timeout

Time Out tip: adding sounds

A frequently asked question about Time Out 2 is how to add more sounds.

There is a FAQ answer on this, but I thought I'd expand on it as a blog topic.

Firstly, refer back to a previous blog post on accessing the sound actions in Time Out. That shows where the "Play Sound" feature has moved in version 2. It is now much more powerful than in version 1, with the ability to play sounds before, during or after a break, and even gently fade out long sounds like music. That post also includes a video demoing adding Play Sound and Fadeout Sound actions.

Time Out comes with a number of built-in sounds that you can play, plus it lists all sounds you have installed on your Mac, which includes system default ones, and any you have added to the standard sound folders.

It's worth noting that you can also have Time Out play any music from your iTunes library, too.

Find more sounds

To add more sounds, you first need to find and download them from a website.

There are many sites that offer sounds of varying length, quality, themes, etc. Some for free, some as paid offerings. Usually with previews so you can listen before downloading.

Here are a few I've found; note that I don't endorse or recommend any particular site; these are just ones I encountered in a brief search. If you're aware of or find a better site, please post in the Time Out forum to share with others.

Add the sounds

Once you have the new sounds, you can easily add them in one of the standard folders to make them available to all apps that can play sounds, or add them to the "Sounds" folder within the Time Out data folder to only make them available in Time Out.

The system sound folders you can add to are in the following paths (tip: you can paste these paths into the Finder's Go ▶ Go to Folder... command to reveal them; if the folders don't exist, you can create them):

  • /Library/Sounds — for sounds available to all users of your Mac.
  • ~/Library/Sounds — where "~" means your home folder.

(There is a third folder, at /System/Library/Sounds, but you shouldn't modify that.)

On the other hand, Time Out's sounds folder is at one of the following paths, depending on which edition of the app you have:

  • ~/Library/Group Containers/6Z7QW53WB6.com.dejal.timeout/Sounds — for the direct edition.
  • ~/Library/Group Containers/6Z7QW53WB6.com.dejal.timeout.free/Sounds — for the Mac App Store edition.

While you can use the Finder's Go to Folder... command to access those, an easier way is to choose Reveal Scripts from the Add Action drop-down menu. That will show the Scripts folder, which is adjacent to the Sounds folder. (I do want to make this even easier in the next update.)

I hope this has been helpful!

Time Out tip: adding to accessibility system preferences to enable idle detection

One of the features of Time Out is the ability to detect natural breaks, i.e. when your Mac is idle, not being used.

In version 1, this was detected via what I call the "Event Source" mechanism, but this can be unreliable for some people, as some apps can make it look like you are using the computer, when it's just an automated activity. So in version 2 I switched to a new approach, which I call "Event Monitor". This is generally more reliable, but has one downside: it requires a manual step by you to allow it, as discussed below. It can detect mouse or trackpad movement, but to detect keyboard activity you need to authorize it. Note that Time Out doesn't log or even watch what you type, it is just detecting any key press as a sign that you're actively using your computer.

Because not everyone wants idle detection at all, or would prefer the old approach, I added a preference on the Advanced Options page: "Natural break detection method". This pop-up menu includes options to disable idle detection altogether, or switch between the two approaches.

When you first launch Time Out, the second page of the Setup Assistant includes instructions on how to authorize idle detection. It's pretty simple, though a number of steps to navigate to the right place:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Go to the Security & Privacy pane.
  3. Go to the Accessibility page in the sidebar.
  4. Go to the Privacy tab.
  5. Click the lock to make changes, if needed, and enter an admin username and password.
  6. Click the + button below the list.
  7. Find and choose Time Out in the resulting open file sheet.
  8. Confirm that Time Out appears in the list, with its box checked.

Since that could seem overwhelming, here's a very brief video demo:

(Or watch on YouTube.)

Time Out 2: a month later

Note: this is a re-post, as my web host lost the original post in a server migration.

Time Out version 2.0 went into general release on 2016-03-03, about a month ago.

This was a momentous release, several years in the making. I started planning and prototyping a significantly improved break reminder tool way back in 2007, and worked on bits of it over the years, more intensely over the last couple of years, in between contract work and other apps.

After 33 alpha builds and 7 beta releases, 2.0 went into general release.

Now, a month later, I'm happy to report that the reception has been very positive. Although a few people are put off by the changes, the vast majority have nothing but favorable things to say about the new version and its numerous improvements.

Of course, one of the many changes is the new "supporter" model, which I've discussed previously. Briefly, instead of an optional donation as in version 1, version 2 offers optional payments that enable permanent access to advanced features (that can be tried for an hour at a time, as often as you like, before becoming a supporter).

I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some numbers about how the supporter model has gone so far.

Firstly, the distribution of downloads is interesting. Time Out is available both directly from the Dejal site, and via the Mac App Store. For the latter, version 2 uses the same product as version 1, so people who downloaded version 1 will be automatically offered version 2. The Mac App Store certainly has its problems, but getting people to update isn't one of them: the percentage of updates via that mechanism dwarfed even the substantial downloads by new customers, and direct downloads:

The distribution of purchases is a bit more even, however. Almost an even split between purchases of the direct edition (mostly via the in-app options) vs via the Mac App Store:

Next I thought I'd see how the 3-, 6-, and 12-month supporter options compared via the different editions.

For the direct edition, most people chose to purchase the 12-month supporter option (46%), with the 3-month option the second most popular, at 39%. The middle 6-month option was relatively unpopular, at 15%; that isn't too surprising, as the extremes are expected to be more popular. (This is for the in-app purchases, but the web store ones were similar proportions.)

