ManicTime: powerful time management utility that helps you keep track of how you spend your time on the computer

Update: When I wrote this article ManicTime was purely a freeware program. Now it has freeware and shareware editions.

“Welcome to The 21st Century. How may I take your order?”

“How about… 3 hours of sleep, 1 hour of eating, and 20 hours of computer!”

Seriously, in today’s day and age most of us (almost) literally live on our computers. I am sure for us computer-holics if we do not have access to a computer for a prolonged period of time, we start getting withdrawal symptoms including but not limited to clammy hands, stuttered speech and blurred vision; I am living proof. Sometimes when one spends so much time on one activity it is nice to know exactly how we spent our time… don’t you agree? For some of us the need to track the time may be related to getting a pay check while for others it may just be an interesting statistic. Whatever the case may be, ManicTime is here to help.

ManicTime is a very powerful time management/tracking tool. It sits in the background and collects data on how you use your computer. ManicTime has three main “tracking” features:

  • “Activity” – basically records if you are active (“Active”) on your computer or unactive/away (“Away”, “Session Locked”, etc.):

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  • Application usage tracking – shows you what applications you used, when you used them, and for how long:

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  • Browser/internet usage tracking – if the application you used is a web browser, what websites you visited, when you visited them and for how long will be logged:

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Now most computer usage software just stop there; they track how you use your computer but do not go any further. ManicTime, however, provides you with extra tools to help you organize and analyze the data that was collected:

  • Tags – you are allowed to highlight portions of your activity and “tag” them with a short phrase (i.e. I can tag the time spent writing this article as “New Article on ManicTime”) to help you categorize and book-keep your time:

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Interestingly, you can make multiple different tags for the same time period instead of just being limited to one:

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  • Statistics – you are not only provided with simple percentage statistics on how you used your computer…

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…but you are also provided with graphs and tables:

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You have the ability to control what data appears on the graph/table. Just “Add” or “Remove” the data you do not want to see (you may also “Edit”):

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You can select multiple data groups to be combined together (select whichever ones you want) or you can have each group be graphed individually (select just one). From the “Timeline” drop down menu selecting “Tags”, “Applications”, “Computer usage” (“Activity”), or “Browsing” will make the groups categorized under them respectively appear for your selection.

To add cream on top of the cake, there is an option allowing for the export your computer usage data into .CSV files:

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Lastly, if you have ManicTime running and you temporarily would like to disable it, right clicking on the system try icon allows you to “Get off the record” (i.e. stop data collecting).

The best part of ManicTime is it works completely locally. In other words, the data collected  is stored locally on your computer no one but you will ever have access to it and you need not be connected to the internet to use ManicTime.

Now on interesting, yet odd, thing I noticed about ManicTime is the computer resources it uses while running. Not so much the CPU usage – it doesn’t really use much CPU while sitting in the background collecting data. Rather the RAM usage is interesting. Before I explain let me clear the air that ManicTime is not really a resource hog but it isn’t exactly light on resources either. It uses around 25 MB of RAM (on average) for me while sitting in the background (sure if it used less RAM it would be nice, but considering the fact it is constantly at work 25 MB of RAM is not too bad) What is interesting is how it uses the RAM. It slowly increases the amount it uses, pauses the increase for a second, and then drops. Let me explain by example: I was sitting here watching its RAM usage start at 15 MB and slowly rise to 18 MB… then drop back down to 15 MB and start the climb again. *Shrug* not really sure why it operates like that, but it does. Probably is just the developer’s way of preventing ManicTime from being a resource hog.

Although feature filled, two features I feel ManicTime is missing are

  • The ability to set time restrictions. What I mean is I would like to see a feature where the user can set an “alarm” to go off if he/she has spent more than the allocated time on a specific application/task.
  • Password protection of the program.

Now with all the good of this program, I would like to point out one bug. Apparently ManicTime does not play well with Hibernation (on Windows 7 at least):

  • I hibernated (note hibernated not slept) my computer overnight. With the exception of the first minute (presumably while computer was shutting down) and the last minute (when the computer was sitting at the locked screen) ManicTime recorded all that time as me being “Active” even though my computer was shutdown.

