One of the reasons why I like my Mac’s Menubar is that it gives quick, near line of sight visual cues. For example, the time. One glance and my Mac gives me what I want. Visual cues show up in Tweetie, too, letting me know that someone I follow has posted a tweet. The Mac’s Dock does something similar, again, a glance away, and the number in the Mail icon tells me how much mail is in my inbox. Simple. Elegant. Effective. So it is with some utilities, but not all.
Hurry & Scurry
If you’re at all like most Mac users, you’re often in a hurry, often on a schedule of some kind, and the watch, clock, or timer makes you a slave. That’s just the way it is.
Our Macs help us by remembering what is important, providing either visual cues or alerts to let us know when we need do this or that. iCal does it with alerts. Mail does it with an alert when email arrives in the inbox.
Of the dozen or so utilities in my Mac’s Menubar, nearly half provide some kind of visual cue. Even the Dock provides additional cues with the vibrant little dot that tells, at a glance, which Mac app or utility is open at the moment.
Visual cues are a good thing.
Time in a Box
We may desire to put time in a box (with a nod to Jim Croce), but the reality is that time just keeps moving forward, beyond our control, on a relentless journey to the future, which always comes but never is.
TimeBoxed is a Mac utility which is, at a base level, a timer. Timers on the Mac are a dime a dozen with a dime leftover. There are little floating clocks and alarms that do all sorts of things according to some pre-determined and necessary objective.
Have you ever noticed that you are more productive when you have a deadline? Do you lose track of time and get caught up in unimportant details? Ever had some work you were procrastinating over? Simply set up a timer with a time limit that sounds reasonable – 10 minutes, half an hour – and commit yourself to be completely focused for this chunk of time.
What this intuitive utility gives Mac users is a quick glance, not at the time, but at how much time is left for any give task; the meeting you must make, the paper that must be finished, the email that must go out now.
TimeBoxed is a timer, but it works on a different principle than typical stop watch timers or countdown timers. It’s visual in many ways, a time bar that changes color as your timed deadline approaches.
TimeBoxed does not interrupt your work for each passing second. Instead, the time bar changes colour to warn you of your approaching deadline.
You can choose from a variety of alerts: sound, speech alert, visual animations, Growl messages…
TimeBoxed is Easy
I have three or four other timers on my Mac, all which are different, yet of a similar clock or watch or stopwatch metaphor. They count down to a specific time, then an alarm goes off that scares the Holy Spaghetti out of me.
I don’t like it rough. I like it gentle. If I want to be scared I can watch someone urinate in the subway.
Set up TimeBoxed the easy way. The basic window uses a timer duration to set the time. A button starts the Timer. Settings include visual and sound alerts and other settings. Visual cues? Even the Dock icon will bounce if you want it to.
The timer’s visual window can be configured, too—to stay on top of every other window (I put mine in the upper right corner, below the Menubar clock), or have it become visual when your alloted time is almost done.
While I love visual cues, I also get focused and sometimes forget to check. TimeBoxed handles that, too.
When a timer finishes, the time bar turns red. While working on something else, you might be so focused that you won’t notice.
Like a considerate lover, TimeBoxed knows just what to do in letting me know it’s time to move on. There are visual animations, though, including the animated window, a bouncing dock icon, even a screen flash (I don’t like that one; too rough, not gentle).
TimeBoxed is actually quite loaded with features but doesn’t appear that way. It’s more of a highly focused three ring circus than a one trick pony.