TTrack

Overview

TTrack is a very simple command-line time-tracking tool written in Python. It allows you to create tasks and then track time spent working on them. Aggregate reports of the time spent on tasks can be produced, and arbitrary tags can be applied to tasks for flexible categorisation.

TTrack was written for use on Unix-like platforms, and appears to work on both Linux and OSX. It hasn't been tested on Windows at all, although I would hope that any compatibility issues would be minor.

Installation

Install the ttrack package from PyPI - note that it depends on the cmdparser package, also available on PyPI. For example, to install using pip:

pip install ttrack

When first run, an SQLite database is created in your home directory in a file called .timetrackdb. It's currently not possible to change the name used for this file, although it would be a simple code change to do so. This file contains the entire database - removing it will lose all data.

Additionally, the file .timetrackhistory is created in the same place to store command history.

Task Tracking Basics

When executed with no arguments, TTrack enters interactive mode. Commands can be entered at the ttrack>>> prompt, and tab-completion should work for command names and most arguments.

The help command can be used to list available commands, providing a command as an argument provides more detailed help for that command. For example, try help create.

TTrack works on the basis of "tasks", which are referred to with a simple name. I suggest keeping names lower-case and avoiding spaces, but you can choose any names you wish. If you wish to include spaces in any name, you'll need to surround it with double-quotes at the ttrack>>> prompt (or use suitable shell quoting if using command-line arguments).

Let's run through some basic workflow as an example - don't worry, you can easily delete your ~/.timetrackdb file to erase everything you do here.

First, create some tasks:

ttrack>>> create task projectx
ttrack>>> create task projectz
ttrack>>> create task bug1234

You can now list the tasks that you've created:

ttrack>>> show tasks

You can use the start command to start work on a task:

ttrack>>> start project2

If you omit the task name, the most recently-created task will be assumed.

The status command shows you what you're working on now, and what you were working on previous to that, if anything:

ttrack>>> status

Whilst working on a task, you can add "diary" entries to it, which are intended to be small reminders of your progress. To do this, simply use the diary command, where the remainder of the line becomes your diary entry:

ttrack>>> diary Finished planning on Project X, on to phase 1 development.

If you just enter a blank diary command, TTrack will prompt you to enter an entry terminated by a full-stop (.) on a line by itself - this allows you to enter multi-line diary comments.

Feel free to add more diary entries. Each entry will be marked with the time at which you add it and the current task that was in effect at that time. You can display your diary entries for this task with:

ttrack>>> show diary task projectx

You can also track "todo" items for projects. These are just arbitrary text which are associated with a task and can be marked as completed. To add a new "todo" item to Project X:

ttrack>>> todo projectx Implement phase 1.

Any "todo" item on the currently active task can be marked as "done":

ttrack>>> todo done Impl

Note that only a unqiue portion of the "todo" item text need be specified - you will receive a warning if there is ambiguity within a task (but it's perfectly acceptable for "todo" text to be identical between tasks). Any completed "todo" items will appear in the diary for a task, and any outstanding items can be shown with:

ttrack>>> show todos

If you start working on a new task, the old task is automatically stopped:

ttrack>>> start projectz

If you use the status command now you should see that the current task has changed and the previous task is now filled in. You can switch between tasks arbitrarily, and TTrack always allocates your time against the current task.

Since work on tasks can often be interrupted, there is a command which allows you to easily revert to the previously active task:

ttrack>>> resume

If working on a task, this command will switch you back to the previous task. This is simply a convenience for the equivalent start command, to avoid you having to type the task name again.

You can also stop allocating your time to anything - for example, when it's time to leave the office or go to bed:

ttrack>>> stop

If you execute resume whilst no task is active, it will restart whatever task was most recently active.

Tags and Listing

Tasks can be organised by using tags. A tag is a name which can be applied to any set of tasks, and reports can be generated based on these. Tags can be used as categories, but note that unlike conventional categories a task can have multiple tags applied to it at once.

The links between tags and tasks can be changed at any point, and this change is applied retrospectively - in other words, reporting is always based on the current state of tags, not the state as it was when the tasks were current. This can be powerful, as it means that you can start recording task time quickly without worrying too much about how to report on it, and then assign and change tags later for reporting purposes.

