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Show HN: Automatic private time tracking for OS X (qotoqot.com)
429 points by ivm on May 26, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 233 comments

I was not happy with features and UX of other productivity trackers. Most of the time tracking software is made for controlling employees or for billing clients and I just wanted an automated productivity measurement.

I tried RescueTime before but it was too expensive for its functionality ($72-108/year) and also collected all my tracked data on their servers. There is standalone ManicTime on Windows but OS X standalone trackers lack features and most of them are not automatic.

So I started to play with OS X accessibility and got promising results pretty fast. Then there were about 14 months of writing some code once in a week or two and 3 months of almost full time polishing and gathering feedback.

Now it's marketing time. Qbserve did well on PH but almost no other sites picked it from there. This week I pitched about 70 journalists and bloggers who write about Mac or productivity apps but the results are not clear yet.

I'll be very grateful for advices on how to promote it better and overall feedback. Thank you!

You've hit several good points here! This looks really cool. I've never used something like this, but I'm seriously considering buying it. I love the single price up front and the privacy of not sending my tracking data to some unknown server on the internet.

My only complaint is that I absolutely hate the name. I don't even know how to pronounce it. "Cube-serv?" "Queue Observe?" Don't make me think. Also, I'd be embarrassed to try to say the word to someone else when telling them about it. "Looks like a really cool app! What's it called?" "Oh, it's um... Q... Uh... Cube..., uh I don't know. I have to go." And even if I could pronounce it, trying to spell it for someone so they can look it up. Ugh. Forget about it.

Haha, yes, we had some doubts about the name's UX but nothing better was found.

It's cube-serve in my opinion, an observing cube. Well, I'm not a native English speaker... :)

I open programs using Alfred. There's a heavy risk of me forgetting the name of this.

Seems trivial, but this has happened to me before with new, "nice to have but not essential" software.

Obviously, once users use it enough they'll remember. But during the trial they may forget about it.

You could make the IPA form (kjuːb-sɜːv) part of the logo design, I always think that looks pretty cool.

:D Sounds interesting but I don't know how many users know how to read this...

I would guess that most people don't. I certainly wouldn't feel confident.

On the other hand, using IPA more widely would help more people know about it. It is the standard in linguistics—although that’s not necessarily a sufficient argument, as it might be too technical for a general audience.

I'd love to have the ability to filter productive/distracting on a finer basis than domain alone.

If I'm on github.com/mycompany/* it's productive, if I'm on github.com/someuser/somerandomlibrary it's probably neutral/slightly distracting. If I'm on github.com/donatj/* I'm probably distracted with personal projects I shouldn't be poking at work.

I think I'm going to add custom filters to solve this and probably iTerm tracking.

I don't know if it would be possible, but if you could add referer tracking as well... somehow... For example a link I clicked from hacker news is almost certainly distracting.

Yes, StayFocusd does it this but it's a browser extension. I can build one for Qbserve but right now it's not a priority, sorry. Added it to possible features though, thank you.

> $ brew cask info qbserve > Error: No available Cask for qbserve

Would be nice if you'd do a PR to get your app into Homebrew. It's just much easier to find, install and update apps with Cask.

Just added to Homebrew Cask, feel free to `brew cask install qbserve`

(I'm one of the maintainers of Homebrew Cask)

Thank you!

Thanks for the tip, I'll do it!

This is a really nice app. I work with kids (age 8 - 18) and they seem to be the most unaware of the enormous amounts of computer time eaten up by games and trivial activities. I'll definitely be sharing this with them!

I was able to figure out all the features simply by experimentation, but a tour might be helpful to guide through the process of adding a new category/website/app. There are obviously going to be niche cases that you can't get information on with this app (I might be working on a personal project and there would be no way of knowing), but for 99% of people this seems to be what they would need. I second the suggestion below about allowing more detailed domain name matching, since github.com/mycompany is productive while github.com/anythingelse is usually not.

Overall it's a beautiful product and well-executed idea, I appreciate the 10 day trial and I'll definitely be purchasing it. I fell to 19% productivity as I was writing this comment so I'm going to get back to work :)

Thank you! The top priorities (after fixing small issues) are custom window/URL matching and then data exporting.

Hadn't thought of exporting, that would actually be really cool because I'm sure there are many ways to analyze one's productivity and glean useful insights (e.g. what times of the day are most productive, which apps are the biggest distractions, etc)

It would be awesome if you could correlate this with songs playing on Spotify. Allow me to explain.

I'm listing to Spotify all day while writing code, listening to playlists like "Discover Weekly" or the "Radio". I find that some songs often make me much more productive than others. With all the data you collect, you could easily determine what songs are playing while I'm "productive" --such as while an editor (Atom) is open for a period of time. Then, those songs could get added to a "productive" playlist that I can use later when I need to really focus.

The problem currently is that we don't know what songs are playing when we are super productive because the truly great songs making us productive don't distract us, and thus never get added to a playlist as "productive" songs; they just keep playing in the background acting as a muse.

Cross the data with last.fm scrobbler? (Connect your spotify to last.fm, sync timestamps with data from tracker)

This is an interesting idea but sorry, it's too much for the app to become a separate feature.

