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How-to: Track top-level web site usage with Time Sink

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Our time-tracking app Time Sink relies on window titles to track your activities. This approach works great for most use cases, as window titles are supplied by the vast majority of apps out there, which means Time Sink is able to keep an eye on nearly everything you do.

But when browsing the web, relying on window titles can sometimes be problematic: Many sites don’t include any site-specific information in their window titles. For instance, a news site may just have the title of the news article as the window title. So if you were interested in finding out how much time you spend on that news site, Time Sink apparently wouldn’t be able to help, because there’s no way to tell which site those news stories came from.

Other sites do include some site-specific data in their window titles, but what that is will vary by site, as well as where it appears within the window title.

The good news is that Time Sink can track site-wide time usage for both types of windows—it’s relatively simple for sites that include site-specific data in their window titles, and it’s somewhat more involved for sites that do not.

The relatively simple way

Some sites include a bit of unique information in each page’s title, which makes tracking them simple. YouTube, for instance, appends ” – YouTube” to every window title:

Any site that does this is easy to track with a pool, regardless of which browser you use. (This example assumes Safari.)

  1. Drag any opened YouTube window (in Time Sink’s Organizer window) to the Pools section of the Organizer window, and drop to create a new pool.
  2. Expand the Safari (assuming you used Safari, of course) folder in the Pools section, then expand Safari (the app within the folder) to reveal the window title.
  3. Select the window title and press Return to edit it. Change the window’s title to * – YouTube and press Return again. The * is Time Sink’s wildcard, and it means “match anything.” In this example, it will match any number of characters that are followed by the ” – YouTube” bit.

That’s it; Time Sink will now add all time spent on any YouTube page (in Safari, at least) to that pool. In general, there are basically three versions of the window title that you could see. Here’s how you’d edit each in a Pool to track the site in aggregate:

  • unique tidbit – words ==> unique tidbit – *
  • words – unique tidbit ==> * – unique tidbit
  • words – unique tidbit – words ==> * – unique tidbit – *

Related tip: If you want to track YouTube usage in any browser (actually, any app that can load web pages and includes page titles), right-click on the Safari application entry in the pool, then select Track Across All Applications:

This will change the application name from Safari to Any Application, and now all your YouTube time will be captured in one pool. (Are you sure you want to do this!?) You can also, as seen in the screenshot, change the name of the pool to reflect that it’s no longer Safari-specific.

So much for the simple sites…

Time Sink 1.2.6—direct only—released

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Time Sink 1.2.6 is out, but only for direct customers. This update is basically an update to get ready for a major update (hint: its version number starts and ends with ‘2’) that’s coming Very Soon Now. Actually, that’s not entirely true; this update is so that future updates (including said major update) will work properly under macOS Sierra.

Note: If you’re already running Sierra (beta or Gold Master version), you will need to manually download Time Sink 1.2.6 from our site (only this one time).

App Store customers don’t get this update, because it doesn’t affect their version of the app (because there are no in-app updates). However, pending App Store review and approval, we fully expect that the next major update (that one that starts and ends with ‘2’) will be available for App Store users as well.

Stay tuned for more on Time Sink 2! Oh dang, I’ve gone and spilled the beans…

The new Many Tricks’ end user license agreement

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Ever since Peter and I relaunched Many Tricks in 2010, we’ve never had an official software license agreement. The closest thing we’ve had is this blog post, which explains limits on the use of our apps across multiple Macs (tl;dr: Use them on as many Macs as you personally use). However, we’ve never had an actual end user license agreement (EULA) that spells out the legal license you agree to when you purchase one of our apps.

Well, we have one now—it’s also permanently linked in the sidebar here, and will be accessible from within our apps. And a really big thanks to Rich Siegel at Bare Bones Software, who generously agreed to let us use his document as a starting point. I found the Bare Bones EULA to be well written, brief, and easily understood; hopefully our version, which has only minor changes, is still all of those things.

After six years, why did we suddenly need an EULA? The truth is we probably should have had one from day one, but never really felt the need. Recently, however, we’ve received inquiries from government agencies and larger companies interested in buying our apps … and many of these customers aren’t allowed to purchase our apps unless we have an actual legal license agreement. So now we do.

Note that this doesn’t change anything relative to the usage of our apps; we still allow you to use one license to install our apps on as many Macs as you personally use. We just needed to have a formal legal software license for larger customers and government agencies.

Moom and Name Mangler updated

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Final update: Moom 3.2.5 has been released on the App Store; this fixes the drag-to-display bug and all App Store users should now update.

Update: If you have the App Store version of Moom, and if you use multiple displays, then please don’t update to Moom 3.2.4—we just found and fixed an issue with moving windows to other displays. The Moom version on our site has been updated to 3.2.5, and we’re in the middle of submitting an App Store update.

