Whenever working on a number of projects in tandem, it’s far too often that I end up sinking too much time into one task and end up with not enough time to complete the others. It’d helpful to have some sort of way to keep track of how much time is being spent on each task, and that’s exactly what Snail is made for.
A simple menubar app, Snail is meant to be a non-obtrusive way of scheduling tasks and then measuring how long it took you to complete each task. It’s a totally new take on project management for the Mac, one we knew we’d have to try out.
Snail is simply a menubar app that gives you all of its features in a tiny pop-over window. The layout is quite clear graphically, but isn’t quite so intuitive to use at first. However, after messing about for a few moments, the workflow becomes clear. The plus icon in the bottom-left allows you to add a task to the “stack,” which is a general non-sorted list for any tasks that you haven’t quite figured out when to do.
Once you have chosen when to do a task, you can drag it upwards to include it in the daily list of assignments. It’s useful to note that any tasks in this list that are in red are overdue from past days – get to work on those first!
Timing your Tasks
Now it’s time to start working on a task. Drag any task into the grey bordered area to start it – it will immediately begin counting upward to track the amount of time you’ve spent on it. You can easily click the pause button to stop the timer. I found it a nice touch that the icon in the menu slowly fills in to reflect the quantity of time spent on the currently active task.
If you navigate to the settings of the app, there is also the option to display the timer in the menubar itself so you don’t have to click on the icon every time you want to see how long you’ve been working on a project.
Detailing each Task
Double-clicking any task will open a very basic popup that allows you to add a description, schedule that task to a certain date, or mark the task as complete. This is an area in which there is definitely room for improvement. In comparison with the graphical design of the rest of the app, the popup is quite lacking. It’d be nice to have an easier way to choose what date the schedule the task for, and bigger and clearer buttons for completing or editing a task.
Scheduling Tasks for the Future
Navigating via the directional arrows on the top of the app allows you to switch what day you’re currently viewing. All the items in the stack are persistent and don’t move even when you change the day – this means that you can add a bunch of items into the stack then sequentially go through days and drop tasks where you see fit.
You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to quickly shift through days, and holding down the command key and pressing the up or down arrow key will move an item that respective direction. For some reason, you cannot move an item from the stack to the current day’s list. I hope this is something the developer will change in a future update.
Real Life Usage
I decided to use Snail in place of any other productivity app for several days to see the results. After the period of time was over, my thoughts are mixed. Being able to track the time I spent on each activity is useful – it’s a feature I don’t see on many other productivity applications, no matter what platform. At the end of the day, I could review all the tasks I’d done throughout the day, and see where I wasted time and where I hadn’t spent enough time.
However, I often found it difficult to remember to start and stop the timer whenever I begin or end a task. It would be nice to have a option that would display a notification every 30 minutes or so reminding the user to check the timer and update it.
As far as the task lists go, it was difficult to schedule tasks more than a couple days in the future. A prominent built-in calendar that you could drag tasks to would make it much easier to do this.
Snail is a unique application, no doubt. Whether you should buy it or not is really up to your own personal workflow. If you find yourself spending too much time in one aspect of work or aren’t sure if you’re working in an efficient manner, it might be worth the cost to better learn where your time is going. However, as a general task manager, it doesn’t have much of an advantage over applications such as Clear or Things, the former being far simpler, and the later giving you a ton more features to manage your personal tasks.
A simple menubar app that helps you keep track of time you've spent on your tasks.6
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