We will have export in future and you will be able to match data from Qbserve and data from Spotify to see which tracks create the flow for you.

this is super awesome. I've been using rescuetime for around two years, and although it's worked great I'd love to see more feature progress. Also there's no 2FA support which is quite scary for something with such sensitive data.

I love your dock icon as well. I was trying to build a custom version of that but for my tmux line, but rescuetime's API doesn't provide realtime info.

Will you open up some APIs for the data? I'd love to be able to do my own analysis and build my own tools. I'd also like to backup the data to s3

Thank you! I'm researching what will be the best way to export data and connect to other apps (IFTTT probably).

In case somebody would like to export the tracked information: it's stored in SQLite in the ~/Library/Application\ Support/Qbserve/ and has a very simple scheme of HistoryLog tables for each month that refer to Activities table that refer to Categories and Apps tables.

Your first comment in the thread was a near-perfect match of how I see the time tracking space. Will definitely hit the free trial. Very interested to see how it progresses.

Great to hear you're considering data export. I'd love to display time usage in a tool like Gyroscope (https://gyrosco.pe/), which already integrates with RescueTime and a variety of other activity-specific trackers. Visualizations and stats in Qbserve are great for diving into the details of time spent on the computer, while exports to more generalized tools help show how the big pieces of life fit together.

Thank you for the tip, I will see how we can integrate it with Gyroscope.

thanks! that's easy enough :D

Second this. As you seem to focus on software developers as your target audience it would likely be greatly appreciated with an official open dataset and structure thus enabling us to use the data in a much more intelligent way highly specialized for personal workflow.

A built in console/scripting engine would also be a nice to have but not necessary if the data can be exported/extracted.

I use Bitbar to show my RescueTime productivity pulse in my menubar. Pretty handy if you ask me!

I’d put the price on your website and not click on a button to buy/try before finding out the price. Also I’d “raise the price” and offer a launch special discount (or not raise the price and do the same).

Added price to the site, thanks. It's 25% off currently, I'm going to raise the price in July.

Just something to consider. I wouldn't mention when you're planning on increasing the price. Just that the price is going to go up "soon". Now I know I have a whole month to put off buying it and may forget about it in that time period.

That being said, I'll be buying it. It's a great app and well worth the price.

> price is going to go up "soon".

Ugh, smells like marketing tactics. Whenever I see leading yet vague language, I become a lot more likely to close the tab.

Found the marketing guy! Solid advice. Kudos.

I'm getting very long loading times and still can't see the page. Please fix because I would like to use this application.

Looks like an excellent start, and definitely fills a needed niche under OS X. As far as feature feedback, and perhaps for 2.0, one possible addition you could consider for your idle detection or tracking capabilities would be Bluetooth device reads. When I leave my system I take my phone, so in turn that can act as a useful automatic proxy for whether I'm in the area so to speak or not. I use that already to automatically do things like change my away status on IRC or activate the screensaver if I've forgotten and change display timeout. It's a niche nicety and not really necessary but might be worth considering. Alternatively if Qbserve was AppleScript-able enough that could just be handled via scripting same as anything else.

As far as marketing if you decide you'd like to just get it in front of a lot of possible seats you might consider picking one or more of the application bundles, particularly "productivity" focused ones, and see about getting it in there. You won't make much money on it directly, but it is a good way to get a lot of people who wouldn't necessarily risk it otherwise to give it a spin without actually giving it away for free, and in turn sell paid upgrades from there. I wouldn't necessarily suggest doing that vs pure organic, at least not for a while, and how much economic sense that'll make for you depends on existing sales and what sort of major upgrade schedule you're considering. It's an option to consider though and can be one of the better forms of advertising, in that it goes right to a naturally more targeted, self-selected audience for low outlay. Qbserve certainly looks plenty quality enough to fit in. Best of luck to you!

Edit to add: While you specifically contrast this to business software for controlling employees, nevertheless I think a number of small businesses in particular might find this interesting, more from the employee empowerment/knowledge point of view rather then control. To that end some form of basic multiseat discounts might earn you some more bulk orders (doesn't even have to be much, 5% off 5-10, 12% off 10-50, etc, or whatever makes sense to you). Similarly, things like Educational/Non-profit discounts and Family seats are tried and true ways to get people on the train.


Also a small bit of extra kudos postscript: thank you so much for going to the trouble to actually choose a distinct, unique non-word name for your software. The trend of picking single standard words for application names (acknowledging that modern Apple is the originator of evil here) has been incredibly irritating as it makes searching and discussion entirely unnecessarily more difficult.

Apple the "originator of evil"? Perhaps you're too young to remember when Microsoft named a whole windows-based user interface "Windows"? At least Apple had the decency to put the letter "i" in front of everything. ;-)

OT: The app looks great at first glance, and is timely as I'm ramping up my independent development work. You might put "cube-serve" as a pronunciation guide somewhere on the page, although that was my first guess; I'm still trying to work out how to pronounce "Qotoqot", though...

>Apple the "originator of evil"?

Under OS X in modern times? Absolutely. They've made it standard practice for nearly every piece of first party software they make that doesn't have significant legacy or isn't specifically aimed at developers.

