Help me keep track of the time I spend writing
May 2, 2007 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Is there a Mac application that can help me keep track of hours, dates, and time I spend writing?

I'm facing a giant writing project in the next six months or so and I want to keep track of how many hours I'm working and when. So, at the end of it all, I want to be able to look at a bunch of data and see that I worked for 35 hours on chapter 1, mostly between 11 pm and 2 am, or that the entire project took me 700 hours of writing.

Ideally it would be some kind of small widget where you just press "start" and "stop" every time you work.

I've checked out a few web apps, like toggl (too simple), harvest (not free), and tick (not enough detail)--are there others that do what I want them to, or am I missing features on the ones above that already do what I want them to?

Desired qualities:

1. Free (ideally)
2. Mac compatible
3. Has a widget interface of some kind (not essential)
4. Keeps track of the amount of time AND the time of day and dates
5. Data is downloadable into csv format
6. Web app is OK but must be able to record time while I'm not connected to the internet (and then upload later).

Does such a thing exist?
posted by agent99 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What about the spreadsheet component of NeoOffice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:54 PM on May 2, 2007

I'm not really a Mac person (my husband is), so my initial response was to suggest the "Journal" function in MS Office. (Anyone checking in here who wants a solution in Windows should consider it.)

That said, I think what you want is a project time-tracking program, like what consultants and lawyers use. I did a quick search on Apple's widget board, and it looks like Shockoe might be a promising widget.
If you get into using BaseCamp, then Sundial might be helpful.
Again, this is just based on a preliminary search you've probably already done. There's probably some googleable freeware out there, there are some pretty inexpensive options, too.

Another possibility is that you already have this built in to your word processing software. For instance, in MS Word, you can go to the document's Properties, and the Statistics tab keeps track of your total editing time. I've never really monitored this, so I don't know how accurate it is, but it's worth looking into. You'll have to figure out how it works - for instance, you may have to close the document whenever you take a break so it doesn't erroneously log those minutes.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:17 PM on May 2, 2007

Hell yes : Meridian.

See also: Minuteur.
posted by four panels at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2007

On the Job exports to CSV.
posted by four panels at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2007

Check out I Use This. It is a great site that has a ton of Mac free/share/donationware. You can search by tags.
posted by sneakin at 1:38 PM on May 2, 2007

Thanks to sneakin's page, I was able to find the app I was thinking of. Used to be called Onlife, now it's called Slife. I don't use it, but it always looked like the most intuitive way to track these things to me.
posted by ontic at 1:57 PM on May 2, 2007

posted by Industrial PhD at 2:27 PM on May 2, 2007

Sorry to leech onto this post, but do any of these programs work for PC? Or do you know of similar programs that do?
posted by kensanway at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2007

Not free, but worth the $50: iBiz.

It works for multiple clients, multiple projects, so it may be more than you need, but I think there is a free demo.
posted by The Deej at 3:26 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I use MyTime which is definitely a winner as far as I'm concerned. $24, but there should be a free trial at least.
posted by indienial at 1:31 AM on May 3, 2007

I'd like to second Slife, this should give you the information you want, in a nice overview that can be parsed to your heart's desire.

Here's a day in the (s)life of Mathowie.
posted by lodev at 3:44 AM on May 3, 2007

I've had some nice success on exactly this with The Daily Grind. The problem with widgets, I've found, is that I forget to stop them when I'm done. The whole not-in-your-face thing goes counter to my tendencies (that is, to forget anything that's no in my face).

I used slife for a while, but gave it up when it became too depressing. And, since I do most of my writing in Mellel, it didn't track my writing anyway. I thought about writing in another app and then moving it over to Mellel before I realized that I was letting the gnat boss around the moose. Slife went; Mellel stayed.

This week I've been using Minuteur which is still my favorite timer. It fits the in-my-face requirement, but it isn't nearly as simple as Daily Grind for switching between project timers.

Neither Daily Grind nor Minuteur will give you times-of-day, but you'll get quantities. Neither one perfectly fits your requirements, but either one will admirably perform the basics.
posted by terceiro at 5:29 PM on May 3, 2007

I'll third Slife, as long as you're writing in Microsoft Word or another program supported by Slife. The only thing it may not do is automatically list what chapter you're working on (but you could add that to your Activities list or Tags). The great thing about Slife is all you gotta do is turn it on and it automatically tracks what you're doing in the software it supports- so you can see how many e-mail breaks you took, etc. No need to start and stop a timer.

But if you don't use Word, then maybe OfficeTime ( It's more for tracking hours for billing, but one nice feature I'd think you'd like is that it tracks when your computer is idle, and then asks if you want to subtract those minutes or keep them (in case you forget to click stop or something). I use it for freelancing and I like its balance between ease of use and nice graphs and stuff to analyze your time. But it's $40... there's probably similar timing software for free, but OfficeTime is the best I've used so far... :)
posted by thejrae at 9:04 PM on May 3, 2007

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