As mentioned in the release notes, I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience. This was entirely my fault. —Peter


Hot on the heels of our recent Time Sink and Keymo updates come two larger updates: Moom 3.2.4 and Name Mangler 3.3.6.

These releases re-sync the versions numbers between the App Store and direct versions, and both feature some bug fixes and general improvements. You can read the details in the release notes for Moom and Name Mangler, respectively.

The big news in both versions (and coming soon to all our other apps) is our totally rewritten help system. You can read all about the new help system in the linked blog post, but the key bits are that search and navigation are now much nicer, and the window is a real (non-floating!) OS X window that’s visible to apps like Witch.

Direct customers can get the Moom and Name Mangler updates via the in-app updater, or by downloading the full versions from our site. App Store customers should see the updates in their App Store app—if not now, then shortly.

Announcing our new in-app help system

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Starting with our recent update to Keymo, we rolled out a new help system. We developed this new system to solve some aggravations we were having with Apple’s built-in help system, and to provide our users with a better help experience. This new help system will be rolling out to all our apps in the very near future.

Here’s a quick peek at the first screen of Moom’s new help:

Moom's new help

There are many aspects to our new help system that should make in-app help work much better for our users—some new features, some existing features working better, and a revamped look and feel.

First off, there’s a new navigation system, as seen in the image at right. Click the “hamburger” menu on any page, and this handy drop-down makes it simple to get wherever you need to go.

The current section is always marked with a checkmark, so you’ll know exactly which page you’re on when you activate the menu.

The help window is also now a normal OS X window, not the “I will block everything!” floating window of Apple’s help system.

Our new help window is also visible to apps—like our own Witch—that list open windows; the built-in help viewer windows aren’t visible to Witch.

Like the built-in help viewer, the text in the help window is resizable—just press ⌘-Minus (smaller) and ⌘-Plus (larger) to resize. The help system will remember your preferred size even if you close and reopen its window. (It will reset to the default size if you quit and relaunch the app.)

Our help system features two types of search. The first, and to me the most useful, is the ability to search the entire help system from within the app’s Help menu. (Note that you must be running the app in “normal” mode to use this search—otherwise, it won’t have menus!)

To use the help-wide search, select the Help menu within the app, then just type in the search box. You’ll see matches for any menu items, and then any help pages that contain your search term:

Search all

Select one of the matches from the Help Topics section, and help will open to that page, with the matching term already highlighted.

You can also search the current help page by pressing ⌘-F; this drops down a standard OS X search box. Type your search, and the first match will be highlighted on the page:

Find on page

Press ⌘-G and help will jump to and highlight the next match; repeat as necessary until you find the section you need. One nice bonus feature here is that if there are no matches on the current page, the help system will display a list of other help pages that do contain a match:

Find on other pages

Right-click on any open area of a page, and a handy contextual menu appears. You can use this to go back and forward between previously opened pages—though it’s easier to use the arrow buttons at the top of the window, or ⌘ and the left and right arrows if you prefer the keyboard.

There’s also a Reload button—this is there primarily for our use when writing help, but if you find yourself looking at a blank page, this may force the content to be reloaded.

But really, the important thing in the contextual menu is the ability to print help pages. Select Print… from the contextual menu, and a standard OS X print dialog appears:

If you’re an admirer of dead trees, click the Print button to send the output to your printer. But you may find it more useful to click the PDF button, and save a copy of the help page to PDF format—you could then add it to iBooks to read anywhere, for example.

We hope you find the new help system, well, helpful. We have plans to enhance it further in the future, but for now, it’s already a great improvement (for both us and you) over the old system.

Time Sink and Keymo updated

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Today we released updates to Keymo (1.2.4, both direct and App Store) and Time Sink (1.2.5, for the App Store only).

The Keymo update features our brand-new help system with greatly improved navigation and a much more functional search. (This help system will be rolling out to all our apps in the near future.) With this update, both the App Store and direct versions of Keymo are in sync at 1.2.4.

The Time Sink update brings the App Store version into sync with the direct version at 1.2.5; there are no substantive changes in the Time Sink update.

As always, direct customers can use the in-app updater or download the full version from our site, and App Store customers should see the updates in the App Store app—if not now, then in the very near future.

All direct apps updated to improve update security

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Yes, that’s right, we’ve updated the updater in our direct apps. Our direct apps rely on Sparkle to inform you when there are new versions available. Over the weekend, we were made aware of a potential vulnerability in how we implemented Sparkle. Basically, if your network is already compromised by what’s called a Man in the Middle attack, then it’s possible an attacker could use the Sparkle update mechanism in our apps to remotely execute code on your Mac. That’s bad.