>At least Apple had the decency to put the letter "i" in front of everything

If only. That went away a long time ago however for non-legacy. "iMail", "iPages", "iNumbers", "iPhotos", "iMessages" etc would obviously not be the most creative or exciting names, but they would fulfill the fundamental core purpose of a trademark brand name in terms of being trivially, reasonably (wouldn't be surprised if there are some collisions mixed in there) uniquely identifiable. Apple has not done that, and in fact in many cases actively moved away from that (iMessage was a thing, now it's just "Messages"). They do this constantly and they've encouraged it in the MAS.

Apple themselves can somewhat get away with it by virtue of size. Doing a search for "Apple Mail" is reasonably on target for Mail.app, though conversely if you want to search for something related to Apple and mail that isn't Mail.app (notice how just here in discussing it I have to use a made up, but very common user invented name just to distinguish what I'm talking about) you will have more difficulty. Even for major examples like that though it's still worse then where Apple actually still has something more specific, like GarageBand or FaceTime. And when it's some random small 3rd party? Argh.

Specificity in names is good and easy, this isn't some huge burden. It's irritating it's even an issue that has to be talked about at all. Qbserve is an excellent example: it's a small, focused niche app that's very new, but the name is simple and memorable,and a search for "Qbserve" is all about the product.


It's 'kotokot' and means cat-o-cat in Russian.

Thank you a lot!

I will definitely consider the small business option. We now have educational discounts and the license is also works for the whole family (up to 5 machines).

Do you have a timeline for Firefox site tracking? I'd definitely buy this to replace RescueTime if it supported Firefox

I hope I can convince Firefox team to report page URLs to OS X accessibility. Or maybe I will try to commit it myself.

Do you have a issue or feature request open? I'd be happy to add a plus one:-)

Not yet, sorry.

Timingapp.com is able to track Firefox urls somehow.

I used desktime and they seem to provide an extension for urls, couldn't you do something similar?

Probably. We just need to release some other features and fixes first.

I must say, I use FF all the time. Of course, all my work is on FF tabs, so it's still useful to track distractions.

Have you used the Application Timing? https://timingapp.com/ It tracks visited sites (on all browsers) + allows you create pools for projects + applications and what directory the file you're working on. Long as you keep your assets in a single folder, you're always tracking to which project. Items can be in multiple pools so you can go by task vs project time. I've been using this for about a year for personal use. While it doesn't look as pretty or divvy up tasks between "neutral", "productive" and "distractive' that's something you can define if you wanted. I'm not trying to be harsh but just based on the product site, I'm not exactly compelled to give up Timing although your application does look nice.

Yes, I used it for a while to see what kinds of trackers exist on OS X. But I rarely need to know the path or track a specific project. Productivity of sites and chats is more important for me since I want to know stats of my procrastination.

Make a 3 minute video of typical use pattern? I'd watch that.


Tried it out, bought a copy :)

The thing i'm noticing most (and i can hack around this probably) is that there are some things that are productive in certain contexts (monitoring twitter after launching/announcing a thing) and not in others not (twtittering while i'm supposed to be writing code, or letting myself get distracted by twitter while waiting for something to build).

Would you consider some notion of rule sets scoped to some notion of "what i'm supposed to be doing"?

Thank you!

It will be hard to implement since the "smallest tracking unit" is activity - a website or a window. I also can't see how to implement it without making everything too complex (the app's UX is too complex already in my opinion).

You can try to use a different browser since domains are bound to browsers. Like using productive Twitter in Safari and distracting Twitter in Opera.

Yeah! I dig it.

So, I honestly wouldn't change anything about the interface, except to wrap the entire thing in an outer shell with something that represents what GTD software might call a context.

And depending on context, different rule sets apply. Anyway, that's just a suggestion, don't mean to stomp on your notion of product, what you've got is a great start and a neat coupling of product experience and interesting engineering!

I especially like the ambient info display in the app icon. Seeing whether the app is bordered in green or blue every time i tab up the app switcher is a great piece of design.

I looks nice and clean. I have used only 3 hours but I have a feedback for the application and website database. It can recognise popular Macbook applications and websites but the current database doesn't seem large enough. Can we tag applications & websites in "Neural" tab as productive or distracting? I think it would be great if you could just open-source the database and let people contribute it so that everyone can benefit from that.

Thank you. Database includes the most popular apps and sites and it will grow in future.

Unrecognized domains and apps are sent by users on categorization but you can opt-out by unchecking "Submit..." or disable it completely (in Settings). Check out the help and privacy policy for more details: https://qotoqot.com/qbserve/help/

> Can we tag applications & websites in "Neural" tab as productive or distracting?

You can add any site, application and even windows to any category. Select the activity you'd like to change in the Details tab to see the popover with settings for this activity.

In the details tab when you click on a particular entry, you can modify that entries productivity category, more so there is a checkbox to send that info to the developers. I believe this is the functionality you are looking for.

Hi, downloaded the app and definitely giving it a try at work. Had not thought about using an app to track my activities but I think it may be useful for tracking my time at the office and also just for fun (I like looking at the stats).

So far I think it looks pretty good for version 1.0. Will probably have more feedback after a few days.

This app is awesome, i love it already - best of these i've ever used.

Would be nice if we could set the idle to < 5 min. Also sorting the columns when clicking as well

Thank you, please check the settings for the idle time adjustment.

