Sage Timeslips vs Tabs3 Billing – Client Naming Conventions


Sage Timeslips vs Tabs3 Billing Naming Conventions

Hi, my name is Jay Aaronson and in this training we’re going to cover what you need to consider when setting up your clients, projects, matters, engagements, whatever you call them in your time and billing application. In particular, we’re going to look at the naming conventions and the differences between how they are handled in Sage Timeslips and Tabs3 Billing. Both of these applications have been around for decades. They’re really entrenched in the industry and they are very feature-rich. A lot of firms out there have been using both of these applications, and if you are considering choosing between them, I’m going to try and highlight, in this particular training, a difference in how they handle the naming conventions in the setup process.

Before we get started I just want to let you know that here is my email address and website. If you have any questions regarding anything we cover, or any questions you have about Sage Timeslips and Tabs3, feel free to call me.

Application Functionality

Okay, so when you’re looking at these two applications you have to consider their different functionality. How does Timeslips handle, or any time and billing application handle, the naming conventions, the set up, and how is it different from Tabs? And which one of these applications will best suit my needs? So, you have to look at the applications themselves, what their functionality is, and whether or not that will meet your requirements.

Some of the other things you have to look at are third-party integrations. Okay, so if you’re an insurance defense firm and you have to bill electronically, what are the insurance company’s requirements for naming their cases, matters?  You have to take that into consideration when you’re setting up your database.


Let me say something off the top as an overriding concern or consideration and planning issue. I think what’s important…we’re going to talk about a lot of differences between these applications. The differences in how they might handle one feature, functionality different than the other. And no matter which application, no matter how you do this, what’s important to do is, and to keep in mind is, to be consistent, to have a consistent convention throughout your application. You don’t want to have some names set up this way, some set up that way, because it makes it harder to process. It makes it harder for the staff to actually enter and search and report on the data and to manage that data. So, as an overriding consideration and thing to keep in mind, you really should try and find a process that’s consistent and a convention that’s consistent.

Alright so, we have to consider the requirements of any outside third parties for electronic billing. We also have cost recovery systems. Some of my clients have photocopy machines that track account codes to then bill back for photocopying.  That data feeds electronically back into your time and billing application. So those are some considerations, how do they handle, how do they manage, how do they track and need the naming conventions in their system. Or the number system, or whatever they’re using.

Another thing we need to look at is, when we’re entering time, we want to make it as easy as possible on the staff and anybody who’s actually entering their time…attorneys or whatever timekeepers. As well as being able to search. How can we make it easy to search and to be able to find quickly what I need to find, so that I can bill my time and expenses. People hate to enter their time and it’s hard enough to get them to do it. You want to make it as easy as possible and that’s coming back to what I said earlier was to make sure that you make it as consistent as possible.

So those are some concerns and considerations, as well as your reporting. How do you want to organize, report on, and get data out of the system? And manage it so that you can plan properly, you can process properly, you can manage the practice efficiently.

I skipped over Accounts Receivable and Billing because that’s a different consideration. And in Timeslips depending on how you set up your naming convention you have an option to bill and to track your accounts receivable differently, depending on how you do it. So there are two options in Timeslips. And in Tabs there’s not really two options. Every client, matter is actually billed separately. And the AR is handled separately. But, you can actually bill the separate matters together in one bill. So, we’ll look at a little of that. The billing part, AR, the reporting is a little bit outside of the scope of this training. But, we will look at the naming conventions and I’ll talk about, especially in Timeslips, how that affects AR and billing.

Sage Timeslips and Tabs3 Billing – Application Specific Functionality

Alright, so let’s look at Tabs and then Timeslips. In Tabs you have the Client ID which is limited to 12 characters. And there’s three different ways you can establish or set up or and have a convention for that client id. It can be numeric, and each of these can have a decimal place. So, if you…we’ll look at the actual application in a second but, you can have a number, a decimal place and then numbers that follow all adding up to 12 including the decimal place. You can do that in a mixed fashion where you have alphanumeric characters before the decimal place and then numbers after the decimal place. And then the Alpha, they call it alpha, but you can have alphanumeric characters before and after, so that is something you have to think about and consider when you setting up Tabs.