Things were a bit different for the Mac App Store: there, most people preferred the 3-month option, at 53%, with the 12-month in second place at 29%, and again 6-month the least preferred, at 19%:

Why the difference? I can't be sure, but I'd guess that people who download directly from this site are more likely to be power users, comfortable downloading third-party software, whereas people who prefer the Mac App Store might be more used to the budget prices of the iOS App Store, so might like to spend the minimum to get the features. Perhaps something to think about when comparing the two approaches.

Units sold is definitely an interesting metric, but revenue is important too. Here's how that turned out for the direct edition:

Compared to the Mac App Store edition:

Clearly, I made more money from the 12-month option, even on the Mac App Store where it was a smaller proportion of the unit sales. I didn't include the actual revenue totals, but suffice to say that I had approximately even number of sales from both the direct and Mac App Store editions (slightly more from the latter), but the revenue was higher from the direct edition.

Of course, this is just a snapshot from the first month of version 2. No doubt things will change over time. I hope that downloads and sales will continue well, but they will probably follow the typical "long tail" of most apps. The supporter model may help with that — although there is no obligation to renew the support when it expires, I hope that many people will do so. This might provide some degree of recurring revenue to help pay for ongoing improvements to the app. Who knows, people who choose the 3-month option may end up paying more than the 12-month supporters, since they effectively get two months free.

Although having an income from the app is important to enable continued improvements, it certainly isn't all about money. I am gratified that so many people are pleased with the new version, after all the hard work I put into it. It's great that it can help lots of people to live healthier lives. That is the most important thing for me, which is why I provide the basic functionality for free, forever.

Time Out tip: sounds, scripts, and other actions

One of the frequently asked questions I've received about Time Out 2 is "where have the sounds gone?"

In version 1, there were separate tab pages for "Sounds" and "Scripts", each offering two options; the ability to play sounds or run scripts at the start and/or end of breaks.

Version 2 still has these features, but can do much more. So, instead of having numerous tab pages, it combines them into an "Actions" page:

[Actions page screenshot]

In addition to sounds and scripts, other actions include the ability to display a notification (with an optional sound), fade out the currently playing sound (useful at the end of the break), flash the screen a custom color, and speak some text with speech synthesis. Several scripts are provided, too.

To add an action, simply click the (+) button in the top-right corner of the window, to display a menu of available actions:

[Add action menu screenshot]

(When you first click this button, the scripts won't be there, and there will just be "More..." item at the end; choose this to install the scripts.)

The first bunch are the various actions, followed by scripts, which are like customizable actions. At the end of the menu are items to open the Scripts folder in the Finder, so you can edit or add scripts, and go to the Time Out Extras page to download more scripts.

Once you add an action, you'll see a header row with the name of the action and some other controls:

[Action header screenshot]

You can use the interval picker and pop-up menu to indicate when to use the action. The interval picker enables you to offset from the action stage by a number of seconds, minutes or even hours (click on the units to change them). Instead of just being able to play a sound at the start and/or end of a break, in version 2 you can choose from many more times, including before due, after skipping, and more:

[Action when menu screenshot]

After those controls is a Preview button, that will demonstrate the action. And a Remove button to remove the action.

Here is a brief video to demo the feature: adding a Play Sound action to play a long music track, and a Fadeout Sound action to make it fade out when the break successfully finishes. (You might instead want to have it fade out for any end, otherwise it'd keep playing till done if you skip.)

Time Out 2.0.2 released

Time Out version 2.0.2 is now available for direct customers. The Mac App Store edition will be available in a few days to a week, once it is through Apple's app review. Update: the Mac App Store edition is now available (a bit quicker than expected).

This update includes some scheduler improvements:

  • By popular request, increased the number of digits for the Break for duration and Every frequency on the Break Schedule page from 2 to 3, so you can enter 150 minutes to have a break every 2.5 hours, for example.

While I'm here, note that you can click on the amount or units in these interval pickers to edit them via typing, up/down arrows, the stepper buttons, or click again to reveal a menu:

  • Also added an option on the Exclusions page to automatically skip breaks that fall due while the screensaver is active, the display is asleep, another user is active, or the Mac is asleep. This defaults to on.
  • Tweaked the scheduler to avoid App Nap interfering with idle detection and starting breaks when the window is closed and no status item is shown.
  • Scheduler logging (in Advanced preferences) is now off by default for new users.

There is also a fix specific to the Mac App Store edition:

  • Fixed another issue that prevented purchases from working for some people with the Mac App Store edition.

If you are using the Mac App Store edition of Time Out, look for the update in the App Store in about a week now. If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update. Otherwise, download Time Out 2.0.2 now!

Time Out 2: supporter options

Version 1 of Time Out was available completely free, with a suggested donation to help support development.

Version 2 uses an unusual pricing model: it is still free, but you can become a "supporter".

If you wish, you can download and use the basic features (roughly equivalent to version 1) at no cost, forever. You don't have to buy up-front, and the app won't stop working after 14 or 30 days like traditional apps (like Simon and Caboodle, for example). I want everyone to be able to have a great break reminder tool, even if you can't afford to pay anything.

But certain new features can only be tried for an hour at a time, then they revert. These features can be tried as often as you like, and are marked by a heart icon that animates in next to the control when you hover over it. You can click the icon to display a popover with more information.

When you use one of these features, the icon remains visible and red, and the popover automatically appears for the first one you use, to make it more intuitive that you can click the icon to find out about it. Also, the heart icon next to the "Support Time Out" item in the sidebar starts to "beat", and a countdown message appears below it, indicating how long until the features revert.

To keep these features available permanently, you can become a supporter. This is a small payment that helps fund development of the app, and shows your appreciation of how it makes your life better. The advanced features will remain available as a reward for your support.

