Adventures in Time Tracking

As a web developer for small business, I don’t have a need for complex project management, but I do need to keep track of time, otherwise, I’ll short-change myself and end up making $5.00 an hour! Analysis of time spent on various tasks has also helped me to identify bottlenecks in my process, making me more efficient – keeping clients and the accountant happy.

I’ve used KArm for about 6 months to keep track of what I am working on. It’s a great basic time tracking program that stores data in .ics files as todo’s. The program is limited though in that tasks can’t be moved around or organized beyond a hierarchical task/sub-task structure. No categorization is available, and it doesn’t play nice with the Kontact plugin that does the same thing. Even if both programs point to the same data file, the tasks are independent of one another – in fact, what I put in one won’t show up in the other. This happens because each program identifies itself differently in the data file. There is no benefit to using KArm in Kontact anyway. The standalone allows the session history, the history, and totals to be copied to the clipboard for printing while the Kontact plugin only allows for history and totals. But, alas: KArm has served me well, providing even the gruesome details of the 79.4 hour marathon that was last week. KArm also allows for desktop tracking – a nice feature indeed, as I can have email and Amarok running on the non-tracked desktop, stopping the timer when I am not actually working on the task at hand.

Task Coach for LinuxSince time tracking is so vital to my business, I wanted a program that would allow more flexability. I really liked the features of TimeCult but was disappointed to find that it wouldn’t compile on Linux as it tries to make a Windows executable. What’s the point of writing a program in Java for platform independence that will only compile on Windows? Finally, I came to Task Coach. Not only do I get hierarchical tasks and sub-tasks, I also get a hierarchical category structure, engagement dates, deadlines, and some nice financial/budget features.

Task Coach is written in python and is available in several pre-packaged formats, including .deb so installing it doesn’t take a whole lot of tinkering. A few caveats: Dragging things around and not letting the program respond tends to make it crash. I slowed my movements a bit and the crashes stopped. About those crashes though: make sure you have the “Auto Save After Every Change” option ticked or you can loose data if the program does crash. Task Coaches inability to import even from CVS files does make the transition from other programs like KArm a bit tedious, to say the least. No desktop tracking either so I have to manually stop and start tracking. The features of Task Coach far out-weigh these other issues, in my opinion. Task Coach is currently in version 0.70.3 so I’m sure bugs will be worked out in future versions. The program is licensed under the GNU GPL v. 3 so, if I have the time, I can work out some of the bugs myself.

One thought on “Adventures in Time Tracking

  1. I’ve been wanting to try a new program called Hamster on my ubuntu laptop. Have you considered an online time tracking app? Linux is sweet, but at work we also use Macs and PCs, so we use Intervals. Anyways, check it out.

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