Looking for worlds simplest time tracker windows app
July 23, 2007 7:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a simple Windows system tray timer that nags every hour and asks me what I'm doing which is then recorded and viewed at end of week to assist in time tracking

Started a new job that requires timesheeting and I'm struggling to keep myself disciplined in to doing the timesheets, especially since the work is pretty varied etc.

Ideally I'm looking for an app that sits in the system tray (Windows XP) and just runs. Every hour it pops up says "What have you been doing"? You enter the info in and at the end of the week it gives you a wee report so I can do my timesheet.

No browser windows, no entering clients, no putting in rates - nothing. Just that.

Googling drowns me in crappy alarm apps which isn't helping me sort the wheat from the chaff.
posted by dasfreak to Work & Money (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
A combination of this script with a scheduling program like this should do the trick.
posted by ajr at 7:30 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry I couldn't look up some more information for you but take a look over at Lifehacker where they have lots of productivity tips etc... I seem to remember them covering something like this a little while ago but the site is a great resource for little tips and tweaks like these :)

I believe they cover a fair amount of "How to cut down your websurfing when you're really busy and should be working" which perhaps I should read...
posted by puddpunk at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2007


I had a similar problem, and while I don't know of anything that does what you ask, you might want to consider looking at TimeSprite. Once every minute, it logs the title of the active window. You can also very easily up groupings that it uses to automatically categorize windows. You just let it run, and at the end of the day (or end of the week), you can see what you've been working on. It's been a godsend for me. Depending on how your workflow works, it may or may not work for you.
posted by Emanuel at 7:59 PM on July 23, 2007


Save the following as nagme.cmd:

set logfile="%USERPROFILE%\My Documents\What  have you been doing.txt"
echo %DATE% %TIME% >>%logfile%
notepad %logfile%

Now, visit Control Panel->Scheduled Tasks, and add a scheduled task that runs nagme.cmd every hour. Job done.
posted by flabdablet at 9:53 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ah, man, I knew someone would try to write a batch file. Come on, we were supposed to have stopped doing that in the early nineties.

Save this to a file with the extension .vbs:

Const FileName = "C:\Activity.txt"
Const ForReading = 1, ForWriting = 2, ForAppending = 8

Task = InputBox("What are you doing right now?!")

Set FSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")

If FSO.FileExists(FileName) Then
  Set File = FSO.GetFile(FileName)
  Set Output = File.OpenAsTextStream(ForAppending)
Else
  Set Output = FSO.CreateTextFile(FileName)
End If

Output.WriteLine(Task)
Output.Close

posted by zixyer at 2:55 AM on July 24, 2007


Aha, wow, I should have read all the comments before posting. ajr's script does the exact thing that mine does. Whoops.
posted by zixyer at 2:58 AM on July 24, 2007


I quite liked flabdablets little script, works marvellously. This is going to be a boon when attempting to slay the twin beasts of procrastination and accurate time-sheet filling.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:29 AM on July 24, 2007


You might want to consider looking at TimeSprite. Once every minute, it logs the title of the active window.

Maybe it's just me, but at the end of the week my list would look like this:

Metafilter, Gmail, Metafilter, Gmail, Metafilter, Gmail, Metafilter, Gmail, Metafilter, Gmail, Metafilter, Gmail

:)
posted by jon4009 at 4:52 AM on July 24, 2007


Kids these days and their fancy object oriented nonsense...

It's horses for courses. It's utterly pointless to use an OO scripting language to do the job of a three line batch file. You end up with bugs and deficiencies that don't need to be there, like

* script puts the activity log in the root of C: instead of somewhere reasonable like the user's My Documents folder; to make a VBS program use My Documents, you'd need to set up a call to GetSpecialFolder or somesuch

* script fails to log date and time, which makes the resulting log less useful for time sheet use

If you're not going to bother logging the date and time, why not just have Scheduled Tasks open the log file directly with Notepad, and avoid having to write a script in any language?

Get off my lawn, before I get really cross and write the damn thing in assembler.
posted by flabdablet at 5:32 AM on July 24, 2007


Also: script fails to ask the user the correct question :-)

C-.
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 AM on July 24, 2007


Also: what's the point of installing the Freebyte Task Scheduler when there's a perfectly adequate scheduler built right into Windows that's been there since Windows 95?
posted by flabdablet at 5:37 AM on July 24, 2007


Since Windows 98.

Your batch file doesn't really put it in the My Documents folder either. The My Documents folder can easily be moved by the user from within the Windows shell. I don't think there's a way to get the actual location of My Documents from a batch file.

I won't stand up to defend the Windows Script Host, though. Obviously it's not a very usable scripting framework, but it's what Microsoft has seen fit to give us. (Still, it's better than batch files.)
posted by zixyer at 6:37 AM on July 24, 2007


Lots of good answers. Thanks everyone. Will check them out.

Loving the simpleness of flabdablet's scriptlet. I'll happily water your lawn anytime.
posted by dasfreak at 5:20 PM on July 24, 2007


Windows 95, provided IE4 was installed.

Your batch file doesn't really put it in the My Documents folder either. The My Documents folder can easily be moved by the user from within the Windows shell.

Fair criticism. Here is an improved version.

Tweaks:
  • Always uses correct My Documents folder
  • Log file formatted as comma separated values and named as .csv for easy importing
  • Day and fractional seconds removed from date and time fields - if you double-click the log file, it will open in Excel, and you'll be able to do calculations with the date and time
  • Console window doesn't hang around after Notepad opens
If you'd rather not use My Documents or one of its subfolders, just put an absolute pathname in line 1, and delete lines 2 through 4.

Line 5 might need tweaking depending on your locale's date and time format. Running nag-me.cmd in a cmd window should show you what, if anything, needs to change.

I won't stand up to defend the Windows command language, though. Obviously it's fundamentally broken in countless ways, but it's what Microsoft has seen fit to inflict on us. (Still, it's sometimes the appropriate tool for the job at hand.)
posted by flabdablet at 11:37 PM on July 24, 2007


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