There are three supporter options available: 3 months, 6 months and 12 months; basically one dollar per month, with one month free for 6-month supporters, or two months free for 12-month supporters.

Although there is a time limit, this is not a subscription, and the features won't stop working when it expires. These are one-time payments, and they do not automatically renew. When the supporter period expires, you can continue using all of the features you had as a supporter, without paying anything more. But if you are still finding Time Out useful, you are welcome and encouraged to renew your support.

Thank you very much to everyone who has become a supporter in the couple of weeks since 2.0 was released. It's very gratifying to have so much positive feedback and encouragement. This pricing model is very much an experiment, but so far it is working very well, with a large proportion of people opting for the 12-month supporter level as a way to show how much they appreciate the app and the improvements in version 2. I'll follow up later about how it's going, and compare the direct and Mac App Store editions.

If you have any questions about this, please feel most welcome to post in the Time Out forum, or contact me privately.

Time Out 2.0.1 released

Time Out 2.0.1 is now available.

This quick update includes some tweaks to address points of confusion from the initial 2.0 release, and fixes for the purchasing issues in the Mac App Store edition.

The changes include:

Added Dejus YouTube themes

  • Added a couple of themes that play videos from the author's Dejus YouTube channel: Dejus Chickens (videos of David's chickens) and Dejus Water Features (David's ponds and fish).
  • If you enjoy the videos, check out the channel for others, and like the videos and subscribe to the channel!
  • The theme HTML isn't the best; if anyone can improve the video player to play the playlist in random order (while retaining looping when all videos played), and/or adapt the video size to the screen, please get in touch.
  • These aren't included in the Mac App Store edition, but can be downloaded from the Time Out Extras page.

Made some things more intuitive

  • On first launch, now selects the Break Schedule page by default, instead of General, to make it more obvious that the break items can be selected to edit the breaks.
  • When trying a supporter reward, the heart icon button next to the control now remains visible and red, to indicate that it is being tried.
  • Also, when first trying a supporter reward, the information popover now automatically appears, since some people didn't discover this.

Mac App Store fixes

  • Fixed an issue that prevented purchases from working for some people with the Mac App Store edition.
  • After successful purchase, now asks you to create or update your supporter account, so your supporter status can be restored.
  • Changed the Restore Previous Purchases feature to use the supporter account, since the StoreKit restoration approach isn't available for non-renewing subscriptions.

If you are using the Mac App Store edition of Time Out, look for the update in the App Store. If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update. Otherwise, download Time Out 2.0.1 now!

Time Out 2.0 released

Announcing the general release of Time Out version 2.0!

Version 2 is a modern redesign of the popular break app, with many much-requested enhancements, including:

  • Optionally show a countdown to the next break in the menu bar.
  • Optionally hide the icon in the Dock.
  • Add additional breaks.
  • Customizable themes during breaks.
  • Fixed-time breaks.
  • Support for natural breaks.
  • Global keyboard shortcuts to defer and start breaks.
  • More actions to notify of impending breaks.
  • And much more!

Please also note that Time Out 2 requires Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or later, as it leverages recent technologies. If you're still using an older OS version, you can remain on version 1 until you upgrade your OS version.

If you are already using Time Out, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update. Otherwise, download Time Out 2.0 now!

Read on for more information (this is basically the same as the Time Out What's New page, if you've already read that).

Customizable break themes

Version 2 offers multiple themes during breaks. Themes can be as simple as a static image or text, or full web apps. They are powered by web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and can be hosted locally or on remote websites. In fact, some themes are effectively bookmarks for websites.

Time Out comes with a number of themes, and if you are comfortable with HTML, you can modify them or add your own.

Learn more via the help book.

[Break theme]

Optional status item

A status item can be displayed at the right of the menu bar. It can display a color label indicating what kind of break is coming up next (or the app icon if you prefer), and a countdown to the next break, or the time it is due, or other options.

When the Dock icon is shown, clicking the status item quickly displays the Time Out preferences. When it's hidden, a popover will appear, so the app can work in the background. This popover looks basically the same as the sidebar of the preferences window, enabling quick access to the breaks and options.

[Status popover]

Better break scheduling and natural breaks

The preferences window includes a sidebar listing the breaks, and other options, plus quick-access buttons along the top to add a break, pause all breaks, postpone or skip the next break, get help, and other functions.

The breaks in the sidebar include a color label that appears in the status item, the break name (which can be changed), when the break is next due, when it was last done, and a couple of buttons that appear when hovering over the item (as seen above) to manually start the break or other options including postponing, skipping, disabling or deleting the break. If a global keyboard shortcut is assigned to starting the break, it is displayed too.

On the right side of the window are pages detailing the breaks and options. Below you can see the Schedule page for the Micro Break.

Here you can set how long the breaks take, and how often, using innovative new controls that work similar to date pickers, but for time intervals, and support popping up menus for the amount and units.

Other new options include the ability to only have the breaks during certain hours, manually adjusting the next due date and time, and various options to support natural breaks, when the Mac isn't being used.

Learn more.

[Break Schedule page]

Theme selection and appearance

The next page is the Appearance of the break. Here you can choose the theme to display during the break, get information about it, and set background colors and controls.

This is similar to version 1, other than the addition of the Theme pop-up menu and info button. It now also includes a button to quickly Preview the break, and refined color controls.

Learn more.

[Break Appearance page]

Get notified before, during or after the breaks

Version 1 had separate pages for Sounds and Scripts, but version 2 combines these into one Actions page, and adds other kinds of actions, including displaying a notification, fading out a long-playing sound, flashing the screen, and speaking text with voice synthesis.