In Tabs you also have a name search field, which is limited to 16 characters. A client name field, which is limited to 50 characters. And a work description which is limited to 50 characters. Let’s go into Tabs and I’ll show you how that all plays out. Alright, so when you’re actually setting up Tabs in your customization, this is where you decide which naming key type you want to use. Whether you want to use mixed… let’s go into Maintenance…I have to closes this first…and look at the key types here.

So this is if we were going to change them.  You can have the numeric which is what this was set up originally as. And I just changed it a little while ago to mixed, just to put a couple of examples in here for you. You see that you have numeric before the decimal place and numeric after. You have alpha characters before and numeric after. You can actually have alphanumeric before and numeric after in this mixed case and then the alpha case where you have alpha characters before and after and then you can decide on which spot you want to put your decimal place.

So that’s the key types. Alright, so when we are now in Tabs and we’re looking for that client list right, where looking at…here’s our client number ID, name search, client name, and work description. So when you are entering a fee in Tabs…let’s go back over here for second…when you’re entering a fee you can type in your client name and it’ll give you the name here and you can then find, so if you find the ID, so you could type in their anything, if you know the name search, the client name, the work description, if you type it in their you can get…this is a client ID, if you wanted a, and you knew 100 would bring you to the first 100 in the list and then you could pick it from here. If you actually knew the…was 100.00, then you would just go to the next one. So, I know there is an 850.00, it just goes to the next one, if you know that’s what it is. If you don’t know exactly what it is, you can type in here, I know there’s a William, okay William John, and so if I look at that than I know okay 101 is the number and I click okay 101 comes up.

This is…now what if you don’t know the number? So, you can click this drop-down, and if you don’t know a name, the exact name, it’s not coming up for you, or whatever. You can open this lookup screen and you can search by client ID, you can usually…(this is a short list, typically this list will be hundreds or thousands of clients deep) so if you know that it’s 850 something so you can search on the clients ID column. But, if you don’t know the ID or what number, what range, and you know that it’s…I know a name search has something to do with White…it’ll bring up all that Kelly Whites.   If I don’t, I can also look in the client name and look at…you know…Klein…and it will bring me to the first Klein, or William, and it will you and bring me to William or if I’m in the work description I’m not sure exactly what the exact description is, but I know it has real estate so, then it’ll bring up the real estate and every one with real estate, If I do “will”, it won’t bring up anything because it’s not at the beginning. It has to start with, you to get the start of the description not in the middle. Now if you don’t know the start and you know it’s “will” something in the description, you can go to the filter and you can type in “will” and bring up the will and the William.

So, those are your options on how to search based on the naming conventions you set up in Tabs. Now if you notice here I set up these to show you that there are differences in the length and so this you can do…this is 12 characters here, 12 here, I also did Peters with a mixed 255.01. And Peterson which is straight alpha with the numeric after.   But, the problem with this client ID field is that it’s only 12 characters. So you have to use the other fields to help you manage the process. Tabs has been around so long and it used to be that the numeric field, the number ID field, the numbers in general ledgers and all those kinds of its other systems comes from the old DOS days when things were numbered and so they ported that over into this system in and hadn’t change this and used these other fields to supplement. Whereas in Timeslips, we can look at that now, they have alphanumeric characters…and let’s go back into Timeslips and I’ll show you that…okay so that in Timeslips there’s the nickname 1 and nickname 2 and both can be up to 30 characters and you can have alpha, numeric, any combination thereof. It’s here important to make sure that again the naming conventions are consistent throughout the system.

So, in Timeslips you have the nickname 1, nickname 2 and you could in nickname 1 use a naming convention with your client project or client matter or engagement in the nickname one. Timeslips calls that a parent child or a master client project relationship. so that there are keys that are driven off of that functionality. So, when you have a client name and then a separator and then project all in nickname 1, there are triggers that help you manage the process, set up new projects for a client easily. Attributes from the master can be inherited by the child, if you will, on set up. And so once you’ve designed system, set it up, people don’t have to think as much, they don’t have to remember as many switches to turn on turn off, attributes to add to subtract, whatever…you can use that to help manage the process. So it makes it easy for the staff and they don’t forget things that they need to do.