What is your long-term monetisation plan here then? One-time payment won't last forever, as we've seen from different programs lately.

Why not? Thousands of app companies exist on one-time payment for many years, releasing payed updates sometimes. MacPaw is a good modern example.

For a solo developer a one-time purchase model can do pretty well. 60 million+ Mac users is a big market. Speaking from experience.

A desktop app with no server component doesn't necessarily need aggressive monetisation because at a certain point it reaches feature maturity and doesn't need much more work. It sells itself while the developer works on other things.

Of course if you're looking to go beyond a "micro-isv/lifestyle" business and want huge growth it's a different sorry.

You charge for significant version upgrades. The industry was OK with that model for decades before SaaS became feasible.

Very soon having a big monthly software bill will be seen as normal. This makes me sad. Don't we have enough recurring bills as it is?

Hat tip to the software author for showing some morals and not trying to bleed consumers dry with a monthly service cost for something which is not a service. He has just won some custom from me.

I added a category and it shows up in categories but not in the dropdown menu for a specific activity? OS X 10.10.5

There are actually 3 dropdown menus based on productivity selection. So if you've added a productive category, select "Productive" tab first and then it will appear in the dropdown.

If it's missing from there then it's probably a bug.

Oh I get it. Is it supposed to be reading tabs in Safari? Because it really depends on the website whether or not I'm being 'productive'.

Yes, it should show all the domains you used in Safari separately.

Okay, and if it doesn't? I'm using the trial right now.

Please re-check the accessibility access in the system settings: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH18391

If it still fails to get the tabs, please contact me: https://qotoqot.com/contact/

I'd buy it right now if I could buy it through the Mac App Store - I have a bunch of credit there.

Sorry, it's not working in a sandboxed environment that is a must for the Mac App Store.

Where do I find the student / 5 person discount? I am a student and interested in purchasing.

Please contact us: https://qotoqot.com/contact/

Fwiw, I developed a very puristic similar project: https://github.com/albertz/timecapture

So far, it's only tracking the time and recording which app is in the foreground and what file / url is currently opened in there. It doesn't have any GUI and it won't show you nice statistics like Qbserve. But it shouldn't be difficult to calculate any statistics you want from the data.

Python, Open Source, easy to add support for other platforms and apps (so far mostly MacOSX support). Patches are welcome. :)

FWIW, there's already https://github.com/gurgeh/selfspy which seems to offer the same features as your tool (and a little bit more).

Some feedback:

* Make the price more readily apparent on the landing page

* Tracking the '6,400 sites, apps and games' is great, but it would be good if I could find out if the ones I care about in that list!

* Make the above the fold screenshot bigger, I tried squinting/zooming before I realised I could scroll down

* Can I determine which things are productive/neutral/distractive? As I wouldn't want to buy it if that was static

Looks good though!

>Make the price more readily apparent on the landing page

I'm seeing a huge green 'Buy Now — $30' button on the front page. Was this added in the past 20 minutes?

Yes, it was.

Thank you, I fixed the price.

> Tracking the '6,400 sites, apps and games' is great, but it would be good if I could find out if the ones I care about in that list!

Mostly the ones from top 10k Alexa but all the unrecognized can be categorized easily.

> Can I determine which things are productive/neutral/distractive?

I was wondering this as well, could you add this on the roadmap if it's not already doable?

You can categorize any activity in the table in the Details tab and it will remain in this category.

I bought the app, and I'm really happy with it, thanks!

I know it's a long shot, but some sort of shell integration would be awesome. My typical day is > 60% iTerm2. iTerm2 has shell integration: https://iterm2.com/shell_integration.html, and maybe that would be one way is something that Qbserve could be fetching info about what's going on in the terminal.

Yes, I got many requests for iTerm2 tracking and it will be definitely added. I'm looking into the available options, so thank you for the link!

Any chance of tracking Terminal.app?

Sure, I will check it too.

And I forgot to say that you made a great app! 95% gonna buy.

Minor UI feedback:

The settings UI is extremely hard to read on my screen. The headings are light grey on white, and no amount of messing with my screen's contrast settings leaves something easy to read.

The checkboxes also immediately convey "disabled" due to their coloring. Your UI in general is spot on and sanely designed, but please consider taking a cue from the OSX HIG[1] and use the system colors and leave the light grey stuff for actual disablement, it will make your app look a lot more native.

[1] (about halfway down the page): https://developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/UserEx...

Got it, sorry. We'll update the colors. We try to follow HIG despite building a custom look, so non-blue checkboxes is a mistake.

I use ulogme which also records when you are typing, and is more customizable (and open source and free).

Explanation and demo with screenshots: https://karpathy.github.io/2014/08/03/quantifying-productivi...

Github URL: https://github.com/karpathy/ulogme

There are definitely some good ideas in it for inspiration when making a similar product.

Awesome, thank you. My friend who uses Linux was interested in getting something like Qbserve there.

If you're a consultant or you work in a consulting firm I have some advice for you.

Get comfortable with fudging the numbers on your time reports. It's ok. Report what's reasonable given:

You aren't being paid for your minutes you're being paid for the ability to solve a customer's problem in minutes.

