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I’ve started timing my article writing, so I have an idea of how long an article takes. I use that to figure out what my per-word rate is, and whether I can accept a writing gig based on what it pays. In order to do this, I needed to find a timing utility application for Linux that would suit my needs.

I found the solution in Stopwatch.

It’s not pretty, it’s not fancy, but Stopwatch does exactly what I need it to do: start and stop recording elapsed time. The truth is I could have simply used my phone’s built-in clock application. This way, I don’t have to take my eyes off the screen, and the counting motion in the corner of my eye motivates me to type fast and stay focused.

Downloading and Installing

At first, I was looking for something that ran from the command line. I’ve been using Linux long enough that it feels more natural. When the only solutions I found were hacks or shell scripts, I briefly considered hacking together a program in Python, but decided against it.

I started my search, naturally, with apt-cache search. I used the keyword “timer,” which returned about 30 results.

After installing and uninstalling a couple of programs that weren’t useful, I settled on Stopwatch. Registering another ppa wasn’t necessary; it was already in one of the repositories.

Stopwatch has a minimalist design, as you can see from the screenshot below (taken at the actual time of writing):

Stopwatch window screen shot showing various features

The lack of bells, whistles, and other distractions make it ideal for me. It does what it needs to do without fanfare. And that’s why we’re using Linux in the first place: to get the job done.

Using Stopwatch

When you hit start (where it says stop; it’s a toggle button. You’ll get it.) it starts the timers, both total and lap. As Stopwatch runs, you have can stop both timers, record the timestamp, or reset the running time to zero. Each time you press record, the timestamp will appear in the text field. The timestamp shows either a T(otal) or L(ap). You can manually enter a note when you mark the time.

I clicked on the icon in the title bar, selected More Actions then Keep Above Others. This prevents the window from disappearing when I switch to my text editor. I use KDE with Plasma; your own window manager may vary.

It’s an old utility, last updated in 2004, but you know what they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don Libes coded it using Wish with Tcl/Tk.

I find timing how long it takes to write an article is enough pressure to write cleanly, type accurately, and focus on my articles. While there are plenty of online solutions (I’m looking at you, Toggl), phone solutions, and even an old digital watch might suffice, Stopwatch is the right tool for the job.

Do you have a different solution for tracking your time while writing? I’d love to hear about it.