Menubar Countdown 1.2 Works with Snow Leopard

Menubar Countdown, my Mac OS X countdown timer application, has been tested with 10.6 Snow Leopard, and it seems to work just fine.

(But if anyone finds otherwise, please let me know.)

Mac App Guide Review of Menubar Countdown

The Mac App Guide video podcast has reviewed my Menubar Countdown application. The review includes a demonstration of how to use it.

See MAG 23: Handy Countdown Timer (Freeware) for Mac OS X.

Adding a Custom View to an NSStatusItem

My Menubar Countdown application uses an NSStatusItem to display itself in the menu bar. I recently had to add a custom view to that status item, and thought I'd share what I learned about the process here.

Menubar Countdown 1.2 Released

Menubar Countdown is a simple countdown timer that displays itself on the right side of the Mac OS X menu bar.

Version 1.2 has these new features:

  • Supports Growl notifications. The Announcement text specified in the Start dialog will be displayed in the Growl notification window.
  • New application icon
  • Adds option to hide seconds in the menu bar
  • Shows start-timer dialog when application launches (behavior can be disabled in Settings dialog)
  • Command-X, Command-C, Command-V, and Command-A now work in the text fields in the settings dialog
  • Command-R is now a shortcut key for the Restart Countdown... button in the alert window

To download the application or get more information, see the Menubar Countdown product page.

New Menubar Countdown Icon

When I released Menubar Countdown 1.1, I whipped up an application icon by simply taking a screenshot of the menu bar and cropping it. The application icon looked like this:

Old Menubar Countdown Icon

Fugly, eh? Not only is it ugly, but the narrow shape makes it hard to recognize as an icon, and makes it hard to click.

For version 1.2, I wanted a better icon. I thought an hourglass would be a good symbol, so after a few hours of looking at images on the web and dinking around in Photoshop Elements, I wound up with this:

Proposed Menubar Countdown Icon

I'm was very happy with it. Unfortunately, the hourglass image is based upon a photo I licensed from iStockphoto. iStockphoto considers an application icon to be the same as a logo or trademark, and such usage is expressly prohibited by their licenses. I'm not a lawyer, but I assume this is to prevent someone from putting a stock image into a logo and then suing all the other users of that image for trademark infringement.

So, I again went to the web, to look for public-domain images I could use. I eventually wound up with this:

New Menubar Countdown Icon

I don't like it as much as the last one, but I've decided I've spent too much time on my application icon, and not enough time on making the application better, so this will be the icon for version 1.2. Maybe I'll revisit it for the next version.

I remember the good old days when a Macintosh application icon was a 32x32 black-and-white bitmap. Those were pretty easy for a non-artist like me to create, using simple tools like ResEdit. Now, this stuff is better left in the hands of professional designers, but Menubar Countdown is free, so I trust users will be satisfied with my amateurish effort.

If there are any real designers out there who would like to give me a better icon, I'd definitely appreciate it.

Menubar Countdown Suggestions

Since releasing Menubar Countdown, my little Mac OS X timer app, I've received some nice feedback and suggestions for improvement. I'm going to list them here, both so that I can find them later, and to let others leave their own suggestions.

  • Repeat the alarm until the user acknowledges it. (Currently, the alarm just goes off once.)
  • Support Growl notifications
  • Allow user to choose an alert sound other than the default system alert sound.
  • Provide option to log out and/or shutdown when timer expires.
  • Provide option to launch an application or an AppleScript when timer expires.
  • Add a days field.
  • Allow user to specify the output format (so that a user could, for example, have it display "4m, 3s" instead of 00:04:03.
  • One-click start: bypass the Settings dialog
  • Animated "alarm is going off" display
  • Allow user to specify an ending date and time, rather than a time interval
  • Provide option to not display seconds (continuous animation is distracting to some, and removing seconds would save some menubar real estate)

I'm not going to implement very many of these, if any. What I like about Menubar Countdown is its simplicity, both in terms of user interface and in terms of implementation. It's only a couple hundred lines of code, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Menubar Countdown 1.1 for Mac OS X Released

I've released an update to my Menubar Countdown application.

See for details.

Menubar Countdown 1.0 for Mac OS X Released

Lately, I've been experimenting with the Pomodoro Technique for time management. The basic idea is that you work in focused 25-minute bursts, with short breaks between bursts. You are supposed to use a kitchen timer to avoid getting distracted by looking at the clock.

Of course, as a computer guy I'd like my timer to be on my computer. I looked around for a Mac application that would provide an unobtrusive 25-minute countdown timer, but I didn't find any that I liked. So I decided to write my own.

Menubar Countdown is the result of that effort. It displays a countdown timer on the right side of the menu bar. It has menu items that allow you the user to start, stop, or resume the timer.

There are three options for what you want to happen when the timer reaches 00:00:00:

  • Play the system alert sound (which I never notice).
  • Display an alert window (which is effective, but you may not like the abrupt interruption).
  • Speak. This is my favorite option. You can specify what you want the application to say.

It's free software, distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

Source code is included. Other neophyte Cocoa programmers might find it useful as an example of using such classes as NSStatusBar, NSStatusItem and NSUserDefaultsController, or for measuring absolute time in a Mac application.

You can download the application from my snazzy new corporate web site: Menubar Countdown product page.

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