ManicTime is a free app that runs in the background, measures your computer usage, and provides detailed stats on your activity. It can report on your general computer usage, on the specific applications that you’ve been using as well as the specific web sites that you’ve visited. It allows you to “tag” chunks of time with user-defined tags in order to allocate time in a way that makes sense to you and refine the analysis.
Do you know what you spend the most time on when you’re using your computer? For example, you may want to know how much time you spend checking and responding to email vs. the amount of time you spend on doing “real work” (vs. the amount of time you spend randomly browsing the internet). Recently I’d been thinking about the amount of time that I spend doing research online (a lot) compared with the amount of time that I am actually working on creating something, whether its my deliverables at work or creating actual posts for this blog.
Which is why I am now running ManicTime. Here are more notes this program:
- The User Interface: is divided into a day view and a “statistics” view where you can view a range of dates together. Four timelines are simultaneously visible in the day view (Computer Usage, Applications, Browsing, and Tags). Clicking on any of these will change the type of information that is displayed on the bottom half of the screen. Not that you can (a) click on any colored chunk in any timeline to zoom into that information, and (b) you can select any range with the mouse to hone in on that. ManicTime uses color coding for similar items listed in the data section, which makes it easy to work with these.
- Tagging: is a great way to organize information in a way that makes sense to you. For example you can create tags such as “Project A”, “Project B”, “Work”, “Personal”, or even, say “Procrastination” or “Research” or whatever… anything that makes sense. You can right click on any colored chunk on any timeline to apply a tag to it. You can also check items within the data table on the lower half of the screen then click the “Add Tag” button on the top left. Kind of unintuitive at first, but works.
- Charts: in the “statistics” tab, you can add any element (from the Computer Usage, Applications, Browsing, or Tag timelines) and chart it against other elements. Very cool.
- Filtering: in the “Day” tab, type straight into the “Filter” box on the bottom of the screen to filter. Or otherwise check the boxes next to the individual entries, move the mouse to the “Summary (Selection)” section on the right hand side, and right click “filter by this group”. Click on the “Clear” (next to the filter box) to unfilter.
- Off the record: right click on the “ManicTime” icon in the system tray and select “off the record” to manually tell the program to stop recording.
- Exporting data: to CSV, is possible. Select a specific date range or “all”. Note that the “table” tab in the statistics section is what’s exported, so make sure to add as much (or as little) data detail to that as you want.
The verdict: This is the kind of program you simply let run in the background and only interact with once it has had the time to collect sufficient data, once a week or so. It can provide a great deal of information; however, whether this info is useful and/or insightful largely depends on you, the user, and what you want to get out of it.
What I like is that allows so much control over the data and collects data with such granularity as every single URL you have visited. I would say that interacting with the data can be somewhat confusing though, esp. filtering and tagging (which is why I describe them in detail above). The other drawback is the memory usage which, at approx 46-55 megs on my machine, may be a little too resource intensive on some machines.
Still, this is a very mature program and what it does ManicTime does an excellent job. The breadth and sophistication that this program has built into it is commendable and honestly quite surprising, and certainly is one of the best free programs of its kind. Recommended.
ManicTime Video Tutorial, Part 1:
For more tutorials, see the links below, or go to the Tutorials section on the program home page.
Version Tested: 22.214.171.124
Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 4.81 megs).