What's more, these actions can be performed at more times: some interval before the break is due, after it starts or fades in, before fading out or finishing, after finishing or deferring. So you could have combinations like in the screenshot below, displaying a notification 15 seconds before a break is due, playing a meditation sound during the break, and fading it out 10 seconds after the end.

Learn more.

[Break Actions page]

Hide the Dock icon and customize the status item

The General Options includes one of the most-requested additions in version 2: the ability to hide the Dock icon, and make the app work in the background.

It also includes the ability to enable or disable the above-mentioned status item, and customize its appearance. And other options.

Learn more.

[General Preferences page]

Become a Supporter!

Time Out 2 is still free; you can use it for as long as you like without paying anything. But people who contribute to ongoing development by becoming supporters get the advanced features as a reward. You can become a supporter for 3, 6 or 12 months; these one-time payments do not auto-renew, but you can extend your support if you wish. The features will remain available permanently. You can become a supporter in the app, or via the Dejal Store.

Want more details?

Time Out 2 has hundreds of improvements; too many to cover here! See the full release notes for details.

I hope you enjoy the many improvements in Time Out 2!

If you are already using Time Out, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update. Otherwise, download Time Out 2.0 now!

Time Out 2.0 launch weekend

Time Out 2.0 will be in general release on Monday!

But you don't need to wait; you can get it now via an exclusive launch weekend at MacUpdate.

Go visit MacUpdate to download Time Out 2.0.

If you haven't been following along, learn more about the changes in version 2.

Time Out 2.0b7 released

Time Out 2.0 has been accepted for the Mac App Store, so I'm now able to schedule the general release. It will be one week from today, on Monday, March 7!

Here's one last beta (unless any significant issues come up), with a couple of cosmetic tweaks:

  • Fixed a cosmetic issue where the status popover could leave a selected item when clicking the Start or Options buttons.
  • Fixed a typo in the Speak Text action.

If you are using a version 2 beta, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you aren't on the beta yet and want to join, visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

Note: the beta invites will close in a few days. So if you want to try it before the general release, get in quick.

Time Out 2.0b6 released

Time Out 2.0 is currently in review for the Mac App Store! A bit faster than expected. I'm hoping for a general release in early March; we'll see. Quite exciting, after years of work on this upgrade!

Here are a few more improvements for both editions:

  • Improved the scheduler to automatically skip breaks (if that option is on) when a higher priority break was done or deferred within the priority interval.
  • When not a supporter, an animated ❤ icon button now appears to the left of the Add Break (+) button, and that button is disabled if there are already two breaks (supporters can have more).
  • Removed the ❤ icon button for the Next due Break Schedule button, since anyone can edit this field.
  • Various other changes requested by App Review for the Mac App Store edition of the app.
  • Fixed centering of the Setup Assistant window.

If you are using a version 2 beta, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you aren't on the beta yet and want to join, visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

Time Out 2.0b5 released

Good news: Time Out 2.0 has been submitted to the Mac App Store! It'll take a few weeks to get through the review process, but it could go into general release any time after it is approved (assuming Apple doesn't reject it entirely, which of course I can't rule out)!

Anyway, for the direct edition, here are a few more improvements (which are also in the Mac App Store edition):

  • Now shows a pointing hand cursor when over the ❤ icons next to support reward controls, to make it more obvious that you can click them for more information.
  • Added an activity indicator on the Updates page, while the release notes load from the Dejal server.
  • Now fades in the activity indicators (e.g. on the Updates and Support Time Out pages), so they only appear if the content takes a noticeable amount of time to load.
  • Various changes to support the Mac App Store edition of the app. Yes, Time Out 2.0 will be available both direct and via the Mac App Store (assuming they don't reject it).

If you are using a version 2 beta, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you aren't on the beta yet and want to join, visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

Time Out 2.0b4 released

A quick update to fix an issue in the previous beta release of Time Out version 2:

  • Fixed excessive CPU usage due to the animation of the ❤ icon for the Support Time Out sidebar and status popover items.
  • Fixed some file logging that wasn't respecting the Advanced preference.

If you are using the third or second beta, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you are still using the first beta, you can use the link in your beta invite email to download the new version, or use the Check for Updates feature in the app, and manually update.

If you aren't on the beta yet and want to join, visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

Time Out 2.0b3 released

Here's the third beta release of Time Out version 2!

This beta has more refinements, including:

  • Added a help book, available via the Help (?) menu and online.
  • Updated the About Time Out window.
  • Tweaked the border colors of the Analog Clock break theme.
  • Added a Via SSL option to the Updates preferences, to use a secure connection to check for and download app updates. This is on by default, but can be turned off if it doesn't work for some reason.
  • Also updated the Support Time Out URLs to use TLS/SSL.
  • Some people didn't notice the supporter trial message, so now the ❤ icon for the Support Time Out sidebar and status popover items gently animates to help catch the eye.
  • Added URL handler support for promo codes.
  • Moved the accessibility access check to after the Setup Assistant, to avoid the possibility of being prompted before it is explained.
  • Fixed a crasher when locking the screen by showing the Login Window.
  • Fixed some other very rare crashers.

If you are using the second beta, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you are still using the first beta, you can use the link in your beta invite email to download the new version, or use the Check for Updates feature in the app, and manually update.

If you aren't on the beta yet and want to join, visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

I hope you like these improvements! Please let me know of any issues you notice, or ideas for improvements. Thank you for helping make this update great!

Time Out 2.0b2 released

Here's the second beta release of Time Out version 2!

This beta has several significant changes, including:

New and updated break themes

  • Added a fancy Analog Clock theme.
  • Added a flexible Text theme, which includes text that can be edited during the break to say whatever you like (and you changes will be remembered for subsequent breaks).
  • Added two infinitely zooming image themes: Arkadia (website) and Zoomquilt (website).
  • Updated the Emoji Zone theme to use the faster HTML renderer (see below).

