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¬† 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

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