(Updated: Sept. 2013)
A number of visitors to the site have asked how Time Doctor is different compared to Rescue Time, a popular and free productivity/time tracking application. On the surface, both programs do appear to be similar, but the approach and the practical applications of each product are vastly different.
Both rely on a client side software package installed on a users computer to monitor computer usage coupled to a remote server that can generate reports and tracks ‘personal productivity’ – or more precisely, productive time.
But this is where the similarities begin and end.
Rescue Time tracks computer usage silently in the background and can be configured to block websites while Time Doctor encourages users to manage their daily priorities and tracks time spent on particular tasks. Rescue Time requires no effort to use once installed, whereas Time Doctor is interactive by design.
A silent tracking application does have some benefits – it requires little or no user input once installed, but unfortunately there are also major drawbacks. A friend of mine who uses Time Doctor wrote to me after trying Rescue Time for the first time last week, saying, “It counts the time when I visited my bank web site on my break as ‘very productive’, but time in Google Chrome as ‘very distracting’, when I was actually working!”
Even if the application tracking in Rescue Time is categorized properly – this information is very limited in its use because for the most part you cannot know what someone is really working on just from what application they are using. For example, Rescue Time can track that a person was working on a Word document but just this information simply can’t tell you the actual work they were doing. So, even though Rescue Time has some eye-catching graphs displaying the time worked utilizing different applications, the usefulness of the data is quite limited.