My guess is this is because of the way hibernation works (i.e. saves all open and running tasks to memory to resume upon reboot). The developer needs to look into fixing this bug. Update: A reliable source tells me this bug has been fixed.

Overall, though, ManicTime is an extremely handy time management/computer usage tracking software. You can download ManicTime from the following link:

Version reviewed: v1.2.1.0

Supported OS: Windows XP and higher

Requires .NET Framework 3.5

ManicTime homepage [direct download]

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15 comments

  1. James

    This may be a tool for the 21st century — I am especially pleased to see in the cdomments section that you say it tracks only your active window and not just any open window. But I need it to be for the 220th decade, tracking active TABS in Firefox and Microsoft Word. right now, I have 20 tabs open in Firefox, 4 open documents in Word, and also four tabs open in a third software. Basically, in addition to always having multiple programs running to jump between, if those programs have a tab option (or, in the case of Word a third-party program that gives it a tab option), I’m going to use be using it. And sicne I work at home as my own boss, I have personal stuff, work stuff, research stuff, and entertainment stuff and want to be able to differentiate between them.

  2. Pingback: [Windows] Track and log time spent on computer with Work Time Monitor | Reviews, news, tips, and tricks | dotTech

  3. Chuckbux

    I installed manic time on my 9th grade daughter’s tablet computer — issued by her totally digital school — because she admitted that she was often distracted during her classes by various sites and apps. Each evening, we go over the log so that she can prove to me that she was on-task during her classes. She appreciates manic time and so do I.

    Parents, if you give your kids a notebook or laptop for school, you should install manic time. That way you can know if they are watching a netflix film in history class, or chatting with FB friends during math.

  4. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @August: Well WinLogAssist, StaffLogger, and ManicTime only record the activity of your active Window. So, if you have Thunderbird open in the background and are surfing Firefox, they will record your activity on Firefox not Thunderbird. So yes they differentiate between your active and idle programs.

    As for your second part of “walking away but leaving Window open”, I don’t know about WinLogAssist and StaffLogger, but ManicTime has an option to mark you as idle if you don’t do anything for X amount of minutes (10 by default). If you don’t do anything in 10 mins, even if you have active window open, all the time is marked as “idle”.

    Hope that helps.

  5. August

    Thanks Ashraf,

    The multiple tags feature looks really useful. I need some kind of time logger to collect data for invoicing clients. I’ve been using Outlook Calendar with the resolution set to 5 minutes so I can just drag-select a time period and the type a description. I have to push to remember to log everything in the calendar. This looks like a really good way to have data to fill in the gaps in my memory.

    My big question about this, the two Almeza offerings (their free WinLogAssist and today’s Staff Logger), and others I’ve found descriptions of, is how do they handle both multitasking and programs left idle in the background?

    For instance, right now I’m browsing your website. I have eight other browser tabs open. I have an Excel spreadsheet open that’s been open since last night. I have Thunderbird open all the time and right now there are two messages open. I often use open windows as a quick ToDo list, my current stack of stuff I mean to get back to without having to write it on my ToDo list (another program that’s always open).

    Will this program separate idle programs from when I’m active on them? If my ToDo list, Mail, or even Excel are all open for 24 hours straight, will the program only tell me that, or will it separate that I spent three hours messing with an Excel macro or an hour renaming items in my todo list? Maybe not what and why, but at least separating active from idle?

    If I walk away and spend an hour getting some lunch, leaving this message incomplete before sending it, will that hour be idle, browsing, browsing dottech.org, entering text on dottech.org, or (best, but I’m not hopeful that anyone really provides this level of detail) “1hr 20mins elapsed on dot.tech.org/freewaresr/9070, 20min entering text, 1hr idle”.

    Thanks, I really appreciate the aid you give.
    August

  6. Win7Guru

    Hey Ashraf, nice work on this review. I personally use this software every single day. It is one of my startup programs and it is truly a lifesaver. The one thing I noticed, and keep in mind I am just posting without actually reading the entire article, the program should have an about option. I don’t want any trouble from anyone today, it is a very busy day for me. I will leave you with this. I appreciate all that you do for your readers, because without somebody telling them how a program works, they will just keep asking questions hint hint.

    I am going to try something new

    Cheers

    Jon E