If your small business still tracks employee time and attendance with spreadsheets or punch clocks, you’re using an inefficient system. You should deploy a powerful system that won’t take a big bite out of your budget. TimeTrex Standard might be the perfect solution.

TimeTrex Standard is a free, open source, web-based tool that can handle scheduling, payroll, attendance, and job cost. The tool can run on Linux, Windows, and OS X. The installation is pretty straight-forward and, if done correctly, won’t require you to fire up a database console. In this introduction, I walk through the installation process; in future pieces, I’ll cover the finer points of using the tool.


Automated installer

  • Windows 2000/XP/Vista or newer, Linux, Mac OS X (Intel)
  • 100 MB of hard disk space available

Manual installer

  • Windows 2000/XP or Linux
  • IIS or Apache web servers
  • PHP v5.2 or greater with PEAR installed and SAFEMODE disabled
  • MySQL v4.1.3+ or PostgreSQL v8.0+

TimeTrex Standard requires PHP v5.0 or greater because it uses many object-orientated (OO) programming features that are only available in PHP v5+.

The automated installer is the best way to go. However, even with the automated installation, there are two phases: GUI and the Web-based tool. I look at both of these phases in detail below. My demo is on a Ubuntu 11.04 machine running LAMP and PostgreSQL. With the automated installer, MySQL is not supported, which is fine, because the automated installer takes care of database creation for you. Easy peasy.

Phase one: GUI

Once you meet the minimum requirements for TimeTrex Standard, the first step is to download the automated install file from SourceForge. When you have the install file, place it in your home directory (~/) and give the file executable permissions with the command chmod u+x TimeTrex_Standard_Edition_XXX-linux-installer.bin (where XXX is the release number).

To start the installer, issue the command ./TimeTrex_Standard_Edition_XXX-linux-installer.bin (where XXX is the release number). Notice you are not running this command with sudo or as the root user; this is intentional. You will also be installing TimeTrex Standard in the user’s home directory for security reasons (don’t worry, Apache will be configured to point to this directory automatically upon completion of the installation). You can also set this up in another directory — just make sure the user has access to that directory. For simplicity sake, install it in the user’s home directory (~/).

After you issue the command, you will walk through a number of GUI windows. The first one is the welcome window; click the Forward button to move to the license agreement. Accept the EULA and then click the Forward button. The next window is where you tell the TimeTrex Standard installer where to install the application (Figure A) and then click the Forward button.
Figure A

I installed TimeTrex in my home directory (~/).

The next window wants you to choose between Express install and Advanced install. Select Advanced because it allows you to select which components to install. If you already have a particular piece installed, you can uncheck that piece, and then click the Forward button (Figure B).
Figure B

On my Linux installation, I won’t need the Windows Shortcuts.

This action will run the GUI installer and finish with a window instructing you how to get to the web-based installer to complete the process (Figure C). Do not uncheck the box in this window — click the Finish button, and the installer will launch your default web browser into the web-based installation tool.
Figure C

Complete the TimeTrex On-Site Setup Wizard.

Phase two: Web-based installation

When your browser opens, the page will let you know if your system meets all the requirements to complete the install (Figure D).
Figure D

The System Check Acceptance screen

If you get a warning or a Fail, you have to resolve the issue with your system and then refresh the web-based installed page. If everything tests OK, click the Next button (which you don’t see in Figure D) to move to the Database Configuration page (Figure E).
Figure E

The values you see were populated by the installer.

If you are using TimeTrex Standard Edition with PosgreSQL, the default values should work. If your database server is on another machine, you will need to change the values. Make sure to click the Test Connection button before clicking the Next button. After you click the Next button, this step might take quite some time because there is a lot of data to be built into the database. When this step is complete, you will be on the System Settings page (Figure F), where you need to fill out information for the Home, Log, Storage, and Cache directories. You can change the URL information to a more user-friendly name, but I recommend leaving the defaults.
Figure F

The defaults should work fine.

Every piece of information is required on the Company Information page (Figure G).
Figure G

You must enter information in all the fields on this page.

When you complete the Company Information page, click the Next button to move to the Administrator User setup page (Figure H), where you’re expected to enter User Name, Password, First Name, Last Name, and Email. Fill in that necessary information and click the Next button.
Figure H

Make sure you remember these credentials — you’ll need them to log on to your TimeTrex server.

The Maintenance Jobs screen (Figure I) provides critical information for the installation: the crontab entry necessary for the system to run maintenance. If you do not add this crontab entry, the system will not run maintenance jobs and will not be up to date. Note: This only applies if you are installing TimeTrex Standard on Linux.
Figure I

Copy and paste that line and get ready to add it to crontab.

To add this line to crontab, follow these steps:

  1. As a standard user, issue the command crontab -e.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of your crontab file and copy the line.
  3. Save the file and close crontab.

The installation is complete. Now it’s just a matter of logging in to your TimeTrex Standard system (http://localhost:8085/interface/, where localhost is the server’s address) with your admin credentials and setting up your company.

Congratulations! You’ve just installed a powerful time-tracking system. If you’re interested, you can even expand TimeTrex Standard with various powerful and useful modules.