I bill my clients 40 no matter what because sometimes I give them 100 hours worth of value in 1 hour. It all balances out. It took a while to realize this wasn't an integrity violation.

You aren't a machine resource. You're a human working in immense complexity. Your productivity is a roller coaster. It's ok. Don't sell minutes. In reality your customer can't handle the unpredictablity in billable hours if you were exacting and billed what you're actually worth. Instead we smooth it into 40 (or whatever), and that's ok.

For anyone reading this, billing the incorrect amount of time in consulting is an integrity violation, and probably illegal. If you agree to sell in hours, then the client pays in hours. Attributed value billing should be in your contract if you are going to do that, not snuck in under the guise of hourly rates.

Do you bill your clients for the time you sip coffee or take a shit?

Does it work both ways? If you customer thinks the 100 hours you billed is only worth 1 hour, are you OK with them paying 1 hour?

No, they pay what I bill. If we don't agree on that then we don't do business. If I want repeat customers then I don't gouge them.

Did you test it thoroughly for websites tracking? I made a Firefox plugin[1] to track how long I would spend on facebook but it never had really accurate results.

Do you track only the current tab? Do you still track it if it's not foreground? Even if Firefox has many windows?

How do you track tabs in the browser from the OS by the way?

[1]: https://github.com/mimoo/FirefoxTimeTracker

I use OS X accessibility, so Qbserve tracks the focused windows. In case of browsers it's usually the current tab of the top window.

Love the idea! Only suggestion would to be switch "Distractive" to "Unproductive" or "Distracting." I'm sure distractive is technically a word, but this is my first time hearing it. But that's just me. I may just have a limited vocabulary.

Oh, right, thank you. I've already updated it in the app but forgot the screenshots and texts.

Is the website down? It's not loading for me anymore

Probably the HN effect... here's a screen shot:


Should be good now.

Great! The fact that this is private is a huge +1 for me. Looking forward to trying it out! I saw one of your comments on the data being available at ~/Library/Application\ Support/Qbserve/ it would be good if the schema was documented on the site, maybe in a developers section?

Thank you, I'll add it a bit later.

I really like the UI. Is it possible to implement keyboard/mouse movement activity tracking? I don't mean keylogging or anything, but something like key presses per minute while an app is focused or mouse movement in pixels per minute while an app in focused.

I second this. I'd like to know if my keypresses are going into a text editor (productive!) or IRC (unproductive!). As someone who's fighting off RSI, knowing where my keypresses are going is more important than tracking where the time goes.

Thanks for the idea! It should be possible since the app has accessibility access.

I've been using Qbserve for a couple weeks and I'm really happy with it. For me the best feature is just having that little number in the menu bar that shows what percentage of my time has been focused. This, more than any other timer or tracker, has been a simple and effective motivator for me to keep creating.

There are a lot of features I can imagine that would let me slice and dice tracked data better, but for a V1, this is something special.

I have used Rescuetime for years and for the most part, am very satisfied with the service. It would be helpful if you added a simple comparison between Rescuetime and your service.

Yes, RescueTime is really your main competitor. Let people like me know what you offer to get me to think about switching!

Currently the differences are window tracking (RT only tracks apps afaik), chat tracking, instant feedback, and keeping the tracked data on your machine.

Downsides compared to RT: no sync between devices (and it's not coming soon), no "offline time" (but it's temporary).

Thanks for this info, but I don't know what you mean by "instant feedback" and "chat tracking".

Rescuetime does allow window tracking (unless I don't understand what that means).

For me personally, the most essential Rescuetime features missing in your app are:

- ability to install a client on gnu, OS X and Windows.

- 95% of the time, it correctly categorizes my activities, requiring very little input from me.

Looking forward to trying your app!

Instant feedback: to see your productivity in RT you need to go to its dashboard. Qbserve shows productivity score in the dock icon (with color) and in the menu bar (colors + percents).

Chat tracking: Qbserve can look into Skype, Slack and Telegram Messenger apps and track your chat/team names as separate activities.

I love the alerts. I setup an alert for when I have been distracted for more than 30 minutes.

Could you disable those distracting sites after 30 minutes? I'm only half-way kidding..

Still a fantastic app.

I used to use an app, think it was called orange, to do this. Would love that functionality though to disable top distractions

I've only been using it for 30 minutes, but so far it's great!

Being able to map a domain with all its subdomains to a category would be awesome. I access a whole bunch of hosts in an internal domain, and they're all productive.

This is a cool project. I thought about building something similar a few years ago when I was doing a lot of consulting. The most annoying part of the work was accurately billing clients when some days I'd switch between several projects.

Here's a few things that could make it super useful:

* Track time spent writing email by contact * Track hangout/skype/etc by contact * Track time spent on code per project * Connect phone records to tie in the time on the phone with contacts

Good luck!

Looks interesting! I have to ask: is it OS X native or is it some JavaScript thing?

OS X native, 100% Objective-C and Cocoa. :)

Lovely! You sir/madam are a hero!

I like the idea of this a lot, but not working with Firefox is a dealbreaker. If only 100% of my time spent in Firefox was actually productive....

Firefox does not report URL to OS X accessibility.

I'm going to file a bug or even dig into the sources later.

When I first downloaded the app, it was actually tracking my Firefox usage somehow (github.com, news.ycombinator.com).