Other theme improvements

  • Added support for a faster HTML renderer (technically a WKWebView instead of a legacy WebView) for themes. Themes use this new one via a "type" : "html5" property in their Info.json file. As this property implies, the html5 web view works best with modern HTML5 pages; HTML4 pages generally work better in the old one.
  • Note that the "html5" web view requires Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) for local themes. This includes the new Analog Clock and Text themes. Remote themes work with it in 10.10 (Yosemite) too.
  • Now reloads the Themes popup menu contents when activating the app, so themes added in the Finder show up immediately.
  • Themes that use the "html5" type can communicate with Time Out via some special callbacks. See the source of the Text theme for an example, where it makes the text specific to each break. More information is included in the source comments.

Smarter scheduler

  • Made the scheduler a bit smarter: when skipping a break because a higher priority one is due soon, it now tries resetting the break first. This avoids a situation where a break could get pushed out too far over time.

Help improvements

  • Added an About Time Out item to the top of the Help (?) pop-up menu, that displays the standard About window with the version number etc, for those without the Dock (and thus menus) shown.
  • The Help menu now appears on clicking the button, instead of having to release the mouse button.
  • Clarified the message on the General Options page when both the Dock icon and status item aren't shown, to spell out how to display the Preferences window.
  • If trying supporter rewards when making a purchase, the sidebar message is now changed appropriately to avoid confusion.

Supporter improvements

  • Trying supporter rewards now persists if you quit the app partway through the trial.
  • Finished implementing the Redeem Promo Code feature.

Updater and crash reporter changes

  • Updated the Sparkle updater framework to the latest version.
  • If the app crashes, the crash reporter window now appears on top of the Preferences window instead of underneath it.
  • Disabled the app sandbox, since Sparkle can't update sandboxed apps. The data location won't change, so everything should work as before.

If you are already using the first beta, you can use the link in your beta invite email to download the new version, or use the Check for Updates feature in the app. Note that a manual update is required, due to an issue with the updater; that should be the last time that is needed, though.

If you aren't on the beta yet and want to join, visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

I hope you like these improvements! Please let me know of any issues you notice, or ideas for improvements. Thank you for helping make this update great!

Time Out 2: what's next?

So, Time Out version 2.0b1 was released last week. Maybe you noticed?

That was quite epic, with release notes so long I had to break it up with headings and bookmark links.

Thank you very much to everyone who has downloaded the beta and tried the new version. And especially thank you to the many people who have become Time Out supporters. Haven't tried it yet? Check out the What's New page.

Today I thought I'd write a bit about what I envision happening during the beta cycle.

Testing

Of course, one of the most important things is for a wider range of people to try the app, and provide feedback on what they like and don't like, anything that could be better, or any bugs that they encounter. I'd really appreciate your help with this, to make the general release great.

The features for 2.0 are complete; I don't plan to make any significant changes to the way the app works before general release. But if there are any things that can be improved, I'm certainly open to doing so. Let me know!

There are some aspects that aren't complete, though.

Themes

One is the included themes. 2.0b1 includes a bunch of break themes, that can appear during the breaks, but I want to add a few more. Time Out uses a web view for the themes, and supports both displaying remote websites and local HTML content, much like the old Dashboard widgets.

I have a list of ideas, but three that I particularly want to include are:

  1. Exercise suggestions: some sort of stretches or other exercises that can be performed during a break. This is a little tricky, since I need to find some provider for these, and figure out a good way to integrate them. Or I could just provide a web-based theme, displaying some third-party site.
  2. To do: I envision something like sticky notes as a local HTML-based theme, using local storage to persist the notes, and the ability to add multiple notes. So people can write memos to themselves during the breaks.
  3. Clock: a large analog clock, with moving hands that show the current time.

I have some code that will help with these, and will work on them sometime before the general release. But if you are a web developer and want to help out with any of these or other themes, please get in touch.

Help book

Another thing I need to do before the general release is update the help book / documentation for the new version. Time Out is very intuitive, so most people won't need a manual to use it, but it's still a useful thing to have for people who prefer to learn by reading rather than experimenting.

Website

The Time Out website also needs some updates. At minimum, it needs to be changed to describe the new features, and ideally I'd like to use this excuse to give it a new coat of paint; although the Dejal site does have a special iPhone support mode, it doesn't use the modern responsive design. We'll see how far I go on this.

Reviews etc

Sometime during the beta cycle I want to get in touch with reviewers and influencers, to try to get some of them to try the app for a while and hopefully write about it for the general release. Marketing stuff is hard, but important. (If you're a reviewer and want to try it, please contact me).

Mac App Store edition

Finally, Time Out will be available both directly and via the Mac App Store, with the same features in both editions, so people can get it either via the Dejal site or MAS; whichever is more convenient.

So I also need to make a number of changes to build an edition of the app for the Mac App Store. This shouldn't be too much work, since the direct edition is already sandboxed, and designed with the MAS edition in mind. I'll just need to disable the auto-updater in that edition, and swap out the FastSpring-based in-app purchase popover for Apple's StoreKit, and some minor other changes.

Exciting times

As I mentioned before, Time Out 2 has been in the works for years, and is a huge improvement over version 1. I don't want to rush out the general release, and have a lot to do, but I'm excited to make progress towards this goal.

Again, thank you for trying version 2, for supporting development, and for sharing it with your family, friends and colleagues.

Time Out 2.0b1 released

It's been a long time coming, but the day has finally arrived: Time Out version 2 is at last in beta release!

