingly without compromising coverage and team productivity. Users can send in absence and time off requests in a matter of clicks that detail the dates and type of leave requested which managers can approve or decline.
Together, the automatic time tracker and comprehensive scheduling features of DeskTime ensure that teams and individual members are constantly nudged to perform at their best, get adequate downtime to establish a healthy work-life balance, and ultimately enhance productivity.
2. Powerful Project Management
Project tracking and management is often the make-or-break point for businesses. After all, it is how they manage the creation of the output they offer to clients, and it encompasses so many factors, including scheduling, costing, budgeting, and pinpointing problem areas such as employees not pulling their own weight.
The DeskTime project management tools help address these factors comprehensively by allowing businesses to see how time is consumed by teams and projects, set realistic deadlines, estimate costs and allocate budgets, and create highly detailed reports in a small fraction of the time it usually takes to do the same things using traditional paper-based methods or spreadsheets.
Creating a project on DeskTime is as easy as making a few clicks, naming it, and voila — entire teams or selected groups of individuals can be assigned to work on it.
Tracking time for projects is just as easy. Users simply have to select the project from a menu, click start, and DeskTime will automatically track time for them on the chosen project until they click stop or switch to another project.
To really drill down on the specifics of time expenditure, users can track time against tasks so that every second and every action is accounted for. If time is money, then businesses better know exactly where their money goes, and DeskTime gives them that power.
And because budgets are an important part of planning a project and sticking to it ensures profitability, DeskTime provides users the ability to see how hours stack up to budgets. A budget allocation is made at the beginning of a project and as it develops, DeskTime compares how the estimate stands against the actual work being done, giving business owners powerful insight into how much time and resources are spent to achieve desired results. This is especially useful for future decisions and may even help in solving present challenges with similar projects.
Speaking of estimates, some projects or tasks may require a different rate from default hourly rates. DeskTime simplifies that complication with automatic calculations. Employers simply have to input project or task-specific rates for each assignee, and the software does all the crunching that results in more accurate estimates.
To top it all off, DeskTime integrates well with other project management software that businesses may already be using, ensuring seamless project time tracking with heavy hitters like Asana, Trello, Jira, Zapier, and more.
3. Automatic Screenshots and URL and App Tracker
DeskTime’s accountability tools are comprised of the URL and app tracker and the automatic screenshotting feature. This combo serves as a means to monitor employee computer activity while on the clock. One of the most cunning forms of time theft is appearing to work on company projects while actually doing something else — employees can appear busy and highly engaged with tasks on their computer screens, while actually doing something else — watching their favorite videos on YouTube, writing recipes for their cookouts, or just chatting with friends. These activities hurt businesses by making them pay for activities that have no relevance to their goals or the progress of projects. And if these things can happen in the office, how much more for remote arrangements?
This is where employee computer monitoring software like DeskTime comes in. It notes every app, website, and program employees use while on company time, and classifies them as productive, unproductive, or neutral according to the employer’s specifications. And because different teams have different needs, Desktime allows employers to customize which apps, websites, and programs are productive or unproductive for individual teams, which gives them the utmost flexibility in curating productivity lists according to each team or individual’s unique needs. The productivity status of any item on the list can be changed at any time, but only by administrators so that employees wouldn’t be able to unduly influence productivity data.
The tracked app and URL usage are visible to administrators, and they can even see which documents employees are working on with document title tracking. Each employee’s productivity levels are displayed in the Productivity Bar, and it serves as a reminder for them to utilize company time accordingly, and as an indicator for employers to focus attention and efforts on areas of concern.
Desktime’s automatic screenshotting function on the other hand gives employers concrete visuals of what’s happening on employee’s screens at random intervals for the duration of their shifts. As long as they are clocked in, managers can see automatic screenshots of how individuals utilize their time. This is especially useful for managing remote teams, often paid hourly, to ensure that the company’s money is not wasted on unnecessary activities.
The screenshotting function also helps in identifying problematic situations and employees — DeskTime will automatically highlight suspicious screen captures and identify which employees are having problems staying on track, and why.
Together, the URL and app tracker and the automatic screenshot feature safeguard company resources and instill a sense of accountability among the ranks — studies show that a productivity boost of up to 30% can be achieved when employees know that they are being actively monitored.