Unfortunately I restarted soon afterwards, and now all of the Firefox usage just shows up as "Neutral" =/

But it was working nicely at first :)

Just downloaded it and fired it up, and immediate first impressions is that there's a lot to like in the app so far.

I'll be curious to see if I can build gentle nudges back on task if i'm off in the woods, or how i can better categorize different types of app usage. Coupling to my todo lists might be helpful.

Away from the keyboard or watching a movie? Idle time is detected intelligently.

Problem is it heavily depends on the person what is really idling. Ideally you should be able to read the mind to see if there's any work-related activity :] I'm still using manual time tracking mainly because of this (even despite the obvious disadvantage of forgetting to turn it on or off): there's all kinds of solutions like detecting mouse/keyboard idling to fancier ones like detecting if your phone is near your pc and stuff like that, but at least for me none of these are as correct as just manually saying 'now I'm working, now I'm not': they can't detect things like me sitting outside with pen & paper.

You can set idle per-category. "Videos & TV" category is idle by default.

So if you have Youtube open and there's no mouse/keyboard input then Qbserve assumes you're watching a video.

How? My options seem limited to "Productive, Neutral, and Distracting."

Sorry, missed your reply.

Please go into the category tab in the Details and select a required category. There will be an "Always track time" checkbox. It prevents the app from going idle during activities in this category.

I have the opposite issue, actually. ScreenSaverEngine shows up in "neutral," but it shouldn't be counted in any of those three buckets. It's just idle time.

Thank you, I will add an exception.

I'm going to compare the app to tracking with pen and paper also. Maybe having to physically write down when I'm not working more will make me procrastinate less.

Early impressions are excellent. I can easily see some billable/reporting functionality added as premium features. I'll be adding this to my daily routine and seeing how it works for the trial period - but you likely have a paid user in me already. Thank you!

Thank you, I think there's enough data collected to produce invoices for clients, we just need to decide how to organize per-client activity management in the UI.


Finally an excuse to drop Rescuetime and their goofy UI. I've had this running for about an hour or so, and it seems to provide me exactly what they do, for cheaper, while respecting privacy.

Congrats on an awesome app, and I hope you do well selling this!

+1 for privacy and storing locally

I've been using Rescuetime for the last 8 years or so, and I will be purchasing this in the next few weeks to see if it will work as a replacement. From what I can see, it shouldn't be a problem. Congratulations on shipping!

This looks like a simple way to keep track of time I spend on projects.

It would be perfect if it could also log more details such as what filename/project is open in Sublime, that way I know what I'm working on.

I second this. This might be too much for this app but I'd really like to be able to track time manually for a project (like toggl.com) and then be able to see the overview for the project at once as opposed to overall view right now.

It logs app window names: you can select the app in the Details table and there's a popover with the "View windows" button. You can also check to show each window as a separate activity.

I'm editing a WordPress template at the moment, the application only logs the file name and not the Sublime project name [0] (even though this appears in the Sublime title bar and app window as file.php - Project Name).

The project name (blurred) only shows up in Qbserve on an untitled new window. Possible bug?

[0] http://i.imgur.com/qxE06nC.jpg

Could be a problem with how ST reports its project names to the system. I'll take a look soon, sorry about that.

Looks beautiful. Any plans to add 'Focus' mode like Rescuetime. Basically just ability to block distracting websites? I'd probably switch over from rescuetime if that's added :)

A +1 for this request. I used to use a program called Concentrate [1] which would block distracting sites & also prevent distracting apps from launching.

A built-in Pomodoro timer could be good too. Some programs (like Focus) have a timer & internet blocker, but having one app with the timer, blocker & statistics would mean less clutter in my Mac menu-bar. (I currently use Vitamin-R [2] for pomodoro timer & focus statistics, but it doesn't have website blocking, and I sometimes forget to start my Vitamin-R timer if I'm tracking time with Harvest instead... I'd love one app that did it all.)

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20150701133312/http://www.getcon... [2] https://web.archive.org/web/20150701133312/http://www.getcon...

I see that you track time with Harvest now, right? Are you pleased with it? Take a look at TimeCamp - it's better equipped, more intuitive and even cheaper than Harvest. Here is the full comparison: https://www.timecamp.com/blog/index.php/2016/04/timecamp-vs-....

Yep, I'm pretty happy with Harvest. Even as a solo operator, invoicing is their most important feature for me, and I see TimeCamp only includes that at the Pro level (Harvest has it in their free tier). Cost isn't an issue for me, ~$100/year pays for itself with an hour of client work and it wouldn't be worth the time for me to switch just to save a few dollars.

I'd need to see more details about things like your Mac desktop app (eg screenshots, system requirements), as Harvest's Mac app is a big part of my workflow, also their integration with Alfred app on the Mac. I also like that Harvest pays attention to lots of really tiny details too.

It's probably not worth it for me to switch, but your link might be useful to someone else just starting out!

I'm thinking about it but it's not a priority since there are many apps that do it already. Free StayFocusd, WasteNoTime for browsers and also the Focus[1] native app (paid).

[1] https://heyfocus.com/

Don't do that. Keep your app simple and clean as it is now.

