The Timeslips Sage

One of the major areas of improvement touted for Timeslips 2010 is the presence of a new and improved billing engine.   That sounds nice, but how much faster could it really be?  I decided to take it for a test drive so I can give potential upgraders some hard data. 

I have a client using Timeslips 2008 that is very frustrated by how long it takes to print bills – typically around two hours just for the printing stage, before approval.  I created a copy of their database and decided to do a comparison.  I no longer have Timeslips 2008 on my system, so I ran the first test in Timeslips 2009.  The only filter I used was slip date, which I limited to the month of June.  There were 2042 open clients so I printed to a PDF file in order to conserve paper.  Bills were generated for 912 clients, and the process took an hour and 45 minutes.  It then took another 3 hours to approve the bills.  I could see why my client was frustrated. 

The next day I took the original Timeslips 2009 database, created before I generated the bills, and converted it to Timeslips 2010.  I then generated the same batch of bills, and it only took 7 minutes.  7 minutes!  That is some improvement.  Kudos to the Sage development team. 

Unfortunately, it still took 3 hours to approve the bills, so there is some further improvement to be done on that side of things.  The billing process has gone from over 5 hours to around 3, though, so that is a pretty significant upgrade. 

Do you feel the need for speed?  TriStar is currently offering significant discounts on Timeslips 2010, so order your upgrade today.

If you’ve used Timeslips for any significant amount of time, you’ve most likely received the dreaded “Address Violation Error”.  The message sounds pretty scary and is somewhat vague, so it’s hard to know what caused it and how serious it really is.  Most of the time it is not terribly serious. It just means that your computer’s memory has been maxed out.  If you get these errors repeatedly while performing the same function, then you may have some data corruption.  If they are random, however, then it is more likely an issue with your computer hardware.  Here are some troubleshooting tips. 

These tips are fairly technical in nature, however, so before performing them you may want to consult your firm’s IT person, or contact one of the experts at TriStar. 

Does your computer have sufficient RAM?  Timeslips lists a minimum requirement of 512 MB, but recommends 1 GB.  We routinely recommend at least 2 GB if you plan to run any other programs at the same time as Timeslips.   To check your RAM right click the My Computer icon on your desktop, or click the Start button and choose Properties. 

Are the BDE settings correct?  Behind the scenes Timeslips uses the Borland Database Engine (BDE) and its settings can significantly impact how Timeslips functions.  Go to Start – Control Panel – BDE Administrator – Configuration – System – INIT to check and/or edit these settings.

You may also want to check these settings in your computer’s registry:
Click Start and choose Run.  Then type Regedit.
Once you’re in the Registry Editor expand to:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE – SOFTWARE – Borland – Database Engine – Settings – System – INIT

The settings should be as follows:

LOCAL SHARE = TRUE
MAXBUFSIZE = 8192
MAXFILEHANDLES = 256
MEMSIZE = 179
MINBUFSIZE = 1024
SHAREDMEMLOCATION: 0x6BDE
SHAREDMEMSIZE = 4096

 Timeslips versions 2009 and above will tell you if these settings are incorrect,t and fix them for you the first time you open the program. 

 You should periodically delete temporary files created by Timeslips.  By default they will go to either C:Program FilesTimeslipsTemp or C:WindowsSystem32Temp.   You can specify the temp file path in Timeslips preferences.  Setup – Preferences – Other.  The temp files that Timeslips creates are folders labeled FulSes and APISes, as well as files like NAVXXXXX.TMP.

 You can also get an error if Timeslips “times out” while trying to communicate with the server.  One way to speed up the communication between your workstation and the server is to enable Opportunistic Locking in the registry.  Timeslips automatically disables opportunistic locking when it is installed so you need to manually change this setting.

Click Start and choose Run.  Then type Regedit.   

One you’re in the Registry Editor click Edit and choose Find

In the Find what box, type OplocksDisabled and click Find Next. 

When the first key is found, double click it and change the Value Data to 0.

Press F3 to search for the next instance and repeat the process.  There should be three registry keys. 

Restart the computer for the change to take effect.

 Sometimes your Timeslips preferences file can become corrupted, especially if you have used the same preferences file over several versions.  By default the preferences file is located in C:Program FilesTimeslips on each workstation.  You can delete the preferences file (PREFS.PRF) and then Timeslips will automatically re-create a fresh, new one the next time it is opened.  You will then have to go to Setup and choose Preferences to get your settings back the way you like them.  You may want to make some notes about how your preferences are set before you delete the file. 

 Try to limit the number of other programs and processes that are running when using Timeslips.  You may want to open the Task Manager to the Performance tab to view how your CPU usage is affected by Timeslips processes.  If it is up near 100% then you probably need some more RAM. 

