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Mo’ Better Chrometa: Popular Time Tracking App Gets SaaSy

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used in place of professional or legal advice in any way. Lawyers, law students, judges, and other legal professionals in Massachusetts can find more on scheduling a Free & Confidential consultation with a law practice advisor here.

In our continuing quest to keep you up-to-date, not only on new technology applications, but also in the on-the-regular provision of updates respecting technology applications that we have already covered, I present to you “Product Update: Chrometa”. (Yeah, my chosen blog title is far more better than that, I agree; I do have a reputation to uphold here, after all.) Now, if you can remember that far back, I produced a review of the original Chrometa (well, 2.0 to the original version) for the ABA’s GP|Solo magazine way back in the halcyon days of June 2010, which review got linked out from the LOMAP Blog, at here. Since that time, Chrometa has undergone some number of significant changes, which are of importance to current Chrometa users, and which may be of interest to potential Chrometa users.

Chrometa is still, in essence, what it started out as: a nifty time capture program that runs in the background on your system(s). Now, that ‘running in the background’ part is the essential aspect here; that means that Chrometa has been fashioned as a passive time capture system: one in which you needn’t do anything to capture your time, but to turn it on. (Well, it’s passive for you: Chrometa, meanwhile, is working very hard behind-the-scenes. Won’t you consider making it a nice sandwich, or something, please?) If you want more on the background of the Chrometa service, check out my original review, because I hate repeating myself. Or, if you want an even simpler background instructiontroduction, visit the Chrometa homepage, which has a succinct video describing how the system works.

So, How is Chrometa different now than what it came on as before? Well, for one, the new Chrometa (that’s what I’m calling it, like new Coke, to differentiate from the previous version . . . Yikes, scratch that, Did you see what happened to new Coke?) is now a web application. Previously, Chrometa had been only available as a Windows incarnation. The new Chrometa (sorry, I’ve got nothing else; let’s just hope that the new Chrometa does not go the way of the new Coke) web app is now available wherever you have an internet connection, and, as such, is device independent. You can run it on a Mac, on your smartphone, or on your toaster oven, if you’ve rigged an internet connection through that sucker. Mac people are happy (now they can stop sending threatening letters), smartphone people are happy, the toaster oven people are happy . . . (What other advantages, aside from the shedding of device/system dependence, stem from web apps? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’ve talked with Chrometa CEO Brett Owens about that very question at my podcast; listen here. I’ve also chatted with RocketMatter’s Larry Port, on the usefulness of SaaS generally, also at my podcast (how ‘bout that), episode here.) But, even beyond the major shift that Chrometa is now a web app versus a desktop application, there are other significant changes that have been made to the program that greatly improve its effectiveness.

Running those changes down now, then, from most important onward: (1) The new Chrometa allows users to create ‘client’ folders, with ‘projects’ subfolders. (These being separate from ‘personal’ folders, which users may also create, for more private matters.) This means that you can now tag time chunks recorded to specific client files, organizing those time elements in much the same way that you would organize information through a traditional law practice management system. This important new functionality, coupled with Chrometa’s existing export to Excel feature, and ability to push export to billing systems, means that it’s easier to bill from Chrometa than it has ever been before. (2) The Chrometa team has also worked to streamline workflow options within the new web app. The new tagging features in Chrometa are yoked to the ability to create rules for automatically organizing time chunks spent. If you can conceive of creating rules in Outlook, for email, you can conceive of the Chrometa system working in much the same way, which it does, conveniently. Chrometa even offers a simple, three-step ‘rules wizard’, which prompts you to select: search criteria, client folder and running frequency. This new functionality, coupled with the tagging option described above, is a significant improvement over Chrometa 2.0, and allows busy attorneys to create a truly automated workflow within the time capture system. (3) The new Chrometa is generally more intuitive, and easier to use, than prior versions of the system. The interface is far smoother than previous iterations; and, this is a function of three improvements: (a) new features to access (b) from more places within the application (c) which is now based in a static background at which I can easily select major tabs for quick access. (4) The new Chrometa also features a highly diggable dashboard, offering up to you a succinct, daily and illustrated representation of what you have been up to at work. That’s right: you’ve got a pie chart (for apps you use most), a graph (y-axis = minutes spent; x-axis = times of day) and quick tickers for active and away time, billable time and billings made. For those visual learners, this can be highly instructive for getting an idea of just where your time goes every day. And, beyond the continuing advantage that Chrometa represents as a time capture tool, you’ll gain something from the system the very first day you use it: by taking a look at the at-a-glance view of your device time, in order to be shown, in a very graphic way (and, yes, I mean that in both senses of the word (but not in the way that Charlie Sheen means it), how much time you spend working (psst: it’s less than you think) and how much time you spend not working (psst: it’s more than you think). (5) The final, major highlighted change within the new Chrometa is that active search is now available. What’s active search? Think instant search within Google (the results of your search are displayed as you type). If you dig instant search on Google, you’ll dig active search on Chrometa. Personally, I’m not into it. I mean, I like it when search term suggestions are made for me in the search box, but I find the early results display to be nothing more than a distraction. But, what the hell do I know? And, the kids seem to love it. Wait . . . hold the phone.

Beyond those major happenings, there is even more to like about the new Chrometa, including that: The user experience is much improved. You’ve got a background of permanent sun rays o’erspreading a green field. It’s like a dang Jimmy Dean sausage commercial! How could anyone be unhappy in that environment. (I’m telling you, in 2011, you’ve gots to have a great user experience architect . . .) In addition to the dashboard/at-a-glance feature, I very much like the addition of an available sidebar, for toggling between devices, for creating new clients and projects (including setting billing rates) and for adding personal folders. The new Chrometa’s reporting functionality allows users to quickly create reports for date ranges. Certain time intervals can be hidden, meaning that you can choose to view only those time units that meet your minimum billable standards (say, more than five minutes, fifty-nine seconds), thus saving time. Chrometa is also developing a KnowledgeBase, accessible through the ‘Help’ tab within the application.

