Freeware: ManicTime micromanages your day

It looks like a file defragmenter, but really it’s a way to see how very fragmented your day is. ManicTime is a fat, but free .NET app that snoops on all your window titles and creates a series of charts that describe the applications that take up your day. It’s a good way to augment your timecard, or just see how long you’ve spent playing Team Fortress 2 versus World of Warcraft. I’ve been using it for about eight hours now and I already feel terribly, terribly guilty.

ManicTime main screen
ManicTime main screen


  • Free and professional-looking
  • Silently records your doings with no interaction
  • Unobtrusive – unlike a PDA-type app, it won’t remind you what to do, it passively records what you’re doing
  • Accurate enough out of the box, better with a little personal configuration
  • Can export graphs (to PNG) and data (to CSV)
  • Does not share or upload your data with a 3rd party source, all info is store locally


  • Induces guilt
  • Requires .NET (and therefore not native to Mac or Linux machines)
  • Grossly overweight (its two runtimes exceed 50MB when minimized)
  • Without user interaction, cannot differentiate between different activities using the same app (bad if you use your browser for multiple tasks: watching YouTube, checking email, writing a blog post)
  • Weird, fuzzy display of some text (some .NET issue, maybe?)


(found via Lifehacker)


9 thoughts on “Freeware: ManicTime micromanages your day

    • I haven’t tried RescueTime, but from what I’ve seen it’s a more professional, lighter app, and since it is a service that may or may not blossom into a financial success, there’s a greater potential for more features. It already has some very pretty graphs, and enterprise support. For some, it might just be worth it to not have to deal with .NET. However, you’re tied to a “software as a service” deal, where all your data is stored somewhere that is out of your control. For me, it’s worth it to wrangle with the no-profit-motive ManicTime, where all my stuff stays where it should be: on my machine.

  1. Hey Doctor Frog! Thanks for the RescueTime mention.

    I think this statement: “…where all my stuff stays where it should be: on my machine.” is going to change over the next few years.

    Already you’re seeing it with email (gmail, hotmail),file storage (dropbox, etc), and finances (Quicken Online and Mint).

    The “in the cloud” nature of RescueTime allows people to:

    – Not sweat backups
    – Work with multiple computers (for the folks who want to track usage and aggregate laptop+desktop data or team data)
    – Enjoy rapid response time to feature requests and bug reports (web software is 10x easier and less expensive than desktop software to develop)
    – Enjoy a lighter client– if the app does a lot, it can bog down your system. If it does the bare minimum and pushes the data crunching to web servers for crunching, it can be less burdensome on your system.
    – Access their data anywhere
    – Not have to deal with frequent software upgrades/reinstalls.

    FWIW, we’re working on full data export for folks who want to monkey with it (we already offer some csv export now). Of course, if you’re concerned about the privacy implications of remote storage, that won’t help you. Big given that people are storing all of their email and IM chatter online nowadays, and given that your ISP is logging every web site that you go to and selling that data, I think the type of data that we store is actually pretty tame. 🙂

    Anyhoo, thanks again!

    • Tony, thanks for your comment! I agree with your points, the strength of the cloud is in its portability, and the ability to push processing, data storage, etc. to a server somewhere to thin out resource hogging on desktop systems. For an enterprise setup, the choice to use a service rather than administer yet another suite of software is indeed attractive. For personal use, however, I find the idea of running that service locally to be a better option. There’s a certain appeal to being ‘off the grid’ as it were, and I personally feel that PC users have a responsibility to leash as much of their personal data as reasonably possible, considering how ferociously a company might protect their own aggregated user data. No one on the ‘net can really expect a truly high level of privacy, it’s true, but I see little reason to create yet another copy of my habits for someone to analyze, package, and sell as a commodity.

      I’m even more concerned about businesses using software like this to further scrutinize their workers’ productivity. Being able to summon blanket data that can be read any which way by someone in a position of power for whatever purposes they may have in mind is a little chilling (even if your software has an ‘off’ switch, that ‘off’ time is also part of that data). I like the idea of being able to personally control what an application like this monitors, and one that runs and stores all information locally and not part of a larger network gives me that control.

      Most users, however, aren’t as concerned with such things, and just want software to work and look nice. And, at the end of the day, of course, we’re talking about data on how long I had Opera open, not a carbon copy of my (nonexistent) master’s thesis. It’s data that’s not a big deal. Considering this, RescueTime looks like an excellent service, as long as you don’t mind being tethered to an online service and creating yet another a personal profile online, and as long as it is properly used. And it sure as hell beats the 50MB bloat of a fat .NET runtime.

      Well wishes to both the ManicTime and RescueTime projects! I hope both projects continue to empower individual users!

  2. Really interesting conversation!

    “I’m even more concerned about businesses using software like this to further scrutinize their workers’ productivity.”

    This is a common concern– though I’d argue that transparency buys you more than it costs you. Think of the productivity and morale costs of:

    – Unethical employees who purposefully try to avoid doing work (not hard in the modern workplace)

    – Undertasked employees who don’t have anything to do, but are afraid to mention it.

    – Resentment for employees who don’t SEEM to work hard. Let’s face it– there’s an art to looking busy– the people who are good at that aren’t necessarily actually working.

    – Subjective self-judgments. Ask a roomful of employees if they believe they work more or less (or more of less effectively!) than their average peer. The VAST majority will say that they work more (and more efficiently) than the majority of their peers. Obviously, a lot of them are wrong. 😉

    – The culture of deception that opacity creates. Every day, workers are alt-tabbing to Excel when their coworkers walk by, staying late spinning their wheels when they are burned out and can’t get anything done… All in the name of appearing productive. It’s essentially a steady-state of mild (though sometimes serious) deception– we feel that’s poisonous.

    We believe that an employer AND coworker has the right to ask how you spent your time (and get a correct/objective answer). We also believe that a workplace is a better place when everyone is honest AND in-the-know about how EVERYONE (top to bottom) spends their time (which is how RescueTime is more effective). We generally refer to this as “radical workplace transparency”…

    FWIW, a lot of our customers who have the courage to go this “wide open” route rave about the results.

  3. While you definitely have a point about workers who don’t pull their own weight, there are less invasive ways of determining worker effectiveness than mechanical survellience (or are there?). A good leader will inspire and assist his underlings to produce, and weed out the slackers personally, rather than rely an all-seeing-eye.

    However, there is a certain appeal to the picture you draw: having a central twitter-like database for all to see for everyone in the company. If everyone has access to everyone else’s doings, there is a flattening of heirarchy that I can imagine would be somewhat invigorating. However, I wonder how many companies today would embrace that vision, and instead use such a tool to reinforce the hierarchy rather than flatten it.

    A larger question is of course how much privacy workers deserve when at work at a company-owned, which feels a bit outside the scope of this conversation.

    In the end, this kind of ‘transparency’ (in and out of the workplace) is likely inevitable, but there is a certain anxiety that comes with the knowledge that each keystroke you make can be monitored. This has yet to be resolved by information age culture, and should be a bigger concern than I think it is.

    I guess my ideal is that tools that generate data based on personal behavior belong under the control of individuals, rather than an impersonal heirarchy, no matter who you are or where you are.

    Ok, now I’ve gone way into the abstract, much apologies. But as you say, this does open up some interesting conversation.

  4. Hi
    Thank you very much for the post, I was looking for a solution for that issue.
    I’m always up for new tips & tricks, Let me know when you’ll have more.


  5. Hi
    I’m doing lots of outsource work and I’m using ManicTime to record all my actions. For me it’s THE tool for the job.
    I rate ManicTime with 5 stars 😉

    I recommend to give this software a try!

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