More Task Timer History

Task Timer is our oldest product and is currently at version 4.  Previously I wrote on how it started.  Today I’ll talk about some of the major changes over the years.

Task Timer version 1 was an internal product.  It had two windows:  the main timing window that allowed just one project/task combination and start/stop button and a listbox that summarized the time for a requested time period.  Even in version 1 it used a database (mainly because I wanted to see how it worked).

Version 1.5 was the first public release.  It had a lot of polish in it to give it all the amenities that most applications had at the time.  I had Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X versions.  I also think that I added a “Cancel” timer button that allowed the user to cancel a timer that had been started.  It was a feature request that still exists to this day.

Version 2 was somewhat tumultuous.  The database used in version 1 was no longer available so I went with a new one.  The transition wasn’t too bad but since the number of uses was minimal it wasn’t too hard to handle. This was the version that had simultaneous releases on Macintosh OS 9, Mac OS X and Windows at the same time.

In version 3 we polled the existing users and made changes accordingly.  The one big thing was having up to five project/task combinations displayed on the screen at once.  We also allowed users to print reports and had some fairly serious options to do that. Another thing we added in this version was the ability to have multiple timers going at once.  Frankly we were surprised at the request (and resisted it at first) because how could you track two and bill two (or more) events simultaneously?  Go ask your lawyer.

This was also the first release of working with several popular database servers.  The database server concept came about because people in the office wanted to manage all of the data in one spot but not be tied to the office.  A lot of users wanted to keep track of their time while on the road so this meant we had to keep the data in multiple locations.  We came up with the synchronization routines to copied the local Task Timer data to the server.  We also copied everyone’s data back to the local machine which meant that every copy of the database had all of the data.  You could ‘log in’ as a different user and see their times.  Some of the reason for this was to help people ‘manage’ the projects/task for multiple users.

For version 4, we again polled existing users and found their hot buttons.  The first was having only 5 timers at once was too few.  So we came up with the present interface that allowed you to see all active projects/tasks on the same window.  Another common request was for a simple way to summarize the time for any given time period.  We simplified to by adding columns to the interface that summarized the current timings, the day, week, month and year.

The reporting system was completely rewritten so it no longer relied on listboxes and made the formatting much smarter.  We also introduced ‘relative’ date ranges so you could quickly and easily say “Last Week” or “This Month” and get a report.  Better yet, we let you save the parameters you had created into ‘custom reports’ and let you call them directly from the Report menu.

Also in version 4 we redid the synchronization routines to make them much faster and more reliable.  The drawback is that you can no longer manage all users from each client.  To make up for this we are now in the development phase of Task Manager which, as the time implies, helps you manage all client versions of Task Timer.  It will have a lot more project management functions like project estimates and rates at the client/user/project/task levels.  

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned for more info.