I've actually been designing and prototyping Time Out 2 since 2007, off and on, if you can believe that. Work started in earnest a bit over two years ago, and while it kept being delayed by contract work (I like to eat and pay bills), I've persevered.

Over the course of development, there were 33 alpha releases, tested by a small faithful group of alpha testers.

Now, the app is complete, and I'm ready to expand the testing pool. This first beta release is available to anyone who wants to try it; just visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

I've written many blog posts providing descriptions and screenshots of version 2, and will post more about various aspects during the beta cycle.

This is a massive upgrade. Here is a summary of the major enhancements. Click to jump down, or simply scroll, to read more about each.


Redesigned app icon

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Get started quickly with the Setup Assistant

  • Added a new Setup Assistant window, which appears the first time you open Time Out. You can also display it anytime via the Time Out or action (cog) menus.
  • The first page enables adding the usual breaks: Normal and Micro, like in version 1. Change them as desired, or uncheck them if you'd rather start from scratch.
  • The second page includes a button to open the Privacy System Preferences, so the keyboard activity can be monitored for idle detection.

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Redesigned Preferences window

  • The Preferences window has a fresh modern appearance, with quick-access buttons at the top, a sidebar listing the breaks, and other options.
  • The breaks display a color label, when they are next due, and when they were last done.
  • The due/done times can be displayed as absolute dates (a date and time) or relative times (how long until or since it).
  • When hovering over break items, a couple of buttons appear, to manually start a break or perform other options, like postponing, skipping, disabling and deleting the break.

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No longer needs to be in the Dock

  • Added the ability in the General Options to show or hide the Dock icon.
  • When Time Out is in the Dock, it'll also appear in the Cmd-Tab app switcher, and have menus. The Preferences window is automatically shown when the app is brought to the front.
  • When it is not in the Dock, it also won't appear in the Cmd-Tab switcher, and won't have menus -- but all features can be accessed from the Preferences window.

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New menubar status item

  • Added an optional status item in the right of the menubar.
  • Shows an icon and countdown to the next break.
  • The style of icon can be chosen (including an icon representing the next due break), or no icon used.
  • It can show a brief or longer countdown, or the start or finish time, or duration of the next break.
  • Supports light and dark menubars.
  • When the Dock icon is shown, clicking the status item in the menubar shows or hides the Preferences window.
  • When the Dock icon isn't shown, clicking the status item shows a popover that looks and works just like the sidebar in the Preferences window, but clicking an item will show the corresponding page in the Preferences window.
  • The tooltip for the status item lists all of the breaks and when they're due, with the next due at the top, so you can quickly see when each break will next occur without having to click the status item.
  • If you turn off both the Dock icon and status item, a warning message explains how to get back to the Preferences. This is permitted for people who want to make it harder to change the preferences for self-control reasons.

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Assign global keyboard shortcuts to start, defer, pause, etc

  • Added a Shortcuts Options page, which lists all of the global keyboard shortcuts, so they can be set in one place.
  • Shortcuts can be assigned to manually start breaks, postpone or skip the next or current break, pause, resume, or reset all of the breaks, and/or stop any playing sound.
  • The postpone and skip shortcuts will apply to the next due break, or if a break is currently starting or underway, to that break. So you can avoid a break with a quick keypress if needed.
  • These shortcuts work from any app.

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Add any number of breaks

  • Renamed the Breaks menu as File, and moved it to the usual place.
  • Added a New Break (Cmd-N) command in the File menu, to add additional breaks.
  • Added support for deleting breaks via the Delete key or menu item.
  • Added Undo support for some operations (notably adding and deleting breaks).
  • Added the ability to drag the breaks to reorder them, which sets their priority, so lower breaks are skipped in favor of higher breaks.

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Rename, label and comment on breaks

  • Added a Break Name page to enable editing the break name, choosing a color label for the break, and adding some comments.
  • The label is shown in the sidebar, and can be displayed in the status item to quickly see which break is coming up next.
  • Also included is a customizable keyboard shortcut control. If set, the shortcut is shown in the sidebar and status popover, and can be used from any app to manually start the break.

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Scheduling improvements

  • Changed the way the breaks are scheduled, to use a single timer with due dates instead of multiple timers, enabling more flexibility.
  • The Schedule times now use a more compact interval picker that supports pop-up menus for values, arrow keys to change values, etc.
  • The due dates are now restored when the app is relaunched (e.g. after a system restart), so they continue as if Time Out weren't interrupted. (If a break would have been due already, its due date is reset to the full work duration.)
  • Added a new idle detector, which should be more reliable than the old one. The new one is enabled by default, but you can switch to the old one or disable it in the Advanced preferences.

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Limit breaks to a time range

  • Added an Available pop-up menu on the Break Schedule page, with "Any Time" and "Only Between" items. If "Any Time" is selected, the break can occur at any time of the day; if "Only Between" is selected, From and To time controls appear to set the available time range.
  • If an "Only Between" time range is set, the next due time will be the From time plus the frequency (the "Every" field).
  • The From time is especially useful for daily breaks, e.g. for a "Lunchtime" break set to every 1 day, you could set the From time to 12:00:00 (noon) and the the To time to 13:00:00 (1 PM), to ensure the break starts at noon, but no later than an hour after that if postponed (e.g. via a natural break).

