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Show HN: my new app Timebar has a clever UI (I think)
81 points by markchristian on Apr 3, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments
Howdy, gang; After almost two weeks of sitting in Apple's approval queue, my new app Timebar is finally available.

I think it has a pretty innovative UI feature, so I wanted to float it by Hacker News.

It's a timer app that turns your Mac's menu bar into a sort of virtual hourglass. Your menu bar starts out tinted blue (or whatever colour you pick) and it slowly drains from right-to-left until your time is up.

It works very well for situations where you want to keep track of time, but don't need to be super precise. The menu bar is easy to glance up at, and it doesn't take long to happen subconsciously.

Here are a few promo codes. I'd love to hear you you think. :)

  MYE99WJXFW4R
  936LKT4MF49W
  PLKYNNKH4ETN
Your pal; — Mark

Web site: http://whimsicalifornia.com/timebar/ App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timebar/id617829225?mt=12 Twitter: https://twitter.com/timebar




Consider adding a screenshot of the menu bar acting like a progress bar to the website. It's the most interesting visual and it's missing.


Yes, I had to read the description on HN to actually understand what it does so this is a good suggestion.


Another beautiful Mac App from you, Mark.

Look forward to using it.

-A dedicated Dragondrop user


Aw, thanks — I appreciate the kind words.


He's the link to the app store from OP:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timebar/id617829225?mt=12


Pretty awesome.

Some suggestions:

  * Pause? (possibly autopause on screensaver/sleep/lock)
  * Re-label "Cancel" as "Stop". When I accidentally started a timer longer than I
    meant I overlooked it and quit/reopened the app instead (Maybe I subconsciously
    assumed cancel would just dismiss the window/popover?)
  * The slider is not a very rapid time entry method, if you expect to ever want
    different times. I'd suggest instead:
    * basic time parsing for rapid entry (e.g. '5m', '15m', '1.5h'). This would be
      more useful, to me, than being able to label the reminder.
    * or hotkeys for common lengths (e.g. ⌘1 for 5m, ⌘2 for 10m, ⌘3 for 15m when
      popover focused -- or user configurable alternative)
    * combined with a global focus hotkey (possibly assigned through an external 
      handler), this would make starting a timer for a given length without taking
      hands off the keyboard possible... which seems worthwhile to me
Anyway, just some thoughts.

Overall, super cool.

Edit: Alfred workflows (which I saw you mentioned below) for common times would also do a pretty good job of what I was saying


Thanks for the ideas. To run through 'em:

* Timebar actually compensates for sleep, so if you set an 8 hour timer at 12 PM, it will finish at 8 PM even if your computer was asleep for some of the time in between. * Definitely going to re-label this; there are a few little UI tweaks in the pipeline. Keep the suggestions coming; they're very welcome. * So, the very first drafts of this were built around the idea of a natural language text field for setting the time. I ended up abandoning it because a) I have no experience with NLP and b) since it's a menu bar app, your hand is already on your mouse/trackpad — not your keyboard. I think the Alfred workflows will go a long way towards letting power users work at warp speed. :)


Indeed the UI is quite nice; liked the snooze button too. Do you know if iOS supports anything similar? I know that it allows for app specific colours for the status bar, but perhaps this sort of control is impossible...because I'd like this on an iPad too :).

Off topic: Does DragonDrop (your/your company's other app) still under dev/support? It stopped working for me after Mountain Lion hit and I miss it.


Yes, definitely still under development and support! It supports Mountain Lion. Can you email me so we can troubleshoot it? m@rkchristian.ca

First pass at support: do you have any other mouse-related software installed? Some Microsoft Intellimouse support software has been particularly troublesome.


This is simple but awesome. I like this way better than my current pomodoro timer. I left a review.

I don't want to see the app all bloated up or anything, but an audible alarm would be nice, as would having a few saved timers (so I could start a pomodoro or a break with a single click).


Sounds are a great idea. I'll have a noodle on how I can add that without cluttering things up too much.

As for separate pre-defined timers, that's a pretty good idea, but I'm not entirely sure how to do that without making it quite a bit more complex. That being said, I do plan on adding AppleScript support and some Alfred workflows, so I think we can definitely get things cookin'. :)


Very clever use of the menubar to show timer progress. Blends in nicely without any distraction.


Thank you!


I just bought it; great idea and execution! Some feedback:

- Pause: say I set it to two hours and sometime later a client rings and we have a 30min conversation. A pause button would be very helpful.

- Full screen mode on 10.7: the bar isn't narrower than on normal mode.

- A way to set the default snooze length

Good job!


Thanks for the suggestions. - Snooze is a very good idea - Eek. I will look into this. - I definitely want to play with snooze length a bit more. At the very least, I plan on making snooze interval be MIN(time_interval, 5 minutes) — that is, if you had a 1 minute timer, you'll get a 1 minute snooze.


+1


I assume it should work fine with something like "30 seconds" or "1 minute", right? It's moving very slowly. About 2 inches in the past minute (set for 1 minute).

Oh another thing, I like that you offer a snooze when the timer runs out. I think that you probably left it silent because noises may seem to defeat the purpose. It wouldn't be terrible to allow the user to browse for an audio file, though.

I want the subtleness of the gradually emptying menubar, with maybe pulse.ogg to play at the end, or something. Just an idea.


Eek; it sounds like you've hit a bug. Can you email me some more details? m@rkchristian.ca. Sorry!

Oh, yes — an audible alarm is a great idea. I'll explore that for the first update. I hope to start hacking on 1.1 with my lady tomorrow night. :)


Nicely done!

Super innovative. Maybe I'm retarded.. what are the promo codes for?


Oh, yes — Apple doesn't make this very obvious. Here's where you put the promo code: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/750911/Screenshots/f~aaa4t_5a2i.png


Thankyou!