So, in that nickname 1, each of the nickname 1’s are going to get billed separately in Timeslips. Just like that each client ID in Tabs will get a separate bill, although you can process them together and send them as a group, Same thing with Timeslips, you can process client project bills in a group and but the accounts receivable are all separate. Now in Timeslips you also have a client reference. So, a client project or a client without the project can have a reference and I’ll show you in the slips where those references come in, but you can identify on a bill each reference you can use them as matters separately but have the accounts receivable all be in one. Some of my clients…their clients…have that as a requirement.   So that’s an option that you have in Timeslips.

Let’s go into Timeslips and let’s look at how that’s done. Ok, in Timeslips, let’s go to the the names here. So this is the client nickname 1 and you can have up to 30 characters as well as client nickname 2, you can have up to 30 characters. You can also auto-format these, which we’re not going to get into but, so that you can standardize if you want to some of the pieces of the naming. A lot of my clients might do this in nickname 2 where you have a number and the number would be the year and the next client number. So the year dash, the next client number and you could set this up to automate, have the next number automatically appear and with the year change. But, anyways we’re not going to get into that or dwell on that.

So now, I mentioned the client master functionality. So, when you name the client name as a master you identified as a master with the right conventions, the child, the new client can take the contact, in reference to, the rates, the custom fields, the billing arrangements and all these other attributes directly from the master, or from a template. And that way it makes it easy and all these features and functions are set up automatically as soon as you basically put in the name. That makes it easy on the staff. Here is our client list and in this case we have our client nickname 1 and nickname 2. We also the full name, address and so forth. This is where we would toggle on or toggle off whether this is a master client or not.

Now, with that, let’s go to North, because that’s an actual master. The master client is North. There is a indicator saying that all of the matters, projects, engagements would be after the master name. So here is the master, its indicator as to where the project one name would start. So if I was going to add a new client and I did North.project3 and then saved it, all the North attributes come in. There is no In Reference To, there is no rates, there is nothing set up for these. But all this copied from, there is nothing special about it, but all that copied from the master, which is North project1.

Okay, so, and then, if we were to create a slip in Timeslips, you have a timekeeper, whoever, D. Brickley, and then we pick North we get to type directly, this is why I like this…this is nice…you can type directly in this field and you can drop it down and pick something else. Tabs opens up into this other field, other box, other dialogue, which is another step. But, it has its advantages and disadvantages. So, this is where you pick that and here is that reference field. Let’s go to one that I know has a reference. I think ABC actually has a reference, which are these different projects, matters, engagements. So you can actually pick one of these for each slip as opposed to picking the client project ones here. These client projects can actually have references as well to make it step, a level deeper. But, in this case this one doesn’t have a reference.

So, again as you bill ABC all of these references are going to be on the same bill. Well they could be billed separately but, they will be on the same Accounts Receivable. When you’re looking at collection you won’t be able to identify which of these projects the actual payment applies to if you set it up this way. Whereas if each one of these individually, Atlantic, Eastern, North project1, North project2, they’ll each have their own separate accounts receivable and when a payment comes in it should be easier to apply it to those specific engagements.

So those are some of the differences in how Timeslips and Tabs3 Billing handle the naming conventions. Oh and actually in Timeslips you can actually sort on these lists also and you could type in here and go to Pierce. Or look in here and go to number one. You can sort in this one and go to Bishop. So, you could sort, you could type, you can get to a client in the client list as well as when you’re actually entering a slip, so if I know the client name is Pierce, I can type a “P” and it will bring me to the first “P”. And I can type Pierce and it will bring me to Pierce. Well if I don’t know the actual client name I could switch this here and go to the nickname 2, and type in the number. I can type in the 01 dash and get to the first 01, and so forth. So, you could type and get to easily in these lists here. Which in Tabs is a little different. You get to the other dialogue box and then you start with your filtering and searching.


Alright, that’s what I want to cover in this training about the differences between Sage Timeslips and Tabs3 Billing and the naming conventions and how you would set them up in each.   What their particular attributes are and how you might use them. If you have any questions as to how either one of these might apply to your firm, if you’re evaluating Sage Timeslips or Tabs3 Billing software and have some questions. If you want me to clarify anything that we’ve talked about in this training. Hopefully, we will, and are expecting to have additional training on different features in Tabs3 and Timeslips and the difference between them, to help you decide on which application is right for you.

So, anytime you have a question, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Jay Aaronson, DataLynk Solutions…and have a great rest of the day. Thanks. Take care.