4. Private Time Option
Having discussed how the DeskTime screenshots and URL and app tracking features work, it is only justified that we should also talk about how many users feel that such accountability measures may infringe on their privacy. I personally believe that the employee who has nothing to hide should not be afraid of accountability tools, but obviously, that is not a sentiment shared by all. I’d like to affirm that fears of sensitive and personal information finding their way into the screenshots and URL and app trackers are very valid, especially for work-at-home arrangements where the line between personal and professional time is constantly evolving, even as you read this. At best it may feel like micromanagement, and at worst it may come off as an invasion of privacy.
This is where DeskTime’s Private Time Option comes in handy. For the times when employees feel like having a work time out but continue using their computers, this feature allows them to pause all computer tracking activities and enjoy non-work related browsing on social media, read personal emails, shop online, or heck, even watch cat videos on Tiktok to get their mandatory daily dose of insufferable cuteness!
Short breaks across the day are essential in maintaining focus and promoting a healthy work-life balance, and the protection of one’s privacy, personal interests, communications, habits, political views, and other interests to judgment is of paramount importance. DeskTime’s Private Time Option feature gives employees a sort of privacy nook where they can live their lives outside of work without fear of repercussions.
With the Private Time Option feature on, employees can be assured that their personal internet consumption habits won’t be broadcasted to their managers — cute cat videos and all.
5. Pomodoro Timer
Since we’re already talking about the importance of breaks and work-life balance, we should take a look at one of my favorite DeskTime features, the Pomodoro timer. It is an in-app break reminder system that combats fatigue and burnout based on the technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s which he used to organize his study schedule, and later on shared with the world.
The DeskTime Pomodoro timer organizes work hours into 52, 60, or 90-minute sprints followed by five to seventeen-minute breaks where they can enjoy activities such as exercising to bust stress and enhance mental sharpness, have a snack or a meal, play a game to boost morale and cognitive function, or take a ten to twenty-minute power nap to rest the body and refresh the mind.
Research proves that the most productive people take regular breaks as prescribed by Cirillo’s Pomodoro technique, and DeskTime’s Pomodoro timer is designed to prevent productivity level depletion and ensure that employees can work at 100% across the day.
Selected Positive User Feedback:
- “Mobile time tracking is the best feature of Desktime. I can easily access the data using my mobile or laptop, and it’s always reliable and accurate.” – Prashant S. (Source Capterra)
- “One thing that I like about DeskTime is that it helps to keep track of your attendance when working from home.” – Brijesh J. (Source G2)
- “By looking at the admin dashboard, we can see who is currently online [and] who is assigned to a specific project. The data is also easy to export to connect it with other apps.” – Verified User (Source TrustRadius)
- “The productive/unproductive categorization is very beneficial to have a bird’s-eye view of my activity.” – Elena (Source Software Advice)
- “I love how easy it is for employees to see their own hours and what they are doing at the time. It is very clear to managers to see what their employees have been doing and how productive they are.” – Brian G. (Source Capterra)
- “We like the fact that we can monitor the progress of a task and/ or project. Also, it helps us streamline current processes to increase productivity. It also motivates employees to be more productive.” – Roger R. (Source G2)
- “We are reducing economic and time costs, being able to do the time registration online and automatically when turning on the computer, control of vacation periods, permits and sick leave, among others.” – Javier R. (Source Capterra)
- “I love how Desktime measures productivity. This shows us that even though employees may be on the clock, they may/may not be working exactly.” – Shanna K. (Source Capterra)
- “When we went remote, we did not have Desktime in place and found that productivity had started dipping. Now that we are able to monitor productivity, which applications are in and idle time, we are able to provide feedback in real-time and coach our employees!” – Angel (Source Software Advice)
- “The reports feature is a killer. We can track the time of our employees and quickly generate monthly time reports to make accounting easier.” – Filip C. (Source G2)
- “Great automated timekeeping for monitoring time usage. Helpful for both the freelancer and the client. I love the offline tracking and the invoicing features. Very detailed.” – Tina R. (Source G2)
- “I like the green design. It makes me tune in positive and productive.” – Leva A. (Source Capterra)
- “Desktime makes the team more aware of how they are spending their time both individually and as a team. It allows them to see and track what makes them most productive and what times of the day they are most engaged.” – Shanna Kostopulos (Source TrustRadius)
- “Excellent for time management and team accountability. Helps manage work-from-home staff.” – Colleen (Source Software Advice)
- “Desktime allows all employees working remotely to be monitored and managed efficiently. This allows less concern from management having to waste time monitoring as it’s all in one place.” – Stacey T. (Source G2)