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Support for natural breaks

  • Changed the scheduler to be smarter: after 30 seconds of idle, the countdown stops (if using the natural break preferences), and after 1 minute of idle, it starts counting upwards (if that preference is set), until the break frequency time is reached.
  • Choose how to handle a natural break. Continue Countdown to ignore idle. Pause Countdown to stop the timer while idle. Count Backwards to pause briefly then count upwards until the duration is reached. Reset After Duration to reset the break due date after the break duration of idle time. For example, with the latter if you have a 10 minute break every hour, and you have a natural break for 10 minutes, leaving the computer idle for 10 minutes will skip to the next hour.
  • Added a pop-up menu to choose whether to wait for a natural break (idle) or start immediately when a break is due.
  • With the latter, when a break is due, it will wait for a natural break of at least 15 seconds, to avoid interrupting you when you're busy. If you keep working for a minute, it starts the break anyway.

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Better appearance

  • The Break Appearance options now uses a new color well that includes a palette of colors in addition to the color picker, and changed the transparency slider to an opacity slider & field.
  • When there are multiple screens available, the Break Appearance preferences has extra options, to specify whether to use the screen with the active menubar, or the screen with the inactive menubar, or a specific screen.
  • Connecting or disconnecting a display will now update the Appearance page, showing or hiding the screens pop-up as needed.

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Customizable HTML-based break themes

  • Time Out now supports multiple customizable break themes!
  • The Theme pop-up menu includes a None item to not fade the screen(s) during the break (just showing the control panel); Blank to fade without showing any content, and a list of available themes.
  • Some default themes are included. You can also customize them or add your own. Choose the Reveal Themes item in the menu to show the Themes folder in the Finder, or Get More to display the Time Out Extras page in your browser.
  • Themes use HTML, so can display local content (potentially including JavaScript-driven apps), or web pages.
  • Fading in to the break, and out back to work, is now much more efficient, and uses a geometric animation curve to make it more natural.
  • Added an Info button next to the Theme pop-up menu. Click it to show a popover with information about the selected theme, including clickable links to author and original websites, where available.
  • Also a Preview button to try the theme; equivalent to manually starting the break.

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Redesigned & movable control panel during breaks

  • The progress bar and postpone/skip buttons now appear in a redesigned control panel that can be moved around the screen.
  • The control panel now fades in at the same time as the break, so the postpone/skip buttons can be used while the break is starting.
  • The break theme and control panel only appear on one screen, if your Mac has multiple screens; the other screen(s) just fade to a blank color (which can be different than the theme screen).

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Add actions to notify of due, starting or finishing breaks

  • Merged the Sounds and Scripts pages into an Actions page, which now supports any number of actions, and more versatile scheduling of them, including before the break is due.
  • You can now play a sound or some other action some period of time before due, after the start of the break, after fading in, before fading out, before finishing, after finishing, or after postponing or skipping. Lots of flexible options!
  • Integrated the scripts into the Add Action (+) button menu, so any scripts you add are treated like full actions.
  • The script actions include an Open button to enable quickly editing scripts, e.g. "Open with Automator".
  • When the Add Action button menu is first shown, or if the scripts folder is empty, it includes a "More..." item at the end. Choosing that will display an Open sheet, asking for permission to copy the default scripts into the folder. After that, it re-shows the Add Action menu with the scripts listed.
  • Included Reveal Scripts and Get More functions in the Add Action button menu. They aren't shown until the default scripts have been installed. They respectively reveal the scripts folder in the Finder and display the Time Out Extras website.
  • Included a Preview button (with an eye icon) to try the associated action.
  • Added a new Display Notification action, that shows a Notification Center panel, with custom title and message text, and optionally a sound.
  • Added a new Fadeout Sound action, that fades out any playing sound over a specified number of seconds. Useful for long sounds (e.g. music), or in combination with the Repeat option in the Play Sound action, to gently stop them after a suitable interval, e.g. at the end of the break. Like the other actions, specify when to start fading out via the action offset & stage controls in the action header.
  • Added a new Flash Screen action, which includes options to set the flash color and speed.
  • Added a new Speak Text action to use speech synthesis. It includes a voice pop-up menu which can display just your preferred voices (set in System Preferences > Dictation & Speech > Text to Speech > System Voice > Customize), or all available voices, grouped by region and gender like in System Preferences. It also has an Attributes popover that enables fine-tuning the voice rate, pitch, inflection and volume.

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Enhanced app exclusions

  • Changed the Exclusion options to show the full path, and added the ability to skip breaks when an app is open but not frontmost.
  • Also added MPlayerX, QuickTime Player and VLC to the default Exclusions, and removed Podcast Capture (since it isn't included in Yosemite).

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Faster app updates

  • Time Out now uses the popular Sparkle framework for app updates, so it can finally download and install updates itself.
  • Changed the Updates options for the Sparkle framework, and to display the release notes right there, since there's space.

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Several advanced options

  • Added an Advanced preferences page, with a number of options that most people won't need.
  • Includes an option for the idle detector: None to not detect idle, the Event Source like in version 1, and the new Event Monitor that is more reliable.
  • Includes a checkbox to alert of another copy of Time Out, which can interfere with starting breaks.
  • Includes a checkbox to control whether or not clicking an item in the status popover should animate to the full window size.
  • Also includes a button to reset the position of the Preferences window when using the status popover, so they line up nicely. When you turn off the Dock icon, it is automatically lined up. The window can still be freely moved, but it looks nice having them aligned.
  • Includes a number of options to output diagnostic information to the Console log.
  • Includes a handy button to show the Console log, i.e. launch the Console app.

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New supporter options

  • Time Out can be used for as long as you like for free, but the more advanced features are only available to try for an hour at a time, as many times as you like.
  • These features are highlighted throughout the app by a heart icon that appears next to the control. Clicking it displays a popover to explain the limit.
  • The Support Time Out page includes buttons to purchase three supporter durations (3-, 6- and 12-months). Becoming a supporter helps to fund continued development. These are one-time payments, not a subscription, though you can extend your support later if you wish.
  • All the features will remain available even after the supporter period, though some future enhancements may only be available to current supporters.
  • Click the Learn More button for more information.
  • This page also includes buttons to restore any previous purchases, and redeem a coupon code.