Although this is a relatively small exposure (as you must already be on a compromised network), we felt it was important to act on it right away, so we’ve updated all of our apps to use Sparkle over secure HTTP (HTTPS). Please update any directly-purchased Many Tricks apps immediately.

Important: There’s a bit of a Catch-22 here … in order to get you this update, it must come over insecure HTTP, because that’s how Sparkle in the app you’re using is configured. If you are concerned that you might be on a compromised network, please do not update using the in-app updater. Instead, just download the relevant app(s) directly from our site, which uses HTTPS.

If you have any questions on this update, please leave a comment or email us directly, and we’ll do our best to address your questions.

Note: Although our App Store apps don’t use Sparkle, we know they’re out of date with some of the other minor bug fixes that came with these releases. We’ll be submitting updates to the App Store next week to get App Store users current.

The Many Tricks holiday sale event and charity drive

Monday, December 14th, 2015

People ask us all the time, “When are your apps going on sale?” And we always reply “We don’t know,” because, generally, we don’t know. But we know now: Our apps—when you purchase directly from us—are on sale for the remainder of 2015, and there are two ways to take advantage of the sale.

Option One: Own Them All

First off, you can own them all for just $50—that’s $62 off the normal price of $112 for all 10. All ten apps, fifty bucks total. These are fully licensed versions, not some special one-off, so they’re all eligible for upgrade pricing when major new releases come out.

On the charity drive front, we will donate $10 for each bundle sold to the United Nation’s refugee fund, to help with the ongoing global refugee crisis. And to get things started, we’ve already donated $500 to the fund.

Option Two: Save Some Coin

If you don’t really want all our apps (we don’t understand such thinking, of course!), you’ll want to use option two: Every purchase is 30% off for the remainder of the year.

We will donate 10% of our net proceeds from any individual sales to that same UN refugee fund.

About the Mac App Store

You may have noticed that this sale is only available to customers who purchase directly from us; our App Store app pricing is unchanged, and we can’t create a bundle of apps there anyway.

So why aren’t the individual MAS versions on sale? Quite honestly, we feel Apple has ignored the MAS for too long, and as a result, the customer experience is not what it should be. Add in the recent snafu with certificates, and we would like to reward those who choose to purchase direct. That’s why this sale is for direct customers only.

So there you have it, the Many Tricks year-end sale event and charity drive.

All direct apps updated ahead of El Capitan’s release

Monday, September 28th, 2015

There are a couple of changes in the soon-to-be-released El Capitan that required us to update our direct-sales app update mechanism—an incredible open-source framework known as Sparkle. (App Store versions don’t have this update mechanism, because the App Store app handles app updates.)

Because of how we implemented Sparkle, we found that the updater wasn’t working properly in El Capitan. So we needed to fix this prior to El Capitan’s release. As a result, today we have updated every single direct app we sell (and even one we give away):

Butler, Desktop Curtain, Key Codes, Keymo, Leech, Moom, Name Mangler, Time Sink, Usher, and Witch

We have pushed all these updates live, so you should see them automatically (if you have our apps set to auto-update), or you can look in the Preferences > Updates section of a given app and manually check for updates. You can also download the complete new version from our site, if you prefer (just delete the old one and replace with the new; you won’t lose your settings.)

Avoid download issues with App Store purchases

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Over the last few days, several users let me know they were unable to download our apps from the Mac App Store. They reported that they were receiving this error message when trying to purchase or update:

App Store Error: Failed to verify the preflight file. It is not signed by Apple.

Emails like this are frustrating, because we have absolutely no official way to help such users—Apple handles everything related to the store after we submit our app. They test the app, hopefully approve the app, and then host it for downloading. If the app makes it through this process, it’s pretty clear the code itself is good, and any download issues are related to the user’s system.

In theory, Apple (in exchange for their 30% cut of our revenue) should be helping these users solve such problems. But based on what I’ve heard, that’s not usually the case, so they end up writing to me. After a bit of web searching, I found the cause and solution to the problem: Keychain Access.

In particular, the settings for OCSP and CRL in Keychain Access > Preferences > Certificates. For some apps, and for some users (but not for all apps, and not for all users; I don’t know why), these values must be set to “Best Attempt:”

Keychain Access' Certificates prefs

If these two values are set to anything else, it’s possible that some apps and/or updates will fail to download with the above-noted error message. I’ve never personally touched those settings, and I was curious why others might; a friend pointed out this thread, which recommends changing the settings to reduce background bandwidth usage by the ocsp process.

In any event, if you’re having troubles downloading apps and updates—not just ours, but from any developer—from the App Store, check these settings in your Keychain Access app.