Selected Negative User Feedback:
- “The fact that some team members can fill in the idle time and it does not get highlighted in the report or in a different color under the productivity bars. That could really help identify misuse of that feature.” – Verified User in Information Technology and Services (Source G2)
- “Once time has been deleted, then there is no way to recover it back.” – Abishek A. (Source Capterra)
- “The reporting is very detailed, but it can be hard to determine which clients our team is spending time on without having them manually enter information to track billable hours per client.” – Bryan (Source Software Advice)
- “It is a pricy system. Free plan has limited features. I haven’t compared to other time tracking software, but for us (a company with 35 tracked employees), it’s fairly expensive.” – Samantha F. (Source Capterra)
- “Allowing the reporting to break down a user’s actions within a given hour has disappeared from the transition of Desktime to New Desktime, and this feature specifically allows us to gather insights.” – Viktor (Source Software Advice)
- “No major dislike, but they should have open APIS to do integration with their own Project Management tool. So we can sync all data related to the timesheet and idle time on our Project management tool.” – Jaisal S. (Source G2)
- “This can be a little compromise on the part of the user as the application takes a screenshot without your knowledge at periodic intervals. This is somehow not acceptable and can be annoying on the part of the user. Doesn’t record hours accurately.” – Shaunak P. (Source G2)
- “When it comes to reporting, I feel it is a bit confusing, and lots of investigation is required to know why I am seeing the results I am seeing.” – Fuad H. (Source Capterra)
- “It doesn’t track online meetings, and when you spend most of your day in meetings, it looks like you are not productive, and this looks negative.” – Darren (Source Software Advice)
- “Sometimes it can have a delay in the information it is supplying, and the new format to look at all employees is not as clean as the previous way this used to be displayed.” – Stacey T. (Source G2)
- “I’d say reports and reporting features could have been handled a bit better. I’ve found myself somewhat limited a couple of times when I was trying to generate some advanced reports.” – Swen (Source Software Advice)
- “Sometimes a desktop app is crashing on Linux, we have to restart it to make it work. It takes random screenshots.” – Filip C. (Source G2)
- “Not tailored enough for freelance work. App crashes and freezes occasionally. Plus, free plan has limited features while other plans which offer more features are expensive.” – Rune E. (Source Capterra)
- “If your team is working on multiple projects for multiple clients, understanding which screenshot belongs to which project is not an easy task.” – Verified Reviewer (Source Software Advice)
- “I wish it had more editing features. Sometimes I may need to edit or add a block of private time, but I’m unable to do so. I also wish screenshots were clearer or could be zoomed in on.” Shanna K. (Source Capterra)
What are DeskTime's Review Ratings from Review Sites?
(As of December 2023)
- Google Play Store: 4/5
- App Store: 3/5
- Capterra: 4.5/5
- G2: 4.6/5
- Software Advice: 4.5/5
- TrustRadius: 6.6/10
What's My Final Verdict on DeskTime?
Having discussed all of the above, I think DeskTime is a pretty awesome project management solution. Its automated features such as the time tracker, cost calculation and billing system, URL and app tracker, screenshots, and report generator take out the pain in processes that usually eat up a lot of agonizing hours using traditional paper-based systems and spreadsheets.
The way DeskTime streamlines scheduling, project and task management, attendance, and time off is also praise-worthy, and at a glance, it is apparent that the software is designed with much care and with the best interests of all users in mind.
However, it does have its pitfalls and limitations. For starters, in their intent to supercharge analytics, DeskTime sacrificed understandability for superfluous detail, leading to confusion among users when faced with reports chock-full of details they don’t need but have to sift through just so they can get the information they need. The software has its fair share of bugs, crashes, and glitches that sometimes affect core functionalities such as capturing hours correctly. The productivity tracker needs a bit of work to ensure that even non-screen-active tasks that make up a significant percentage of the work day such as meetings, reading, and problem-solving should be recognized as productive.
Perhaps the most contentious issue of all is the perceived breach of privacy caused by the screenshotting and URL and app tracking features. Thankfully, that is balanced out by the Private Time Option feature that allows employees to confidently use their computers without the fear of being surveilled, a privacy nook of sorts across the work day. I personally think that the Private Time Option breaks would dovetail nicely with the Pomodoro timer breaks.
To sum it all up, I would recommend Desktime for its selection of very helpful features and the intuitiveness of its design. If you don’t mind the higher price point for full functionality and the limitations that we’ve discussed previously, go get it already!
There are two unique features that really caught my eye while using DeskTime; the Pomodoro timer and scheduled private time for personal breaks – very clever indeed!
Well, for starters, the employee progress reports can be quite difficult to grasp because of superfluous detail, and the high price is something I don’t quite like as well.