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Optimized for Yosemite and El Capitan

  • Time Out now requires a minimum of OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), and supports 10.11 (El Capitan).
  • Now uses the latest technologies.
  • Now uses the third-party Fabric Crashlytics framework to automatically capture crash reports. Automatically aggregating crash reports will enable faster fixing any that occur.
  • If a crash occurs, Time Out will now display a window on next launch to ask for information about the crash, which may help trace the cause. There are also optional fields for your name and email address, in case there are any questions.
  • Sandboxed for increased security.

🔝

Phew!

Sound good? Visit the What's New page to sign up for an invite to download the beta.

Time Out 2 sneak peek: shortcuts

It's been a little while since the last sneak peek of Time Out 2, so let's do another one. What shall we look at this time? How about the Shortcuts page.

This is one of the many popular requests from customers of version 1: the ability to have global keyboard shortcuts to postpone or skip breaks when they are starting at an inopportune time.

I went a bit further in version 2, though: not only are there global shortcuts available, but you can also assign them to whatever you want, and can set ones to start each kind of break, postpone, skip, pause, resume, reset, and stop any playing sound.

Time Out Shortcuts page

(The assignments in this screenshot are ones I've set; you can use whatever makes sense to you, and don't have to assign any you don't want.)

If you look closely, you may also notice a few other changes in this screenshot, including a new Help (?) menu button at the top, and a Support Time Out item in the sidebar. More about that another time.

In related news, I've just added a new What's New page to the Time Out site. Check it out for a partial list of features and more information, including a form where you can sign up to be amongst the first to hear of a beta release.

And as mentioned before, if you've made a donation, and are using Yosemite or later, you can contact me to request to join the alpha team, or to get more information.

Time Out 2 sneak peek: status menu

I've been doing a bit of contract work to refill the coffers, so work has slowed on Time Out 2, but it has continued, as has testing. Let's take another sneak peek!

Last time we took a look at the General options, and I talked about configuring the status menu. Well, this time I thought I'd finally show it.

As mentioned, the status menu is a much-requested optional feature in version 2, which shows a countdown to the next break, among other options. When you click it, if the Dock icon is shown, it simply switches to Time Out and shows the preferences window. But if the app doesn't appear in the Dock, a status menu popover is shown instead, like this:

This may look familiar: the status popover looks pretty much the same as the preferences window sidebar. There's a good reason for that: if you click on an item in the popover, it transforms into the full window, enabling editing the break or options.

But you don't need to show the full window for many operations; you can see when the next breaks will occur, when they were last completed, pause, postpone, skip, reset or manually start breaks, and more all from the status popover. As you hover over the break items, a manual Start button and a menu of options appears:

I think you'll find this a very useful addition.

Time is running out, but if you've made a donation, and are using Yosemite or later, you can contact me to request to join the alpha team, or to get more information. Or as always, stay tuned for more screenshots and details in the coming weeks!

Time Out 2 sneak peek: general options

Work on Time Out 2 is going really well: all of the planned functionality has been implemented. Now I'm adding the licensing stuff; more on that another time. For now, it's time for another sneak peek of Time Out 2.

This time, let's revisit the General Options. I briefly showed that back in August, but it's changed significantly since then. As I said before, this is all subject to change, but this might be the final design for 2.0:

As before, the top option on the right-hand-side of the window is a checkbox to automatically start Time Out when logging into the Mac. Pretty self-explanatory; a standard option for apps that you want to keep running; important to not miss breaks.

Next are a pair of radio buttons that you may have previously seen in the Setup Assistant, to control whether or not the app appears in the Dock. That page of the Setup Assistant no longer exists; it isn't needed, as it contained the same controls as here, and the General Options are the first thing you'll see after completing the Setup Assistant.

Not needing to be in the Dock is the #1 request for Time Out 1, so I'm happy to be able to provide it as an option in version 2. As explained in the screenshot (click it to see full-sized), when the app appears in the Dock, it also appears in the Cmd-Tab app switcher, and has a menu bar. Clicking the status item will just show the Preferences window. But when not in the Dock, it is truly a background app: not in the app switcher and doesn't have menus — which is fine, as all essential functionality is available in the window itself. Also, clicking the status item shows a popover from it, that looks much like the sidebar of this window. Selecting a break or option will expand to the full window.

An option that wasn't in the Setup Assistant, though, is the ability to show the aforementioned status item in the menu bar. This is the #2 request, after the above Dock one, so another great addition to this version. The last time you may have seen these options, the configuration of the status item was a long list of radio buttons, but I've changed that to two pop-up menus; much more compact and tidy.

The options control what style of icon to include (if any), and what value to include (if any):

This appears in my menu bar thusly, using a green dot for the label color of the next break (Micro) and the number of minutes until it is due (5):

This is the brief countdown; the full countdown shows two units, e.g. "05:02" for 5 minutes and 2 seconds. The other options are pretty self-explanatory.

Finally, we have a pair of radio buttons to control how dates and times appear in the sidebar. Currently (and by default) it is set to show them as relative times, e.g. "due in 5 min, 2 sec". If you prefer to know the time of the next break, instead of how long until it is due, you can change it to show absolute dates, and it'll show something like "due Today, 15:45:20" instead (using your preferred time format), like the status item option to show the due time instead of a countdown.

Just a few of the many options in Time Out 2! Time is running out, but if you've made a donation, and are using Yosemite or later, you can contact me to request to join the alpha team, or to get more information. Or as always, stay tuned for more screenshots and details in the coming weeks!

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