How do you keep track of the bills you have to pay, how much they are, and when they’re due? Perhaps you use sticky notes that you take down and throw away after paying a particular bill. Maybe your monthly expenses are noted in a spreadsheet where you can mark them off the list after putting the check in the mail. Or maybe, like me, you have recurring tasks in your calendar to pay each bill on the day that it’s due.
Some developers, I’ve noticed, tend to take the relatively mundane, day-to-day tasks that might be tedious or disorganized, and try to make performing them a more pleasant experience by designing an app to help you do it. Today, I’m going to talk about Bills On Your Table – one such app by the folks at PoweryBase designed to make the process of paying your bills that much more pleasant.
Not only have I had the luxury of reviewing NotifyMe, the task management app from PoweryBase, but I first heard about Bills On Your Table from its website. From these two experiences, I can safely say that PoweryBase is a company that takes design and aesthetic very seriously. Everything from the Bills informational webpage to the iPad app and the iPhone app looks absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful leather and wood textures and carefully designed icons make using Bills a joy.
The interface is also very smartly laid out. Your categories are lined up on the left, while the meat of the content is located in the large right-hand pane. Input panels are pop out vis a vis Apple’s style, and your less often used features (like the calendar) can be hidden or shown on demand.
As much as I hate to say it, usability is where this app falls short, at least for me. As I mentioned above, the app truly is beautifully designed, and functions precisely the way that the developers intended it to. However, my problem with it is purely logistical. In my system, I use iCal to keep track of the due dates for my bills, and a financial/budgeting app to keep track of my finances associated with them.
The most frustrating part of this for me is that gorgeous interfaces often (always) make me want to use an app more. And Bills is so close to being able to fit into my workflow like the missing jigsaw puzzle piece. If the calendar integration was a bit more robust, or if the app had a fully fledged budgeting tool, it would be perfect.
Since this is a review, however, I’ll stop complaining about how much I selfishly wish the app was designed specifically with me in mind, and we’ll take a look at Bills inside a vacuum. Your ‘home’ screen, as it were, is sort of a roundup of everything you need to be aware of in the coming month. Your overdue and upcoming bills are sorted by time frame, and noted with icons as to what category they come from.
Due dates are marked on the hide-able calendar in the bottom left, which makes it easy to see at a glance when your bills are due and how that corresponds, for example, to your next payday.
To create a new bill, choose a category from the sidebar on the left and tap “Create a New Bill” in the top right corner of the screen. A pop out tab shows up, much like the ones you’ve grown accustomed to in Apple’s very own Mail and iCal apps, allowing you to set the parameters of your new bill. Here you can give the bill a title and set due dates, dollar amounts, alerts, and whether or not the task is recurring.
It’s as simple as that. Add your bills to various categories, and you’ll either be able to view them all on the home screen or rely on alerts to get them paid.
Bills On Your Table also provides somewhat of an analytics feature. If you visit the Statistics tab on the left, you’ll be able to see amounts paid/unpaid for a time frame you set. Statistics are broken down by category so you can easily see where your money is going.
Finally, I wanted to give a brief mention to the Settings tab. With a companion iPhone app (yet, unfortunately, no desktop application), Bills syncs all of your information (for free!) to a secure server, letting you manage your bills effortlessly between platforms.
The Settings menu allows you to dictate syncing behaviors and passcode lock options, as well as gives you the option to change the type of currency, which is certainly useful for our non-American friends.
All things considered, Bills is one of the most beautifully designed apps I’ve worked with in some time. That being said, I appreciate the fact that my scope of app usability might be different different from yours. For me, Bills falls into a void between task management/calendar apps and budget apps that means it will probably never get used. That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t find a perfectly legitimate use for it. And if you do, Bills would be the way to go.
It is a beautifully constructed and reliably functional app. It does exactly what it sets out to do – that much is clear. If you have room in your organization system for Bills, try it out and let us know how you use it!