Keep in mind, however, that, although Chrometa is now a web app, accessible at all your devices, you will still need to download Chrometa’s data collector to whatever devices you seek to use with Chrometa, in order that your time on that device will get recorded. This is a simple process; just note that you’ll have to log out of the Chrometa application for the data collector to load on your device–after that, you’re good to go.

Given that the new Chrometa represent a significant shift from the old Chrometa, pricing plans have been updated, as well, and are available here. You will see that pricing is now based on number of devices accessible, and length of data storage.

If you’re considering Chrometa, get a full view of the landscape: Chrometa offers links to product reviews and associated buzz here. And, TechnoLawyer’s Neil Squillante offers this quick and dirty review (certainly quicker and dirtier than mine) of the new Chrometa, here . . . . hhhhhmmmmm . . . Seems that TechnoLawyer was the first-ever to report on Chrometa, and was also provided an exclusive scoop on the new Chrometa. If you’re scoring at home, that’s two scoops for TechnoLawyer, and zero scoops for the LOMAP Blog. I guess Neil Squillante is just Raisin Bran, and I’m Kashi cereal, or something. I see how it is, Brett. Well, guess what: the Lakers suck. That’s right: that just happened.

Of course, I’ll make believe it’s all water under the bridge, just so long as I get the last word in: The new Chrometa represents a forward-thinking and richly-featured time tracking application for the modern practitioner. Today’s business is consummated on electronic devices, and Chrometa tracks time across all of yours. With Chrometa running wherever you’re working. you’ll spend less time worrying about capturing your billing, and more time actually billing.

. . .

Of course, my promised ‘last word’ is rarely the last word, especially since I’m now writing fewer of these long-form blog posts–I guess that just means that I have more to say within those that I do write. I’m sorry for being a filthy liar; but, if you’ve read down this far, you’ve likely already reconciled yourself to that fact, and are somewhat accepting of it, probably due to my endless store of wit and charm.

So, before I depart the Chrometa conversation, let’s just say that you’re thinking that Chrometa sounds good, but you don’t want to commit before giving it an old-fashioned, rigorous run-through. I’d say that’s a good idea. Always try before you buy, my good friends. You can get a free trial of the new Chrometa here, at the pricing page. And, if you’re a Windows user, you can access Chrometa 2.0, the final desktop version of Chrometa, for free, forever. If that’s your bag, the license is here; the street legal download is here. Of course, if you’re gonna get into that, you should know that the product is “as is”–it’s not being updated any longer; but, rather than discontinue it, the good folks at Chrometa have allowed interested persons continued access, perhaps because, as Chrometa CEO Brett Owens describes it, it is “a gateway drug to the web app”. That’s just a brilliant formulation that I had to quote directly. Nothing I can do to improve upon that as a marketing thesis.

. . .

Liner Notes

Normally, I’m marking time telling you all about songs you should listen to. I’m not often found here relaying places at which to find songs to download. (Now, I did turn Rodney on to GrooveShark the other day, but I didn’t publish on it. That was merely a generic good deed, rather than a more public service.) But, today, I want to alert you to a great site I discovered a few weeks back. (I wanted to make sure that there were no apparent illegal shenanigans before I used the service myself, or recommended it to others.)

I ran across this archive in my continued search to own the mp3 for every song that James Taylor has ever recorded. You know, once you have all the studio albums, and all the live albums, you’ve got to go to the bootleg collections . . . So, I found a bunch of songs from some very early concerts on YouTube; only thing is, I haven’t had enough time to figure out how to rip YouTube audio to mp3’s, and then to transfer those mp3s to my iTunes library. So, I moved on to finding a direct download on the web; and, in searching for just that, I came across Wolfgang’s Vault.

Wolfgang’s Vault is an aweeeeesooooome site that offers downloads of individual songs, and full show downloads of classic concerts. You can find a list of artists on the front page; however, my search led me directly to the James Taylor page, whereat I found the concert recordings I was looking for: four shows from 1970 and 1971, all downloadable directly to my iTunes library at a rate comparable to that charged in iTunes. Not only that, but, in addition to the concerts I had been looking for, there were other shows available, which are not available for download, but which are available to play. (Note: You’ll have
to download the Vault player to listen to or download songs; but, I did so, and have had no issues.) In addition to songs to download and listen to, Wolfgang’s Vault also offers old-timey concert memorabilia, including t-shirts and posters.

Wolfgang’s Vault is a UK website, and appears to be legit: it seems they own all the songs they sell. So, take a look around the site; but, set aside some time (turn off Chrometa), because you’ll be lost in it for a while. I think that you’ll discover the concert selections and audio quality to be superb. At each artist’s page, you’ll find a sample tune that you can listen to directly at the website, without downloading the player; and, I encourage you to try the samples first, if you don’t believe me about the audio quality.

If you’re looking for rare and varied concert audio, Wolfgang’s is the Vault you want.

And, because I can’t help myself, here are some of the old school James Taylor cover songs you’ll be able to find there, that you won’t be able to find anywhere else (. . . except on YouTube . . . until they’re taken down . . .):

In My Reply” by Livingston Taylor

Okie from Muskogee” by Merle Haggard

With a Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles

Tube Rose Snuff Jingle + 1970 Remix by The Tube Rose Snuff People (and even more backrground)

That’s the way to play it out, I’d say: JT revising a snuff commercial jingle, with some typical humorosity.

CATEGORIES: Planning | Productivity | Technology

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