RescueTime Time Tracker Offline Version ManicTime

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I’ve been a fan of RescueTime for a while.  I like the way that it automatically logs what I’m doing, when I’m doing it.

I frequently finish writing up a great article or other project and look up the clock and wonder, “How long did that take me to write?”

The issue is that as a freelance writer, entrepreneur, and business owner, I multi-task, a lot.  Whenever I read some time management guru give advice about focusing on one thing I laugh out loud.  Anyone who has ever run their own start-up knows that breaking your day out into inviolable blocks of scheduled time during which you ignore other tasks and activities is a fantasy.

That means that sometimes, I start an article, and then get a phone call from an important client (Let it go to voicemail the “experts” say. Yeah, right.  The reason I’m their first phone call is because I not only answer the phone, I answer on the first ring.  You don’t get the high paying, emergency, super-short deadline project when it takes you 30 minutes or an hour to get back to them.  By then, they’ve already called six other firms.)

That phone call may lead to six other tasks I have to do, some quickly, and others later.  Some of those tasks may require waiting (like having a call returned) during which time I might work on the article.  The extra tasks may cause the time I am spending writing the article to run into an appointment that I have scheduled, so there is a pause while I go to the meeting, and so on and so forth.

In other words, an article that took from 1:30 PM until 4:20 PM in total, may have only taken me 45 minutes to write all together.  There is no way I would ever be able to find that out without an automated time tracker.

What I like about RescueTime is that it only counts the active application as using my time.  This means I don’t get fake counts because I have Word open in the background.  Also, it stops counting automatically when I stop using my computer so that those 4 minute phone calls don’t end up falsely adding an extra 16 minutes.

But there has always been one thing that really bugs me about RescueTime.  It’s a web enabled Internet application for no reason.  (After reading Tony’s comment below, I am retracting the no reason thing.  There are good reasons.  They just aren’t the ones I have use for.) Sure, if you are collaborating with a team, or if your boss is reviewing how you spend your time, the online thing is great, but if you are a single freelancer working out of your basement office, there is no reason to be sending all that data out into cyberspace.

Sure, they have a privacy policy, and yes, they have security, but as the recent Twitter thing reminded everyone, that isn’t enough.  Besides, it is yet another, no profit, tiny revenues, free-version with a pay-version, company that could go out of business at anytime or get bought out by someone else.  If that happens, all that data may just well be the most valuable asset the company has, and investors and founders looking to get the money back could sell it easily.

Unfortunately, there is no offline, no network, local install version of RescueTime.

Today, I found ManicTime, which is, for my purposes anyway, everything that RescueTime is without the online web-based part.  ManicTime installs locally, doesn’t make me register (and give out my email address), and doesn’t make me log in so that someone, somewhere could find out exactly what I was doing every day for a week, a month, a year, or longer.

I’m still testing, but so far, so good.  It looks like RescueTime will be out and ManicTime will be in.

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9 thoughts on “RescueTime Time Tracker Offline Version ManicTime”

  1. Jose says:

    Hello,
    We’ve recently launched our personal productivity software which currently has over 500 users. Although it’s still a beta version, Kiply allows you to track your activity in order to know how you really spend your time while using your computer.
    With Kiply you automatically record your activity in real time and keep it completely private. You can view your activity either on the web or on your desktop app, as well as create new projects and see your progress according to your goals.
    You can download Kiply beta version from our website http://www.kiply.com at no cost. Please share your thoughts about it! 🙂

    1. WGHubris says:

      Way to comment on a year’s old post in order to get a link and exposure. I’ll take a look 🙂

  2. dave says:

    well, I saw a similar solution called kpimatrix (http://www.suzerein.com) they have a free version as well

  3. scyllacat says:

    I got here by typing “rescuetime sucks” into Google search field.

    I am impressed that Tony Wright replied to you, and if I decide I care, I may try to tell him this:

    I use Google and Mobile Me. I’m hip with the cloud. I use online banking and prefer paypal. I try my best to be diligent about security without being paranoid.

    But when I decided to trial RescueTime, they sent me running for something else with these three strikes:

    1. Subscription price, monthly yet. Putting it in a category with my bottled water, if not my electricity bill, is more than I want to think about. I’m not afraid to pay for a good program. I’m not prepared to add to my ongoing cost of doing business without a good hard think, particularly if it’s something I want to rely on long term.

    2. When I decided to go with the free version, I was specifically thinking that if I liked it, I’d trial the Pro and see how much program I needed. Maybe the subscription fee was totally worth it. But no! I was given a “free trial” whether I would or not.

    3. When I closed that window, the website said, “we have not received data from your computer.” I went into FAQs and only then found (not on my first try, either) that they needed an internet connection to sync my data to their servers.

    It’s not *what* Rescue Time is doing, it’s that they’re doing it like a bad date, tricking you into ending up where you weren’t sure you were planning to go.

    For these reasons, I thank you heartily, WGHubris, for your recommendation.