 If none of this makes any difference then it may be an issue with the data.   Try running Data Verification (File – Data Verification) to look for errors — or contact a Timeslips expert. 

Timeslips 2010 is now shipping.  Order from TriStar to take advantage of significant discounts.

Timeslips is a highly customizable program. The more you can tailor it to your needs, the more value you will get from using the software.  Sure, you can use it “as-is”, but most likely there are a bunch of features you don’t ever use, making your screens extra busy and causing you to click in extra places, slowing down your workflow.  Here are some tips on how to customize Timeslips so that it is “tailored” to your specific needs. 

We’ll start with the first thing you see when opening the program for the first time – the Navigator.  The current Timeslips version defaults to an “Enhanced” Navigator, which includes several reports and lists surrounding the navigation buttons.  There are four “Enhanced” Navigator templates that you can choose from: Timekeeper, Office Manager, Business Owner, and Tutorial.  You should choose the template that best suits your role, so that your buttons and reports will correspond to the functions that you typically perform.  You can customize each of the panes to a considerable extent, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.  To choose an alternate template, click the “Change Template” button in the lower left corner of the screen.  

If you have upgraded from an earlier version of Timeslips, you may want to see the “Classic” Navigator that you’re used to.  When you click the “Change Template” button you can choose “Classic”, and then choose from the list of classic navigators: Basic, Advanced, Tutorial, and Custom.  Some of the Enhanced Navigator features have been known to slow down Timeslips when it first opens, so that may be a reason to opt for the “Classic” Navigator. 

There are other tricks you can perform if you like the Enhanced Navigator, but are unhappy with the performance hit it sometimes causes. We’ll address that another time….

The “Change Template” button actually takes you into the Preferences screen for your login, so while we’re there, let’s look at some other Preferences settings.  On the Startup/Exit tab you can control what screens automatically open up when you open and close the program.  We typically recommend unchecking the majority of the boxes on this section of the Preferences screen.  If you are a solo practitioner, or the last one who usually leaves the office, it’s not a bad idea to be reminded to make a backup, but if you have the automatic backup enabled it’s unnecessary. 

The “Open Window” dropdown on this screen will allow you to choose a screen that automatically opens as soon as you start Timeslips.  For example, if you are just entering time you may want to have it open to either the slip entry screen, the slip list screen or the timesheet entry screen. 

We’ll briefly review a few of the other preferences that we typically customize when performing a new install.  On the “Interface” page in the Preferences area there is a dropdown menu that says “Save when closing or switching reports.”  We typically set this to “No”, since  many users find it confusing, or annoying, or both.

On the Slips page of the Preferences area you can choose which slip entry fields copy from the previous slip as you are performing data entry.  If you enter slips for multiple people, and have a data entry backlog dating back a few days, you’ll definitely want to check “Copy dates.”  Unless this is checked, Timeslips defaults all new slips entered to the computer’s system date, and you’ll have to change the date on every new slip entered. 

Another great way to tailor Timeslips is to disable features that you don’t need.  Click the Setup menu at the top of the screen and choose Features Enabled. We typically disable “unused” fields on the slip entry screen, including Custom Fields on slips (the so-called “Extra” field), the End Date field on slips, the Time Estimated field on slips and the Reference field (unless of course you are using references).  This will make your screen look cleaner and speed up the slip entry process. 

Unless you use the Timeslips-Outlook link, which we  find very few people do, you should disable that feature as well. This prevents Timeslips from spending extra time during startup trying to initiate a link for something that isn’t there. 

For most features listed in the Features Enabled list, there is a Usage column, which tells you how often you use a feature.  If it says Never, then it’s a safe bet that you can disable it. 

These are just a few examples of how you can tailor Timeslips to suit your needs.  If you’d like to learn more about Timeslips customization, please contact one of the experts at TriStar Data Systems.  

Timeslips 2010 begins shipping at the end of June.  Pre-order from TriStar now to take advantage of significant discounts.

One of the more under-used features of Timeslips is its powerful user-defined reporting capability.  Over the last few versions, and continuing with the 2010 edition, Sage has added a lot of functionality to this area, making it much easier for users to customize their own reports.  User-defined reports allow you to see your information exactly the way you want it, instead of the way Timeslips thinks you want to see it. 

From the Reports menu, choose Create a Report, then Create a completely new report.  You can choose to create a detailed or summary report for Slips, Clients, Accounts Receivable or Funds.  The report wizard makes it easy to add fields, sort keys, and filters.   you can also simply click Finish at that point, to go right into design mode and drag any fields you need onto the report. 

The advantage of using the designer is that you have almost total control over report formatting.  Simply drag fields from the list on the right side of the screen into the desired column.  You can easily add columns and rows, and modify the width of each column if you so desire.  Once you have a field on the report, you can get really creative by using Field Display Criteria to filter the information that appears in each column or row. 