Continuing the example above, create some tags and add them to tasks:

ttrack>>> create tag projects
ttrack>>> create tag commercial
ttrack>>> task projectx tag projects
ttrack>>> task projecty tag projects
ttrack>>> task projecty tag commercial

If you wish to remove a tag at a later stage, you can use task X untag Y in the same way.

As a shortcut, when creating a task you can optionally specify a list of one or more tags after the task name, which saves additional task commands to add them:

ttrack>>> create task project-profit projects commercial

When listing tasks, the tags for that task are shown after the task name:

ttrack>>> show tasks
All tasks:
  projectx (projects)
  projecty (projects, commercial)
  project-profit (projects, commercial)
  bug1234

When listing tags with show tags, the number of tasks with that tag attached is shown - this can be useful to determine which tags are obsolete.

On the subject of the show command, the diary and todos variants can optionally filter by tag or task. For example, to show the diary entries for only tasks tagged with projects:

ttrack>>> show diary tag projects

Reports

Now you've created some tasks and tags, and allocated some time to them, it's time to learn how to generate reports based on that time. Reports are all generated with the summary command. It's syntax is a little complicated, but the examples below should help get you started.

Firstly, reports can be generated split by task or split by tag - hence, the first argument is either task or tag to indicate which you want.

The second argument specifies the type of report that you can generate - there are currently four types:

time
This produces a report of the time spent on each entry.
switches
Shows the number of times the specified task interrupted others.
diary
Shows all diary entries.
entries
Shows raw task times.

Following the report type, the period over which the report should be run is specified - the syntax for this is fairly flexible and some examples of what will be accepted are:

When providing two dates to run the report, bear in mind that the first date will be inclusive but the second date will be exclusive (so the example "between 15/10/2011 and today" won't include today).

Finally, if splitting by task (only), a the keyword tag followed by a tag name can be specified at the end of the command. If so, the list of tasks displayed will be filtered to be those with the specified tag applied.

In case you're thinking that all sounds a bit too complicated, here are some simple examples which probably cover most of what you need, followed by an explanation of what will be displayed.

summary task time this week
Display a summary of the time spent on each task so far this week.
summary tag time yesterday
Display a summary of the time spent yesterday on tasks in each tag.
summary task switches last month
Display the number of times each task interrupted another one in the previous month.
summary task diary this month tag projects
Display diary entries recorded so far this month for all tasks with tag projects.

Note that the entries summary mode is typically used when fixing up incorrectly recorded times, as it's the only way of determing the unique ID of a time entry in the database. This is a more advanced usage which isn't covered in this basic tutorial.

The switches report probably needs a little more explanation. The intention is to allow you to record interruptions (or "context switches") you suffer during the day and get some idea of how frequently your flow is interrupted. For this to work you'll have to create tasks to track all the things which disturb you - for example, if you are interrupted by calls from customers, you could create a task customersupport to track this.

Remember that context switches are budgeted against the new task (i.e. the "interrupting" task), not the old one (i.e. the "interrupted" task).

To count as a context switch and be included in the totals for the switches report, a task must be different to the previous task and start less than a minute after the first one ended. When reporting by tag rather than task, the switch is only counted if the new task has at least one tag which the old task does not.

For example, if two different tasks both have only the coding tag then switching between them will count as a context switch in a task report, but not in a tag report. By comparison, if the old task was tagged with A, B and C and the new task tagged with C, D and E then the context switches count would be incremented for tags D and E only as a result of the task switch.

Advanced Usage

Many of the commands have additional arguments to fix problems when you've forgotten to start or stop tasks at the correct time - these allow the time at which the event occurs to be overridden. For example, if you leave work on Friday and forget to execute stop, you can do so on Monday and make it retrspective by specifying a time: stop last Friday at 17:35.

Unfortunately, however, I haven't had chance to document these more advanced usages in this README, but the help command may give you the details you need. TTrack tries its best to prevent you creating entries which overlap, on the assumption that you can only be doing one task at a time, but it pays to be a little cautious if you value the records you have in the database so far. If in doubt, you can take a copy of the ~/.timetrackdb file before playing around, and re-instate the old data by simply copying it back into place if things seem to be broken.

Feedback

If you have any questions, problems or requests, please get in touch with me at andy@andy-pearce.com. If you want to submit a bug, please do so via GitHub's issue tracker.

If you want to make changes, the source code is available at GitHub - feel free to send me pull requests if you make an improvement you feel others would find useful.