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TimeSnapper: A Review

Free Version
The trial version is not bad, I used it for quite a while to remind myself what time I started working.

Paid Version
I now have the paid version ($40/each). Every day I check my productivity score, which really just is the ratio of time spent in work applications – time spent in browser, time spent in front of the computer and start and stop times.

Benefits
Time spent in front of the computer has a different quality to it and it’s hard to estimate how long you are in various applications. Time spent in front of the computer also has a lot of ‘same-ness’ which makes it hard to remember what you were doing. Time snapper gathers a lot of data from which you can infer what you were up-to.

It is extremely easy to use TimeSnapper data to calculate a billable/not-billable split and total time worked. Doing a spit between time spent on one client vs another is more challenging because you probably use the same set of applications to do work for each client, but with the movie of the day, you can get an hour by hour break down with just 8 clicks.

The customer support is fantastic. The code base is under active development and the developers are responsive to their customers.

There is a side effect to screen recording, namely you can recover lost data. TimeSnapper even has an OCR tool for extracting text from screenshots.

Usage Advice
Put all your time snapper files into an encrypted TrueCrypt disk (or turn on EFS if you have windows XP Pro). Plain text passwords will show on your screen and pose a security risk. Also, having a recording of everything you do will make you look worse than other employees should management get a hold of your recording because there will be proof that you visited a non-work website, while for other employees there will only be a suspicion.

For versions up to 2.4.3.0, watch out for low disk space errors. If TimeSnapper can’t write to disk, it will silently log the problem, but not report that it is no longer recording.

Wish List
I wish I could get multiple computers to record to the same TimeSnapper directory, for example, if I work on three remote desktop sessions and two virtual machines and two different workstations, they should all record to the same shared encrypted folder. Also, there isn’t a clear strategy for profile switching. If I switch from an administrator to limited user profile on one machine, I should be able to record them as a single stream. This may be possible with the free version, but I haven’t tried it. The pro version seems to collect meta-data in addition to the screenshots, so there might be contention for that file.

Encryption should be an automatic option, even if it is just the built in Windows EFS

Internet usage tracking is not usable, but competing products like pageaddict are also usable. What I mean is that a typical browsing session involves visiting dozens of sites for small periods of time, many of which you will never visit again. Individually assigning all of these to billable/not-billable categories or even assigning them to individual contracts is not practical. Some sort of automated split, say between intranet vs internet would be useful, or some report that shows all sites with more than 10 minutes of total usage, vs all sites with less than 10 minutes usage each lumped together would be more usable.

I wish I could view the day in hour by hour screen shots in a single screen, ie. The 8AM screen shot, 9AM screen shot, 10AM screen shot, etc. Then I could visually figure out what client I was working for at hourly intervals.

I wish it could be installed to my USB drive.

Recommendation
Everyone who has to do a time sheet or wants to be more productive should use TimeSnapper. Since getting it, my productivity has gone up.

Posted in Software Reviews.