I use SelfControl on the Mac for that. Made it so that I can block distracting sites for weeks at a time.

Just curious, what is the tech stack?

Just Cocoa (Obj-C), SQLite with FMDB, and CorePlot.

Just bought it. I really like it. One thing that would make this perfect for me is the ability to show stats for specific time ranges within a day. I use my laptop for both work and home. It would be nice to see a set of stats for just 9am-6pm everyday; or whatever ranges I want.

I guess the time tracking works right now by just tallying up seconds for each category? And it isn't recording time stamps? Recording time stamps might end up taking up too much space?

You can avoid saving time stamps if you just do separate sums for preset time stamp ranges. It will add another dimension to the data but that dimension can be pretty roughly discretized. 99% of users would be perfectly happy with 15 minute, or even 30 minute discretization. 95% with 1 hour discretization.

Thank you! The time range feature is on the roadmap already.

Does the license allow use on multiple computers? I have a computer for heavy work, and another where I do email and social media. I'd like to track both.

Yes, up to 5 machines for the personal/family use.

Great, I'm doing the trial now and very likely to buy.

Also, thanks for the Focus app recommendation elsewhere in the thread. I had been looking for exactly such a native app.

This is the new RescueTime! Now you just need to market it to all of RescueTime's users:


Small nitpick: How can you guarantee data is kept locally without open-sourcing the app?

This is similar to WakaTime but only for OS X and not as granular data, because one is for programmers and the other more general users.

It works completely offline, so feel free to block it with firewall.

WakaTime works only with developer apps.

Use packet sniffer like Wireshark to track if the app is exchanging data with the Web or not.

On a 13' Macbook, I need to scroll down to click "Download" or "Buy Now". You might want to move those buttons up a bit.

Hi. Trying it out and would happily buy after using it for the next few days.

One query I have: Is there any way I can hide the app icon from the cmd+tab list? I want the ability for it to stay and works quietly behind the scene and since I have too many applications running on at the same time. Maybe a "hide icon" or some other thing? Thanks.

Looks like a fantastic product on first look. :)

To remove the icon from your cmd+tab: open the preferences/settings for the application and under "Application Options" use the multi-select field from "Both" to "Only Menu Bar", then restart the app. The icon won't be in your dock or cmd+tab anymore, but lives in the menu bar :)

Great app, really enjoyed using it so far. I've found the percentage of productive time shown in the toolbar to be really useful.

This is pretty misleading. From their product page:

> All the tracked information is stored locally.

From their privacy policy:

> we are using third party service Firebase.com to collect it (...)

So privacy is a selling point, but they have a lot of analytics in their app. Some of it can be turned off, some of it can't.

If you claim your app stores all data locally, it's quite dishonest if it talks to a bunch of analytics services...

Not "a lot" but 3 points (stated in the Privacy Policy): ping once a day (HockeyApp), OS version+language once a month, and opt-out uncategorized hosts/apps submissions.

I don't see how it's not private and "misleading".

Every domain you visit and every app you have installed is a lot of information. Information I don't want to share, even 'anonymously'. (It would be trivial to deanonymize that data)

If you claim your app stores data locally, it better not share data like this. Otherwise your marketing copy is just the usual horseshit.

No way, we are not collecting this because we don't need it (and yes, it would be not very private). I probably should improve the phrasing in the Privacy Policy.

Qbserve detects popular apps and sites automatically by matching them to the entries in the bundled database. If it can't find a match, it puts the app/site into "Uncategorized" category.

Then when the user decides to assign it to some category, there's a checkbox with text "Submit domain + category" and hint "Send it to developers to improve Qbserve". You can disable this checkbox forever in the app's settings.

Then we get somethings like { "host":"ycombinator.com", "category":"news" }, check if this site is really popular and add it to the bundled database in the next update.

Ok, I misunderstood the privacy policy. That actually sounds great!

I'm a big fan of local, non-subscription software, so thanks for making this.

(Side note: it would be nice if there was a setting to disable the Hockey analytics without using a firewall)

This looks like exactly what I need, I'm going to try the free trial and then let you know what I think and probably buy it.

In terms of distribution - Could you create a dmg with the drag & drop to the Applications directory as is standard for OSX?

Oh, right, thank you for the tip.

Does it really require Yosemite+ ? I think there's still quite a bit of people still holding on to Mavericks.

I've run into some UI issues I can't even remember in the beginning of the development and decided to skip it for now.

I can try to build it for Mavericks in a couple of months though.

This looks very useful, I am preparing to be a little shocked by the results. I will probably be buying after the trial.

One thing, this app seems to interact strangely with Spectacle (OSX Window controller) whereby browser windows move very slowly across the screen rather than the instant snap that I am used to.

Have been running the trial for a few hours and am really satisfied so far. I see the same issues with Spectactle, though. Hope this can be addressed in a future version, as I'd love to have both apps running permanently.

Yes, there're some issues with multiple application using accessibility. I'll see what can be done, thank you.

I like this app as it is. New features would be welcome but I prefer lean and mean app. Simpler the better.

Am I right in assuming that Qbserve only tracks active windows? To elaborate: If I have a monitor set to a fullscreen OSX Desktop with either Spotify or VLC while actually coding, the time spent listening/watching won't count unless the application is active, correct?

