Blog Post

Effortless Time Tracking With Chrometa

Most time tracking and management applications require some up front work before you can roll with them, but not Windows app Chrometa. This utility starts working for you as soon as you install it. Running in the background, Chrometa tracks all your computing activities including emails, visits to web sites and open applications. It sorts the activities by application or tool and does it all without you needing to do a thing.

You don’t need to work hard to figure out the simple interface, either. A calendar sits on the left side of the screen that lets you go back and review any day, week, month or selected timeframe to see how you spend your time. Categories appear below the calendar. The rest of the interface splits into two sections: Active Time and Away Time. That’s it.

Chrometa's Main Screen

Initially, all activities appear under “Uncategorized.” You can leave it like that, if you’d like. Or you can create new categories by project, client or others. If you want an application to always appear under an assigned category, Chrometa can do that. For example, you could tag Hootsuite and Tweetdeck so those entries always go into the “social media” category, or tag Thunderbird and Outlook  (s msft) entries for the “email” category (note that if you use a web-based email app like Gmail, this won’t work unless you use a unique browser for Gmail only). Chrometa not only shows how much time you spend in email, but also it gives you an idea of what emails you worked on based on the subject of the email. Web browser activities work similarly, relying on the web site’s title.

Sometimes it’s hard to identify an activity. That’s not Chrometa’s fault. For example, say you start a new Word document that you have not yet saved. Unsaved documents show up in Chrometa as “Document1,” Word’s default name for an unnamed document. Confusing web site items are also out of Chrometa’s control. Furthermore, you can’t edit Active Time descriptions. This is both a good and bad thing. It’s good because clients who need to see where you spend your time know that they can trust the information. It’s bad because not everyone needs to share data with others.

Chrometa runs minimized, sitting in your system tray out of your way. When you step away, you don’t need to do anything to track your non-PC time. Chrometa knows you’re idle when you stop using the computer for a set time. Upon your return, an alert box appears so you can enter how you want to record the non-PC time or ignore it. This is the only time the app pops up without your involvement.

You can easily block applications that you don’t want to track. Additionally, we all visit web pages or look at an email for a few seconds. This can add up to a lot of activities, but you can hide activities that are shorter than one minute, five minutes and 10 minutes. Like blocked applications, this cuts the noise and concentrates on the real activities.

Other features include the ability to export data to an Excel spreadsheet, and Timestamps for showing a chronological record of your daily activities in one-hour blocks.

Chrometa's Timestamps Screen

You may pause the app when you use the computer for activities not related to work that you don’t want to record. But be warned that it won’t remind you that you’ve paused the time in case you forget to turn it back on. A future release will need to address this.

The program has only a couple of niggles. The Active Time data sometimes disappears, and the only way to get it back is to close and open the application. The app could also stand some usability improvements to make it easier to change categories, or to move things around. However, the time management application is ahead of many others in its ease of use and effectiveness. The impressive thing about Chrometa is that you can benefit from the collected data without doing anything.

You can download Chrometa for free. The free version has all of the features of the paid version, and works for 30 days. After 30 days, you’ll need a license key to continue using the app either by purchasing Chrometa for a one-time fee of $99 or qualifying for a free license.

What do you think of Chrometa?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise

20 Responses to “Effortless Time Tracking With Chrometa”

  1. An excellent app for sure. Turns out I’m building something very similar to Chrometa but for the Mac. (I’m not copying from Chrometa – I’ve had this idea for 6 years now and it was part way through development that I even heard of it).

    If you’d like to know more about it, you can check out

    If I can make it half as easy as Chrometa does to categorise your times, I’ll consider it a success! Thanks for a great review.

  2. Scott Johnson

    I have been using Chrometa for a little more than a month and absolutely love it. I work for a law firm and had been struggling for years to settle on an efficient, workable method for keeping track of my time. I’ve tried handwritten notes, Excel charts, and the timer application my firm provides, but none of those proved was as effective for me as Chrometa has been. I’m constantly jumping from project to project and application to application, and am often out of my office for meetings. I was never able to train myself to record everything I was doing, and had become accustomed to reconstructing my weekly activity from my email files when it came time to enter my time. Chrometa has been a great help.

  3. I have a love hate relationship with Chrometa. Its simply so easy and so good at what its does, that you forget its running in the background. That kind of honesty at the end of the day or the end of the week can be heartbreaking. ;)

    To be serious for a moment, Chrometa has literally changed my business. I use it as part of our company’s sales pitch for monthly services, offering the logs as proof of hours spent on client projects. Since offering this, not a single client has questioned the final amount of hours. This single benefit substantially changes the power dynamics of handing a client your invoice.

    And to score extra points we offer “per second billing”, something which is quite popular with our mobile operators in South Africa, but it also serves to reassure our clients of the accuracy of our time tracking and that charge only for the exact amount of time spent working on their projects and no more.

    Admittedly Chrometa does have one or two rough edges, but the guys working on are so open to suggestions and their update cycle is fairly short – that I’m confident they will have it surpassing my expectations soon.

    It really is a great app and I would recommend it to anyone.

    • Zane, thank you for sharing your experience. It gives folks another perspective. Boy, I’d hate to see what it tells me about my laptop work — where I play games to review! (I sometimes go longer than needed.)

  4. If you ever ask the question “where did the day go?”, Chrometa will actually answer this question. Chrometa is easy to use, intuitive and if you are retentive about categorizing things (like me) then you will find yourself playing with it just for fun. And if you are not so retentive, then it is happy to sit in the background and track your time. I only wish that Chrometa could track my whole life, not just the time I spend on my computer.

    • I’m an organized freak. I started sorting entries into categories, but it took more time than I would’ve liked. Nonetheless, it did the job beautifully and its own organization scheme without the category works well.

  5. Rod Underhill

    I use it. I like it. I liked it so much I joined the Chrometa team. Now if I could just find some software that would actually do my work for me I’d be all set.

  6. Great to see this tool (disclosure: they’re a sponsor on my site) is spreading outside of where it started: lawyers! Not surprisingly, slaves to the billable hour came up with the idea and as far as I know were the first users. This is a great example of how “the street finds its own uses for things,” as William Gibson wrote.

    • Many advise not charging per hour for many reasons, but some of us freelancers still have per hour charges and this app will take care of that for you so you can stop watching the clock or trying to recall when you started something.

  7. I agree with your comments about how easy it is to get going with Chrometa. I always start with good intentions but get discouraged in the set up process for other time managment tools. A friend told me about Chrometa and it was very fast and simple to start using it. I think it is the most user friendly time tracking app out there.

  8. YAY! I left a comment about Chrometa in another post you guys put up about cool web tools, and I’m so glad you gave it its own post!

    I’ve been using Chrometa for a while now, almost two months, and it’s wonderful. Granted, I don’t have clients (yet) that I charge by the hour (or on a contingency basis; let’s not split hairs, at least, not before I pass the Bar!), but it helps me track my time spent on schoolwork and blogging and all sorts of other things I do on my computer.

    I’m also planning on starting a business with one of my really good friends, and we’d need to keep careful track of our time, and I told her I totally had it covered, since Chrometa suits our needs perfectly. This same friend currently works at a tiny IP law firm that still uses time sheets (I know, ironic, right?) so I suggested she let the partners know about Chrometa so they could do away with archaic time sheets.

    Also, I had no idea you could tell Chrometa to ignore activities that took up time below a set minimum. Thanks for the tip, and great post!

    • Humarashid, sometimes we can overlook certain features because we get what we need. So many apps have too many features — something that’s not an issue with Chrometa. Thanks for previously mentioning it.