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Software Technology, Inc. – Tabs3

Tabs3 provides a time and billing
system for accountants (and one
tailored to the legal profession)
that supports multiple billing methods,
including time-based, flat rate,
consolidated and split. It also
provides firm analysis tools for
measuring productivity and profitability.
As well, the vendor produces modules
for GL, AP and trust accounting
that can be integrated into the
Tabs3 system. A single-user license
of the base Tabs3 program costs
$295 to track time for up to two
staff members; $495 for up to five
staff. Multi-user licenses are available
starting at $995 and support 10
concurrent users.

EASE OF USE – 4.5 Stars
Tabs3 opens to a dual window interface,
with a Task Folders window over
the master window. The Task Folders
window provides tabbed access to
various program features, with functions
grouped onto the tabs by activity
type. This centralized task starting
point includes tabs for AR, Reports,
Client functions, Statement Preparation,
and other tasks. Icons on each tabbed
window give users options for specific
tasks. Clients can be easily accessed
from most of these screens, which
opens into the tabbed Client Information
screen. The Client Information screen
includes a pull-down client selection
list that allows searching and filtering.
Most screens and menus, including
the Task Folders window, can be
customized using the System Configuration
utility, and users can add up to
60 custom fields in client files.
Other options include setting of
standard aging periods and interest,
reporting criteria and creation
of invoice templates. The program
includes user- and client-level
security protocols and can also
be set to suppress particular data
fields from users who need only
limited access to parts of client

Time data entry can be entered though
the Fee icon on the Task Folders
screen, which brings up the Fee
window for the selected client.
This window allows fairly rapid
entry, while providing direct access
to entering hours worked, billable
time, rate, work code/reference
and description. The application
also includes a stopwatch-like timer
feature that can run multiple timers
simultaneously, and automatically
transfers the time to the timesheet.
Entry of expenses is performed on
a similar screen through the Cost
function. Throughout the system,
right-click menus provide options
for specific fields and shortcuts
to other functions. In general,
Tabs3 provides simplified access
to all of its functions, whether
data entry or invoice preparation.

The number of timekeepers supported
by Tabs3 depends on the user license
purchased, but all versions allow
up to six hourly rates per timekeeper,
and expense rates can be tailored
to each client. In addition, a key
rate feature of Tabs3 is that it
also allows a rate table per project,
providing the firm with the option
to create a specific rate for each
timekeeper for each project if needed.
Up to five aging periods are supported.
The built-in expensing utility helps
track and bill items such as phone
calls, copies, faxes and postal
expenses, while additional features
provide conflict checking, client
notes, and merging of billable and
non-billable time. The system simplifies
reviewing of unbilled time and expenses
via a WIP report, and provides drill-down
access to transactions from most
reports. Tabs3 can be used to manage
retainers and trusts, and provides
ample reporting for tracking these

A basic version of PracticeMaster,
the vendor’s practice management
system, is now included with Tabs3,
providing a calendaring and contact
management utility that also enables
more detailed note taking, document
tracking and additional client reports.
It also integrates with e-mail applications.
Tabs3 offers support for PDAs and
other wireless devices via an optional
synch module.

The program’s reporting capabilities
have been enhanced in this latest
version, and now provide additional
customization capabilities, including
the ability to use varying fonts
and font styles as well as greater
control over layouts. Standard pre-built
reports include various client,
staff, activity, AR, audit and productivity
reports, in addition to customizable
invoices. All reports and invoices
can be previewed prior to printing,
and previewed invoices offer the
ability to drill down to transaction
data. Invoices can be directly e-mailed,
printed or saved through Tabs3,
and can even be saved in HTML or
*.PDF formats.

Tabs3 offers bi-directional synchronization
of data with PDAs, and integrates directly with QuickBooks or the vendor’s Tabs3 financial applications. The system can also export to Excel, and the vendor offers conversions for Timeslips users.

SUPPORT/HELP – 4.5 Stars
Tabs3 has an advanced Help utility that includes field-specific right-click menus that offer shortcuts to tasks and guidance, and also provides links to an online knowledgebase, documentation library, newsletter and FAQs section. In addition to the built-in tutorial, the company offers a variety of training options. Support is offered in plans starting at $105, which includes software updates.

Tabs3 is one of the most widely used timekeeping and billing programs for professional services firms. It offers excellent customization options throughout the program, including its reporting tools. The system is fairly easy to use and grow accustomed to, and with PracticeMaster included in the already reasonable price, it is a good option for small and mid-sized practices.

2004 OVERALL RATING: 4 Stars

The programs reviewed here all provide
basic time management functions,
allow for tracking of expenses,
and offer invoicing and a variety
of managerial reporting. They differ
in their approaches to these functions
and some offer additional tools
such as contact management, scheduling
applications and communications
tools. After consulting with professional
accountants and vendors, we scored
the software in this review in each
of the following areas:

Ease of Use ‘ The most challenging part of implementing a time and billing

regimen is ensuring that staff members use the system
properly, whether by operating in-progress
timers or entering time after-the-fact.
If the system isn’t easy to
use, with intuitive navigation,
staff won’t be as reliable
in their use of the program, and
time or expenses may get lost.

Management Features ‘ This section identifies how the program handles time

and flat-rate billing, the number of clients and timekeepers supported, multi-currency

capabilities, calendaring tools, contact management functions and whether the program allows

remote entry of time, client, and expense data by PDA or web-based interface.

Billing & Reporting Features ‘ The billing capabilities of these programs

obviously affect their overall value to a
firm. This section looks at AR functions,
as well as aging, rates and code
structures, split/partial/interim
billing, markups on expenses and
invoice options. As well, the reporting
functions of the programs are examined,
specifically with regard to standard
reports, productivity analysis reports,
customization options and final

Integration ‘ This section looks at the ability of a program to share data

with GL, payroll or other accounting programs, as well as with office productivity

applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel.

Support/Help ‘ Here we assess a program’s built-in help utilities, online
support options, availability of
training and whether support options
are included or available for an
added cost.

Relative Value ‘ This section provides the reviewer’s subjective opinion of

what the user gets for the price. There is some variance in the pricing of the programs in

this review, but it is not very wide. Value, of course, is not exclusively related to cost.

However, sometimes the best deal is not the cheapest, and sometimes the most expensive

option does not provide the best function.