Thursday, June 05, 2014

Review: The Timer Tab

I like to attend a periodic social function that provides for timed speaking opportunities for all who want to speak. I've found that attendance in such gatherings has helped me to focus my thoughts and what I want to talk about. This activity has helped me to develop the discipline to only talk about what is most important to me this very moment, and to avoid the "ahs", "ums" and clearing my throat to keep the voice working. You know, to hold the floor.

From time to time, I volunteer to be the timer. I've tried using a watch, a kitchen timer, the clock on my computer and the timer on my Android phone. But all of them were a distraction from the proceedings. I needed two hands to operate each one, and even the phone distracted me from the speaker. I needed something better.

As the speed of the internet increases, so does the variety of applications available. I'm writing this on Blogger, an application that requires a pretty fast connection to load, but once loaded, it runs fine. We don't usually think of Google+, YouTube, Pandora or Netflix as applications, but that is what they have become for us.

I like to use Chrome as my default browser. Chrome has the speed, utility and applications that I need to do my work. I use Chrome in tandem with my Gmail account and that makes it easy for me to increase the utility of my browser of choice. There is an app store that goes with Chrome and a huge ecosystem of application development has grown from it. Google Play is where I found the timer of choice, quite by accident, The Timer Tab.

But don't let that fool you. This little gem works in any browser, on any operating system. The author just happened to have the wisdom to put it in Google Play, too.

So let me tell you why I love the timer tab. I'm a keyboard man, almost totally anti-mouse. When writing or doing data entry, the mouse is a waste of time. Manual dexterity on a keyboard is far, far more accurate on a keyboard than a mouse, and the keyboard is much faster. I can nail a button much faster with a keyboard than with a mouse if the tab order is properly set. In any application, particularly web forms, you will find that you can tab through the form after filling out each field. I look for this when it comes to filling out forms on the web.

The Timer Tab is well suited to tab through all of the buttons. It has three functions: Timer, Alarm Clock, and Stop Watch. For the meeting I use the timer. I can tab through every field and button to get to the countdown field, enter a number and then press Enter to start the countdown. Even after pressing Enter, the cursor is still blinking in the box with the number. Often I have to countdown from 3 minutes, with a reminder at one minute. So when 3 minutes are up, I can backspace over the existing value and enter the number 1, and press Enter again to start a new countdown. Press the space bar to pause.

This is by far, the most elegant and simple timer I've ever seen, anywhere.

There is an alarm clock, with similar functionality, but I haven't used that much yet. What is very interesting about this is that the alarm clock will continue to work between browser sessions. I can set the alarm, close the browser, bring the browser back up and go back to the Timer Tab, and there is the alarm, still set and waiting for me. This is done through cookies used by the browser to track the user and preferences of the user.

At work, I fill in web forms all day, working support requests for upgrades. I have to switch between tabs in a browser often. Ctrl-PageUp and Ctrl-PageDown make switching between tabs easy in Firefox and Chrome. At home, I don't have to switch between tabs so much, but it comes in handy. Note to those still working with Internet Explorer, you can't use that keyboard combination to switch between tabs, you'll use Ctrl-tab to do that.

The stopwatch is what I use at work. I use it to track my time in every task I do. I just tab to the Start Stopwatch button, and press Enter to start a new stopwatch. Then I go to work. When I'm done with the last task, I switch tabs and come back to the stopwatch. All I do is press Enter to start a new stopwatch and away I go to the next task. If I need to pause the stopwatch, I just press the space bar, like with the timer.

This application is a dream to use for tracking time. If you are a taskmaster on your computer and need to track your time for anything, this is the app to use to keep your time. I recommend this to any taskmaster, anywhere a computer is needed. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.
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