When I get into the flow of working I often lose track of time. I find that my best work often comes in these periods when time seems to almost disappear. Much of the time this poses no problem, but sometimes I need to be reminded of something no matter how engrossed I am in my work. There are also times when I start something that will take a long time to finish, but I want to be able to work on something else and still be reminded when it’s complete. Either way, I need something to remind me what’s going on.
For events that take place at a specific time, the calendar works well. A reminder for a meeting at 10 A.M. or to meet someone for dinner at 7 P.M. does the job simply. It doesn’t work as well for things that are less tied to the clock. When I start laundry I just want to be reminded to check on it in thirty minutes. When I start a backup I want to be reminded to check on the status in an hour.
Timebar is an app in the Mac App Store that provides a simple countdown timer in your menu bar. This lets you keep an eye on the timer while keeping it out of your way. Let’s see how well it works.
Creating a Timer
Most of us are familiar with the kitchen timer. It alerts us when a meal reaches that moment between undercooked and burnt no matter where we are in the house. These timers can be set to a time and when complete alerts the user with either a bell, beep, or other sound to get our attention. Timebar offers the same ability to set a timer for any period from one minute to eight hours.
Timebar adds an icon to your menu bar when run. Clicking on this icon will pop up window that allows you to set a timer. A slider allows you to pick how long from now you want to be reminder in. This can range form one minute to eight hours away in thirty-two increments that become further apart as the timer gets longer.
Below the slider you are also told the time that the timer will alert based on the currently selected length. You can also customize the color of the overlaid color on the menu bar, by default a shade of blue, which is previewed to the right of the color selection window. You can also specify a text string to display when the timer alerts. The app can also play an optional sound when the timer expires, but only can use sounds located in your ~/Library/Sounds folder. After making these setting, you start the timer using the start button.
Timebar in Use and When Finished
Once started the countdown begins and the color of your menu bar will be overlaid with the color that was specified when you set the timer. As the timer counts down, the portion of the menu bar that is highlighted gradually decreases from right to left to reflect the part of the timer that has passed. The animation runs very smoothly and for a short timer you can watch it decrease almost pixel by pixel.
While the timer is in progress clicking on the menubar icon shows a digital countdown displaying how long remains in your timer. This window also provides a button to stop the timer before it has alerted in effect canceling the timer.
When the timer completes the menu bar shading will have disappeared completely, and Timebar alerts you with a popup window telling you that time is up, playing the sound if selected, and displaying the reminder message you provided when setting the timer. The alert window provides a snooze option allowing you a short pause before being reminded again. The length of the snooze varies depending on the length of the timer. For short length timers it seems to go to one minute and five minutes for longer length timers. You can dismiss the window with a Close button.
Once the timer starts your settings are remembered and are used as the defaults for your next timer. The menu that pops up when right clicking the menu bar icon also allows you to quickly restart the last timer you used.
You can also download an extras pack that adds provides additional methods to set a timer. The pack includes a command line tool for etting and starting timers from a terminal. It also includes an Alfred workflow, allowing you set a timer through Alfred.
Timebar provides a nice app that does one thing pretty well. It provides a simple reminder of an event that will occur a set number of minutes from now. Whether the reminder is the time to boil an egg, your dryer to finish, or a commitment to work before playing a game, it helps keep you on track. I like that is stays out of the way when running and coloring the menu bar provides a great way to check the remaining time with minimal interruption.
I would like to see a few features. The ability to create and save a few commonly used timers would be nice for commonly recurring time periods. I’d also like to be able to group reminders to say remind me to check on dinner in ten minutes to turn and again fifteen minutes after that that the meal is done. As is though Timebar is a good app that works well and is worth the $2.99 price.