An accounting firm client recently asked us to create a report that compares how much they billed their tax clients this year compared to last year.  To build this report, we pulled the Billed Slip Value onto the report twice and used Field Display Criteria to filter the first field for the current month and the second field for the same month a year ago.  We then sorted the report by client, to get a clear comparison between this year’s and last year’s tax billings.  We then took it a step further by sending it to Excel, where the user could easily subtract one field from the other to see the difference (you can’t do this directly in Timeslips….yet).     

Calculated fields, which was a new feature in Timeslips 2009, and has been enhanced in Timeslips 2010, gives you another powerful tool for building custom reports. 

Say you want to know your firm’s “profitability” for a specific timekeeper; that is, how much the firm actually nets after paying the employee.  You could create one calculated field that multiplies the time spent by the Timekeeper’s overhead rate.  We’ll call that field “Overhead Slip Value”.   You could then create a second calculation that subtracts the Overhead Slip Value from the Slip Value, giving you employee “profitability”. 

In Timeslips 2010 you’ll be able to use the new number-type custom fields in calculations as well, giving you even more power and flexibility. 

In larger law firms, associates frequently have billable hour targets from 1,900 to 2,200 hours per year.  You could store this “target amount” in a timekeeper custom field.  You could then create a calculation that compares the target number to the actual billable hours, giving you the timekeeper’s utilization percentage. 

These are just a few examples of how you can take your reporting to the next level.  If you’d like to learn more, please contact TriStar Data Systems to have us help you with your specific reporting needs. 

Timeslips 2010  begins shipping in July 2009.  Pre-order now to take advantage of significant discounts.  As a “Platinum Level” Certified Consultant for Sage Software, we are able to offer special pricing  on license upgrades through June 30, 2009.

With this Timeslips release, instead of just adding features, the fine folks at Sage went back and took a long, hard look at the “coding” that has been in place for close to ten years now.  They have removed lots of obsolete information and fixed over 300 legacy defects.  These are things the end user wouldn’t typically notice but will drastically improve speed, stability and performance.  

Also, on the “techie” side of things, Sage created a new billing and reporting engine that will significantly speed up the time it takes to print bills and reports. 

The more tangible improvements to Timeslips 2010 focus mostly on reporting.  The ability to print reports to Microsoft Excel was first introduced in Timeslips 2006, but that functionality has been significantly expanded with this release.  You were previously limited in which reports could be sent to Excel and the data was presented in columnar fashion.  You can now choose to send any report to excel in columns or “as displayed” so the end result looks just like the printed version.  This functionality greatly enhances the ability to analyze your Timeslips data from a variety of angles. 

Several new reports have been added.  The Clients Not Billed report displays which clients have not been billed by your firm since a specific date.  This will help to determine which clients can be made inactive or closed, which should improve speed and performance.  Sticking with the theme of closing clients, you can now choose which clients you want to purge, instead of having to purge all closed clients. 

The Client Default Rates report displays the default rate source and level for each client, as well as any Timekeeper- or Task-specific rate rules assigned to each client.  The Rate Listing reports, which were available in older versions, previously showed all twenty rates for each client, timekeeper or task.  You can now choose how many rates you want to display on the report.  The Rate Analysis report could previously only be sorted by either Client or Timekeeper, but can now be sorted by both. 

The History Bill, which has been available for quite some time, has finally been improved so that it includes a grand total at the end, not just subtotals for time and expense charges. 

Four new types of custom fields have been introduced: percentage, money, number and hours.  Each of these fields can be used in custom report calculations , a feature that was first introduced in 2009. 

The functionality of emailing bills has also been expanded, reflecting the move to a more paperless world.  You can now include data tokens, such as the client’s name, invoice number and amount, in both the subject and body of the email message that is sent with the bill. 

Timeslips 2010 takes one more step in simplifying the billing process by giving you the ability to disable Revision Stage, which has confused many people and caused many bills to be left in limbo. 

Timeslips 2010 will begin shipping at the end of June.  It is currently available for pre-order at a significant discount, either directly from TriStar or from Sage Software (our discounts are better!).

This blog is maintained by TriStar Data Systems, a consulting firm based in Blue Bell, PA that  supports time billing software  for professionals. As “Timeslips Certified Consultants” (which means we pass an exam administered by Sage Software on the Timeslips product annually), we provide training, support, and technical assistance services to about 200 Timeslips clients in the PA-NJ-DE area.

Our intent in creating this blog is to maintain an efficient vehicle for passing along tidbits, timely tips, alerts, and generally sharing  our accumulated knowledge about the Timeslips product, especially as new versions and features are announced.

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