Yes, it uses OS X accessibility to get the focused app and its focused window.


Wonderful tool! I can see myself using it every single day.

Comment on usability: currently, different ports from the same domain name are recorded as different websites. I think it should be sufficient to group all the ports used with `localhost` as "productive".

Thanks for the great work!

Thank you!

Yes, localhost special case would be a nice enhancement. Domains from different browsers probably will be grouped later by default.

This looks like a great tool. Im testing it out now.

I regularly use multiple computers for personal/work. Can there be a way to cross sync data across systems using an external host? I'd like to use Dropbox or some similar solution to keep the data files up to date.

Would that be possible?

Sorry, right now it's not possible. I would like to add synchronization some day but it's a bit far on the todo list.

This looks like it would be very useful to me. A pet peeve of mine is when an application does not use a monochrome icon in the menu bar. I don't suppose you could offer a monochrome option for the percentage, turning it the same colour as the icon?

You can disable the colors in the settings tab. It should work both for classic and dark menu bar styles.

Would be nice to compare productivity with others. Just purchased the full version.

I really like this idea. Unfortunately I'm a multi-device user including things like using a Chromebook which doesn't have native apps. Would love to see this aggregate data across different types of devices.

This is pretty cool. I'd love to use it to keep track of time since Itend to get distracted by looking at other tabs and I've been looking for a way to keep track of where im wasting most of my time

I installed the trial version and it looks awesome. Unfortunately the lack of Firefox support is a deal breaker for me as I spend a lot of time in Firefox. This would be my top feature request.

How long is it -25%? If I try for ten days, can I still get the -25%?

Yes, it's until June, 30.

So was this developed using Swift? Curious, I see SQLite backend.

It was started before Swift become more or less mature, so the whole codebase is in Objective-C.

Sounds like no plans for Windows platform? (I'm a multiple platform user.)

Sorry, no, it will require complete re-write and the app also heavily relies on OS X accessibility.

But I remember using ManicTime on Windows, give it a try maybe.

ManicTime looks slick, feature filled and usable, but the visualization it chose is confusing. I look at all those little lines and it reminds me of the windows XP defragger.

It is wonderful.

YMMW but IMO it is a shining example of modern Windows UX done right. A couple of examples

* double clicking selects the block you clicked on until next previously tagged time

* the tagging dialog has wonderful autocomplete

* you can set up automatic tagging

* you can add timelines from outlook etc

Dead link. :(

Sorry, try again. For some reason a small DO droplet with 2 static pages is down from being on HN.

Looks great! The interface picture, halfway down, should be the top one – it's too hard to tell what the app does from the first one. Might give it a try.

OK tried it, but it's not for me.

I need to be able to track activity per project.

Projects can be determined from the open window path or url.

Timings does this, but it's just one big mess

Timing uses completely different tracking approach, iirc there's AppleScript involved.

Qbserve uses accessibility but I have plans to make improvements for per-project tracking.

What my employer thinks I'm doing: 8 hours on stackoverflow = 8 hours of research

What I'm actually doing: earning reputation to improve my resume

The UI is so much nicer than RescueTime, I love it!

I love the idea of apps like these, but can people really not remember what they do all day? That thought is almost inconceivable.

I'm very happy with the icon in the dock!

Why in this kind of sites, there is not a single person behind the marketing site? What's the reason to be hidden?

We're not hidden, I just failed to create "About" page somewhere.

hard to believe,but in a sense, maybe you did this work while employed by someone else and you try to hide this. If this is the case, just wanted to learn why is important to hide it. Until when?

I'm not hiding, you can find us by company name easily. ;)

"About" page will be added later.

I find any lack of imprint or about page off-putting as well. I'd never buy from such a website, because it doesn't seem legitimate.

I'm currently testing Timings, but it's support for activities and projects isn't done properly.

Checking out this one

Only 7MB! Good job! Product looks awesome. If it works well for the next 10 days I'm definitely buying it :)

Timecamp have been at this for a while now. With syncing to project management apps.

Any reason why you chose fastspring instead of stripe for payment processing ?

I read many good reviews of Fastspring on HN, they also has CocoaFob integration. Plus I prefer older services to new ones doing the same thing.

Congratulation on shipping!

I like how qotoqot.com shows up as "productive"

Is it $30 per machine, or per user, or per household?

Per household, up to 5 machines.

I assume this does not work with a vpn?

Damn this is good. I'll be buying.

Any possibility of Mavericks support?

Sorry, it's not planned. We would like to support more systems but there are some UI rendering quirks that prevent smooth backwards compatibility.


Is there an export feature?

Not yet, but it's on the roadmap with a very high priority.

This looks fantastic! Great work. I have some feedback too: Right now it groups all of my CLI programs into iTerm2. I would be very interested in tracking the actual programs. vim time means I'm coding, irssi (IRC), newsbeauter, cmus (music), or sl probably means I'm goofing off.

You can try to show iTerm2 windows as activities (there's a checkbox when you select it in the Details table).

But it can bring some noise in case window titles are changed too often. I'm thinking about adding custom rules setting, so you can filter window names with regexes.

You spend a measurable amount of time goofing off by watching trains go across your terminal?

disclaimer: that's awesome :)

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