  4. dave says:

    True Time Tracker – is also good time tracking software!

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  7. Thomas says:

    Thank you for an excellent review.I am a student who wants to track my time and manictime is perfect for that.Rescue time is no good because I want to be offline so I can concentrate.

  8. WGHubris says:

    Tony,
    Thanks for your reply.

    The no-revenue thing may have been a cheap shot, but revenue does not equal profitability. Unless it’s actually profitable, then it’s just a race to see if enough growth can be generated before the venture capital runs out, or if it can become attractive enough to be bought out. Salesforce.com is a publicly traded company.

    In all fairness, the business model is none of my business. I was making the point that even if RescueTime is the good guys, there are scenarios in which that won’t be enough.

    Regarding the web application versus the local application, you make valid points regarding those who use the application for teams and collaborations. I am certain that it is easier to develop and improve if it is online. And, yes, access from anywhere on any computer is a plus for users who want that. My point, was that for the single user version, most of these things are unnecessary.

    A couple of your points are reaching a bit:

    Easier to install? To run RescueTime, I have to download a client, and run setup. Then, I have to go online and create a user account. For a local install, it is the exact same thing except I don’t have to go create a user account. I’d call that a wash, not an advantage.

    Hard disk space? 10 MB for ManicTime. Sure, that’s more than 2 MB for RescueTime, but 10 MB isn’t much these days.

    Losing your data? I have to back up my computer anyway.

    With regards to Gmail, you have hit the nail on the head. I’m sure you have heard of the recent events with Twitter and the confidential documents that were accessed relatively easily by a hacker who just decided to work through the system. Keep in mind, this was Google.

    Yes, technically, nothing was wrong on Google’s end or Twitter’s end or anyone else’s, and yet, someone got something they weren’t supposed to. This is exactly what got me thinking about what I do and do not have stored online somewhere.

    However, you are correct. There are advantages to having an online application and RescueTime is exploiting them well. Kudos.

    The reason I used RescueTime for so long was that it was seemingly the only application of its kind that understood how to count and what to keep track of. Letting me know I had Word open for 18 hours is useless to me if 14 of those hours were in the background. Likewise, it does me no good to know that I used Firefox for 6 hours. I need to know WHERE I used Firefox for 6 hours. RescueTime excelled at getting this just right by counting only the application you were actually using, and stopping the count when your computer wasn’t being used.

    The truth is that I really like RescueTime, and none of the other options ever measured up to it. That is why I wanted it to be what I wanted it to be, instead of the product that you are making to fill the needs of other users.

    If the online thing doesn’t bother someone, I would highly recommend RescueTime.

    -WG

  9. Tony Wright says:

    We’re yet another “no-profit, tiny revenue free version with a pay company”? That’s a pretty big leap to lump us into the pile of no-revenue-model web startups. We do have a free version for individuals, yes. But we’ve had a revenue model for over a year and we have a growing pile of business customers. We’ve had double-digit % revenue growth for months (right in the middle of the economic apocalypse, thank you!). So if you’re going to compare our business to someone, I think Salesforce.com would be a more appropriate comparison than Twitter. 🙂

    Regarding the “it’s a web app for no reason”– it STUNS me that I still occasionally hear that from people in technology. I should write a blog post so I can just link to it, but I’ll paste it in my standard response below:

    Have you seen the growth of Gmail? Freshbooks? Mint? Salesforce.com? The advantages (for the user and the business) are huge. Here are a few:

    – It’s easier to install
    – It makes it much easier for a person to use RescueTime on multiple computers (desktop + laptop/netbook is pretty common)
    – It doesn’t suck up space on your hard disk.
    – It works for business teams.
    – Losing your computer doesn’t mean losing your data- no backups required
    – You can access your data from multiple locations/devices
    – By pushing most of the processing to the server, it allows us to much more easily support multiple platforms. We have strong demand among Mac and Linux users (though we haven’t gotten to Linux yet)
    – This model allows us to iterate and improve the application rapidly. Our users want improvements and enhancements– and it would take 2x – 3x the time and $ to push those out to a client on multiple platforms.
    – Server side data processing doesn’t impact performance on the user’s computer. CPU and RAM are pretty precious to a lot of folks.
    – It’s cheaper to develop and distribute. This isn’t greed– it’s economy. We can have a better product that we sell cheaper by making it web-based. Less money spent on the bizarre complexities of Windows means more money on making the product better and supporting our users.
    – Technical support is easy and likelier to have resolution. If something is broken just on your machine, guess how easy that’s going to be for us to diagnose/fix? Not very.

    As an aside, every Gmail user is storing a pretty staggering amount of personal data (both mail and search data) with Google. Taking this a step further, many ISPs sell anonymized data to companies like Compete.com… So if you’re jealous of your attention data, might be worth investigating.)

    Anyhoo– there are certainly advantages of having an app entirely on your machine… We’ve recommended both Slife and ManicTime in the past for people for whom these advantages are important (though I believe Slife might be moving into the cloud as well).

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