MiniBooks for FreshBooks: Invoice Clients From Your iPhone or iPad

You may have seen MiniBooks ads here on AppStorm and have wondered what the company is all about. Though we aren’t obligated review the apps of our sponsors, this one is good enough that we wanted to share it with you.

MiniBooks is an iOS compatible app created by Groovy Squared. In this article, we’ll review MiniBooks, highlight the pros and cons of the app and discuss how this 3rd party FreshBooks add-on can unchain your small or medium business from your desk.

MiniBooks Extends FreshBooks Online Invoicing

Mike McDermott, the CEO of FreshBooks, describes his service as an online platform that was founded with the simple goal of using an online application rather than Excel spreadsheets or the Pages app to create and deliver invoices. Just about every consultant or freelancer is familiar with juggling handmade invoices and it is surprising how many small and medium business benefit from FreshBooks’ ability to solve their basic accounting problems.

Utilizing the FreshBooks API, MiniBooks fills that void and provides an elegant solution to a longstanding problem. By using MiniBooks in combination with FreshBooks, users are free to create invoices, review payments and even send snail mail paper invoices. One of the most valuable aspects of using MiniBooks with FreshBooks is that users have access to their full rolodex of customer contact information from within the MiniBooks app.

MiniBooks Light vs. MiniBooks

Two versions of MiniBooks exist. A free version and a paid version. Similar to FreshBooks’ own payment model, the difference between the free and paid versions come down to how many clients you have. Three or more clients require a full, $14.99 purchase while if you only work with 3 clients, the full app is completely free.

Since the majority of FreshBooks users have more than 3 clients in their database, having the option to try an unbranded, full version of MiniBooks with no upfront payment is a good feature.

You can download both the free and paid versions of MiniBooks directly from the App Store or on the product website: http://www.FreshBooks.com/MiniBooks/

The Major Features of MiniBooks

Reviewing the app and having an in-depth knowledge of FreshBooks, it appears as if Groovy Squared identified every major feature in the FreshBooks platform and integrated these features into the MiniBooks iOS app. Together, these features and functions provide an end-to-end solution for creating quotes and invoices on the road.

Create and Send Invoices

For many people, the ability to create and send professional invoices is what initially draws them into accounting packages such as FreshBooks and in turn, the MiniBooks iOS app for FreshBooks. After inputting basic customer contact information, small, medium and freelance businesses can create professional invoices to send to their customers via e-mail, IM, hand delivered print or even postal snail mail. MiniBooks extends this functionality, turning FreshBooks completely mobile on your iOS device.

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Add a new invoice and then easily add new items to that invoice.

Record Payments

Perhaps the most important element of accounting in general is the ability to accurately record payments. It’s easy to see a client in person, put a cheque in your pocket and forget it’s there until the end of the month when it’s time to close the books. With MiniBooks, client payments can be received and accounted for immediately.

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Recording a new payment involves selecting the invoice and then recording the payment method.

Create Estimates

While the days of the door-to-door vacuum salesperson are gone, MiniBooks gives users the ability to generate estimates anywhere. Long the dream of on-location support personnel, luncheon business negotiators and golf course deal closers, MiniBooks provides full access to the list of products and services available with the ability to generate e-mail, print or snail-mail delivered estimates. In MiniBooks, creating an estimate is almost identical to creating an invoice.

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Issuing a new estimate is similar to creating an invoice in MiniBooks.

Track Time

This is the hidden gem of both MiniBooks and FreshBooks itself. With integrated time tracking it is very easy to track and invoice time. Much like a client-centric punch clock, it becomes very easy to account for the exact dates, times and details of labor. This feature also works well for clients who have the option to log in to their own private FreshBooks portal to view, in real time, how much time has been accrued and what the cost of that time will be.

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Multiple timers can be running at the same time for each of your projects and tasks.

Reliable Data Storage and Synchronization

Businesses should be concerned with things such as security, backups and procedural data replication errors. Together, FreshBooks and MiniBooks address these issues head-on. Accounting data is automatically backed up in the cloud of FreshBooks’ secure infrastructure and since both the FreshBooks web-based software and the MiniBooks iOS software access the same data store, synchronization is occurs seamlessly.

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Syncing data happens automatically with an outbox showing what is currently being transferred to FreshBooks.

Full Client Information

In order to properly address invoices in FreshBooks, it is important to have accurate, up-to-date information in the FreshBooks database. For many freelancers and small businesses, this contact database quickly becomes their go-to for phone numbers, contact names, addresses, etc. With MiniBooks, users have full access to this information on their iOS device.

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Client information is easy to access and can be updated from within the MiniBooks app.

Drawbacks and Issues

MiniBooks is an almost perfect extension of FreshBooks. Any developer worth his or her salt will tell you, there are always improvements that could be made. The points below highlight the spots where MiniBooks and in some cases, the FreshBooks API itself could improve.

  • MiniBooks was not developed by FreshBooks. As a result, MiniBooks retrieves and saves data using the public FreshBooks API. This means that MiniBooks is at the mercy of the complexities and shortcomings of the API.
  • Setting up MiniBooks requires that the user input their unique FreshBooks Authentication Token. This token identifies the MiniBooks user and allows the software to communicate with the API. If MiniBooks was fully ingrained in FreshBooks, a unique download link could appear within the FreshBooks online software itself so that this itchy setup step could be avoided.
  • FreshBooks allows companies to give employees Staff Member privileges to create invoices but not access all of the company data. The FreshBooks API is not provisioned for this feature and as a result, MiniBooks users who are employees of a medium sized business using FreshBooks can not use the app.
  • Taxes present perhaps the most significant drawback of the MiniBooks app. The FreshBooks API does not allow taxes to be synced and as a result, taxes that are input in the MiniBooks app must also be manually input in FreshBooks online.
  • Groovy Squared reports in their FAQ that each of these issues lies entirely in the FreshBooks API and not in their software. While these 3 issues are significant, they do not impede the day-to-day use of the MiniBooks app for the majority of users.
  • Beyond the limitations of the FreshBooks API, MiniBooks allows users to access the full contact information of the clients they have input into FreshBooks. MiniBooks does not utilize the iOS core data contact API to sync contacts between the iOS contact book and to the FreshBooks API. This isn’t a limitation or a problem, but full syncing between the iOS contact book with MiniBooks would be a nice feature to have.
  • Similar to time tracking and contact management, FreshBooks gives users the ability to record expenses and tie those expenses to individual clients. It would be useful to utilize the iPhone camera to attach photos of those receipts to the Notes section of the FreshBooks list of expenses. Alternatively, providing an easy way to browse to an online image and include it would be a welcome feature.

Summary

MiniBooks leverages the power of the popular web-based invoicing application, FreshBooks. By integrating familiar iOS user interface elements into the processes FreshBooks uses, MiniBooks successfully translates the web based service onto the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

MiniBooks is easy to use alongside FreshBooks to provide a complete desktop and mobile invoicing and client management solution. Compared to inadequate solutions such as Excel invoice templates or expensive options such as QuickBooks Online, the MiniBooks and FreshBooks combo provides a solid one-two knockout punch for small and medium business invoicing.


Summary

MiniBooks provides full use of the FreshBooks invoicing platform on iOS devices. It is reliable, easy to use and feature rich. With it you can create quotes and invoices in real-time while having access to complete customer details including past invoices and customer records. Limitations in the FreshBooks API and in full iOS contact syncing are all that keep this app from being perfect.

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