I’ve found a good way to reduce procrastination is to set a timer and commit to working on a task for that period of time. It makes it easier for you to work on something you’ve been fearing because regardless of the outcome of the task, you get to stop when the timer dings. It’s really a way to trick yourself into doing something you’re avoiding, but it works, so I do it.
I wanted an application that made it as easy as possible to start a timer. I came up with the following requirements, in order of priority.
Update: Marxio timer isn’t available anymore.
I have a new favorite timer. It’s called Marxio Timer (via Lifehacker) and meets all of my requirements and then some. It’s portable and has all sorts of actions it can perform like restarting the computer, logging out, running a program and even taking a screenshot. Scheduling can be based on a specific time, elapsed time, idle time or even a CPU usage threshold. You can save profiles and can even create a shortcut to the profile.
Multi-Timer – Count up or down, sound and alert, saves times, minimizes to tray by default. This is a great timer! Thanks to Lifehacker for the link. Downside is that it has a memory leak. After leaving it open over the weekend it was consuming over 250MB of RAM. Still, it works well and you can close it every once in a while to free up the RAM. The developer is no longer working on it because he’s created premium software, so the memory leak is not likely to be fixed.
MinuteTimer met most of the requirements. It doesn’t minimize to tray and isn’t pretty, but it was one of the best timers I found.
EasyTimer has a tray icon, but doesn’t save countdown times.
Compact Timer – Minimizes to tray and has configurable actions when time is reached. Not lightweight, Buggy interface – when countdown time is reached the buttons to clear the pop-up didn’t work.
Work Break Timer – Doesn’t allow you to pause, rough around the edges.
CookTimer minimizes to tray, very lightweight. Doesn’t save countdown time.
Instant Boss – Too bossy :) I didn’t like all the preconfigured messages either.
Karen’s Timer II – Geared towards days instead of minutes.
Cool Timer – Doesn’t save times (oddly enough it has presets, but doesn’t use them). Can be minimized to tray. No visible alert when it’s done, just displays the application window again and plays audio. Not pretty.
Time-It – Not pretty, but background and font color can be changed. Splash screen at startup annoying. Hit reset and got runtime error and it crashed. Didn’t minimize to tray.
Workrave – A bit too complex for my needs, but has short stretch intervals and other reminders to help reduce strain.
AlarmXP allows you to see the date in the task bar too. It has a countdown timer and saves it, but doesn’t have a tray icon. When the time’s up it shows a popup. It defaults to a certain time and you can’t pause the countdown. It’s also kind of a hassle to start a countdown. You have to open the application, hit Ctrl-D to open countdown, then hit OK.
Easy HR timer had an error when it first started up. It’s ugly but minimizes to tray, has audio mac-like voice say, “Your time is up” when it ends and I didn’t see a an obvious way to turn that off. It displays their URL on the window and there’s no way to pause.
PC Chrono had lots of voice synthesis that could be disabled. It doesn’t save times. To start a countdown timer you have to hit timer button, then type in the minutes you want to count down, then save it. Alert didn’t grab focus. I didn’t see it until I looked at the taskbar. Skipped over seconds as it counted down (i.e. it stayed on a number for 2 seconds).
WinTimer is slow to start up slow, ugly and to set time you have to hit the hour, minute or second button once per unit. For a 30 minute countdown, you hit the button 30 times. Each time it emits a loud beep. It does minimize to tray, but the timer completion is really loud and you can’t turn it off. Doesn’t save times.
EggTimer looks decent, doesn’t minimize to tray and requires click on options to select minimize. Configurable alert message with no sound. Buttons need to be pressed to set countdown, but also has support for command line options.
MP3 timer looks good, but interface to set time is awkward. Plays audio files for alert.
Intervalski is very simple, minimizes to tray, has custom pop-up alert messages. Can disable sound alert. Doesn’t save message or times. When alert is shown, the only option is to quit or do it again. I’d prefer a way to change to a new timer.
Tea Timer has preset timers, works well, looks okay and audible alerts can be disabled. The main negative is that it has confirmation dialogs that are a nuisance when starting a timer, saving a preset or performing other operations.
AlfaMini is lightweight, can alter transparency but the interface is unintuitive and it requires several clicks to set the countdown timer. It also has preconfigured timers that can’t be altered.