The app looked well and truly worth the $3 so I just bought it, but good to know for next time.


He's got it on the Mac App Store, giving away a few copies.


I spent a while trying to work out where you are meant to enter them.

I like to think I'm reasonably clever, but apple's interfaces make me feel like a luddite.


Excellent! Thank you for making this. Visual timer's are so much more useful than numeric ones.

A suggestion: Could you add an option (if possible) to have the narrow line on the main menu bar like you have on the full screen instead of the full overlay. It would be lass distracting I think.

Also, I'm using it to get a feel for my full working day so (the current maximum of) 8 hours is bare minimum. Just thought you might be interested in that 'use case'.


Sorry – "Visual timers", no apostrophe needed. Otherwise it's "Visual timer is are..." :o)


I've added your ideas to my feature requests list; thanks for the suggestions. :)


Thanks Mark. Still using it and look forward to the updates. Hope it pays for the wedding!

And Joss. Well spotted, but you failed to also spot my two other typos: lass should be less, and bare should be bear. I'll be more careful next time.


Very clever! Some feedback:

* Text can get truncated sometimes: http://f.cl.ly/items/1G3L1F2D3P032T2F3m3E/Screen%20Shot%2020... * Is it possible to change the actual menu bar color? The overlay kind of makes it hard to make out the other items in the menu bar. Maybe an opacity setting would help.


Thanks for the bug report; will fix in 1.1.

You can change the overlay colour by clicking the blue rectangle next to the menu bar preview.


This is a pretty neat idea and I can definitely appreciate the time you've put into it! The only reason I didn't pull the trigger to buy it is because I'm a heavy full screen user, so I hardly ever see my menu bar while working. I suppose I'm not your target user, but feedback nonetheless.


It looks like it works in full screen mode: http://a1859.phobos.apple.com/us/r1000/100/Purple/v4/f9/29/a...


The app handles full screen mode (3rd of 4 screenshots on the app store).


Yes sir, the full screen support was actually the longest part of my development! :) I ended up open sourcing a little bit of code from Timebar — code to detect when the user is switching to/from a full screen app. https://github.com/shinypb/FullScreenDetector


Ah so it does. Nice! I'll be giving this another go around in the morning then :)


Good idea! Two things:

- Spotlight searches makes it flicker

- Make it narrow for non-native (i.e. not only lion style) full screen aswell. It's awfully disturbing together with full screen iTerm, MacVim etc.

Other than that it's quite neat! I'd rather have it fill than empty though, maybe make that an option? ;)


I'll see what I can do about the flicker; thanks.

I'm not sure I can detect whether another app is non-natively full screened, I'm afraid. I'll give it a poke, but to be honest, working with full screen stuff is a bit difficulty on OS X. The APIs aren't super comprehensive.

Filling up rather than emptying out is a fun idea; I'll add that to the ol' feature request list.


Creative idea. Would you consider releasing it under the GPL in the future?

I bought it anyway, it's just that open-sourcing the app would allow other apps to (possibly) link time functions into it, which I think would be really, really neat.


Cool.

A kind of similar app that I used when I used Mac: http://www.grandtotal.biz/Alarms/

One of the few things I miss on Linux and one of many I miss on Windows.

(Please let me know if you know about replacements.)


It's not as functional as these but couple of years ago I quickly coded a timer for Windows - https://code.google.com/p/fst/ - "Freakin' Simple Timer for Pomodoro Technique"

You quickly enter time such as "30m" and it'll ping you when time is up, you can optionally enter a reminder text as well.


Great work! This will be my first attempt at a timer based approach to task management. I've been meaning to give it a try for a while and this UI was just too neat to not try.


Thank you! I'd love to hear how it ends up working out. Drop me a line sometime — m@rkchristian.ca or @shinypb.


Wow....this is not what I expected, but it is surprisingly clever.

I accidentally bought it - and immediately thought....oh crap, I am going to regret it.

But...after seeing the clever use of the top menu, I don't.

Good job!


I don't need this at the moment, but I think it is a very nice idea! At some point in the near future, I will probably find a use and buy it ;)

+1 for adding a screenshot on the website.


There's something strange going on with your website...

I expected to scroll a bit to read more about the App and see more screenshots, but as you know that wasn't possible.


Nicely unobtrusive. And the approach of showing progress rather than a pedantic number is a clever innovation - much more relevant for many uses.

Is there a way to pause it?


No, there's no way to pause it right now. I will add this to the feature request list. Thank you!


Also checkout http://breaktimeapp.com if you like this sort of thing.


A video would be useful. I skim read too much to actually get how the animation is supposed to look like.


Fair enough. I've been trying to think of a good way to do present it — you really need to see the full screen to get how subtle and delightful the effect can be. I am still iterating; thanks for the vote towards a video.


Mark, The link to the developer website on itunes is misspelt.

Nice App BTW.


Fixed! Thank you.


Oh wow! I loved DragonDrop FYI! This is great!


Thanks. :)


Still mourning LidPop :(


Only just realised what it actually does after looking at the screenshot closely.

Very clever indeed, you definitely need to get an animation of it in action or something on there because I visited the site earlier from your Reddit post and I thought it just put a little clock timer in the menu bar.


The idea is novel, and I certainly commend you for being audacious with the UI. However, this is not worth the money for me. The app's functionality is not particularly distinct from any other timer app. The UI is nice, but I honestly don't see how it's worth what you're charging, at least for the way in which I use timing apps. Timers generally tend to be utilitarian and pretty trivial in their functionality. I'm perfectly content with a free timer, irrespective of the UI.

You might have a hard time attracting customers, especially in a market so overcrowded and with so little room for differentiation.




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