Tomatoes: Full-Featured Pomodoro Time-Managing App

Working on your computer can be of huge help or hugely distracting. It’s very easy to get anything done on it, but it becomes less likely that you’ll get things out of the way when you’ve got a world of entertaining distractions one click away.

Some people might be mentally strong enough to keep interferences out of their way on their own, but for the rest of us weaklings, it might be a little harder to keep procrastinations out, and that’s why productivity methods like Pomodoro are so popular. We’ve already looked at one Pomodoro technique app this week – Tadam – which is a nice but minimal app, so let’s look at another app that’s more full-featured. It’s called Tomatoes.

The Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity discipline that works by making you divide your tasks into small time units of 25 minutes, taking a 5 minute break in between them. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980′s and it has gotten a pretty big following since then.

You start by listing every task you want to complete, and setting a number of “pomodoros” (time units of 25 minutes) that you expect the task to take until it’s completed. You then move through your pomodoros, giving your full attention to the task at hand for each pomodoro. If you get interrupted by outside evils or your own demons, you should mark it in your Pomodoro sheet. Oh, and speaking of that “Pomodoro Sheet”…

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes is a beautiful and simple Mac app that helps you get rid of your physical time sheet and kitchen timer, integrating it all in one easy to use interface right there in your computer. Its entirely based on the Pomodoro Technique, so everything’s set to work with the method from the get go.

The app has a main window where you can see your list of tasks, timer, and where you can interact with everything that you might need: setting new tasks, completing older ones, marking interruptions, etc. Then there’s the menu bar component, where your current timer will always be shown ticking, reminding you where your attention should be.

Features

Menu Bar Tomatoes

Menu Bar Tomatoes

At the center of Tomatoes’ main window is, of course, the timer, but below it are all the things you need to set your tasks up. The app supports everything that you could need using the Pomodoro Technique: an inventory which works as the trunk for your active tasks, a to-do section for tasks that should be completed later, and an archive for storing completed Pomodoros.

The menu bar component not only works for displaying your current timer, though. It can also help you start and reset your timers, as well as mark interruptions without going into the app.

Completing Pomodoros

Completing Tasks

Completing Tasks

Starting a new task is as easy as clicking the “+” tab, typing its title, and selecting the number of expected units it should take to complete. It will then be added to your inventory, where you can move it to the to-do category, or set it as the active task that you’ll be working on.

Once you’ve got an active task, when you hit the “On” tab your timer will start running, and when the time’s up, it will automatically notify you by playing a bell sound and bouncing the app’s icon in the dock. Take your break, come back, and hit the “On” button again.

As your Pomodoros get completed, they will appear under your task as little full circles. An empty circle represents an expected unit that has not yet been completed. You can mark a task as completed even if your expected units have not all been fullfilled, though, so you don’t have to worry too much about calculating precisely how much time a task will take.

Goodies

Goodies

Goodies

There’s a few things where Tomatoes makes itself a lot more useful than your boring plain timesheet and your kitchen timer. Under the settings you can customize a bunch of things, including automatically running a timer for your breaks (so that you don’t go over them accidentally), marking a “long break” timer which will get activated once every 4 pomodoros, and tweaking the time of your units and breaks.

You can also set a “timer sound” that will always be heard, ticking away. This is recommended by the Pomodoro Technique, as that ticking sound will keep you reminded of what you should be doing. Personally, I can’t tolerate it, but I understand how some might find it useful for keeping them concentrated.

Stats

Stats

A new update recently came out with a new stats feature, so that you can see a relation of the tasks and units that you’ve completed per day, but I couldn’t ever open the stats without the app crashing on me.

Competition

As pointed out by our own Pedro Lobo in a recent review of yet another Pomodoro Technique app, these kind of apps are pretty abundant for the Mac. However, not all of them are as useful as the rest. Some of the most popular choices are Pomodorable and My Little Pomodoro, but for some strange reason they’ve been missing from the App Store for a while, and there’s no other way to get them.

This leaves Tomatoes as a pretty good alternative to either of them. It’s certainly very pretty and easy to understand, as well as useful for working with the Pomodoro technique even if you don’t know a lot about it. It may not be as simple as Tadam (which we recently reviewed), but if you are obsessed with getting deeper into your tasks, and keeping a concise list of everything you’ve done, then Tomatoes will suit you better.

Conclusion

With most of its competitors out of the way for the time being, Tomatoes presents itself as a very powerful Pomodoro Technique utility. It has every single feature that you might need if you stick to the rules of the method, and it even automates everything for you so that work and break timers flow without you having to interact with the app. This break timer is immensely useful so as to avoid distractions that run for longer than they should.

Tomatoes is a very complete, full-featured Pomodoro app, but will you use it? Do you subscribe to these kind of productivity disciplines, or how do you get things done? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


Summary

Tomatoes is a full-featured Pomodoro Technique app that can help you stay on track with your pomodoros, through features like task managing, automatic timers, and useful stats.

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  • Peter Dahl

    I might check it out. Looks interestingly refreshing – or refreshingly interesting. Most of the pomodoro apps available are not really worth it.

    I have taken to like (ab)using http://kanbanflow.com. I don’t get into all the actual kanban principles, but with the built in pomodoro timer the kanban boards serve as excellent activity inventory sheet.

  • David

    While this looks like a nice application, as a heavy user of timer-based techniques I have some thoughts about this. I originally started using Pomodor-like techniques with Vitamin-R, which is somewhat similar to Tomatoes in its logging capabilities but goes farther in other areas. I used Vitamin-R with great enthusiasm initially, but then stopped. Setting up tasks and logging completions became a chore in itself. I already have task lists and spreadsheets for monitoring productivity if I really want it; while it’s nice to have those functions integrated into a timer program, the timer program is really just there to help me focus and work effectively.

    I later began using an iOS app called 30/30 (free, with the option of buying additional icon sets to support the developer). That is a truly beautiful application. You can still set task lists of varying times and items (although I just use it for work/break cycles), but it’s easy to just set it and go. It automatically cycles back and forth, not asking for feedback on whether something was completed, not bothering with logging. Open the app and go – no extra time, work, or thought required. The closest I’ve come to 30/30 on the Mac is an application called BreakTime, but it isn’t perfect.

    Long story short, I think that many people could benefit from using these timer applications. The thing to remember is that we’re talking productivity. The “bells and whistles” that are offered can be nice, and may motivate some people. Be wary, though, because in some cases the added features and complexity just become obstacles to using the application regularly, and to really boosting your productivity.

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      Hi David,

      I tend to agree with you and prefer the more minimalist approach. That’s one of the main reasons I liked Tadam, which I review here.

      It’s just a simple timer that let’s me track work/break cycles, no log or history or need to setup pre-defined pomodoros for a specific task. If you like 30/30 and want something similar on the Mac, then give this a try.

      We’re also running a giveaway here in case you hadn’t seen it yet. ;)

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      That is certainly a very valid point, and one that I’ve experienced before. After all, having the right tools still means that you need to use them wisely. Great comment, I think this is definitely something we should elaborate more on in a future article.

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