The world wide web is constantly inventing new ways to take more of our time and attention. There are more blogs, games, news, and social media sites that come online on an almost daily basis. It's easy to lose track of
exactly how much time you're spending in any particular web site. Personal Web Tracker was created for those of us that want more control over our web browsing. It provides an easy way to not just
see where your browsing time is going, but lets you set limits to let you control the web (instead of the other way around). Personal Web Tracker is a new browser extension for Google's Chrome browser that you
can use in a way that suits you best. Once you install it, start adding web sites to the list of "tracked" sites. Set limits for those web sites if you want. Personal Web Tracker will quietly work in the
background and keep track of everything. You can tell it to alert you when a limit is reached (you can hit the snooze button if you like), or you can block the site. Of course, you don't have to do any of this.
You can just see how you're doing whenever you want.
Personal Web Tracker displays browsing time to the nearest, lowest minute. So, for example, if you have browsed a site only 50 seconds, Personal Web Tracker will display 0 minutes browsed. Site browsing time is internally
accurate to within 10 seconds. This means that if you should use a stopwatch to compare time browsed to Personal Web Tracker times, they will be close enough, but not
typically as accurate as your stopwatch. If your browser is minimized, or your computer goes to sleep, or your Chrome browser loses focus for any reason, browsing time
is not increased for any of your sites, including the "Untracked Sites" entry. Personal Web Tracker also senses if you are not active. So, for example, if you browse
to one of your tracked sites and walk away from your computer, after three minutes of inactivity, Personal Web Tracker will stop increasing the time for that site.
Navigating the user interface
To see the Personal Web Tracker pop up window, simply click the orange "paw print" icon in the upper right hand area of the browser, where icons for all extensions go. When you first open the Personal Web Tracker
window, it will be empty because you haven't added any web sites to track. There are two main parts to the popup window
Popup window header
The top or header part of the pop-up has the following buttons, which you can click to accomplish various actions
- View - Click this button to toggle the view. You can see the monitored sites in either an abbreviated or detailed view. The button will toggle the current view.
- Lock - Click this button to lock or unlock the configuration. The button will change depending on whether the configuration is locked or unlocked.
- Color Scheme - Click to change the color scheme. All editions have six color schemes
- Add - Click this button to add the site you are currently browsing to the list of tracked sites. When you add a site, the time period always starts at midnight. You can add an unlimited number of sites.
- Hide/show - Click this button to hide selected entries or to show hidden entries
- Modify - Click this button to modify the tracked site that you have "selected". Only one site may be selected for this action
- Delete - This button will delete or remove the tracked sites that you have "selected". Multiple sites may be selected for this action
- Reset - For tracked sites you have selected, this button will reset the browsing limit and the browsing time, optionally clearing their 7 day history. Multiple sites may be selected for this action
- Chart Sync - Click this button to Sync or Unsync the 7 day history charts. When charts are "synced", they are displayed with a common scale (y-axis), making it is easier to compare the histories of different tracked sites
- Help - Click this button to view this help page
Popup window tracked sites list
The figure below shows the key areas of each tracked site entry when displayed in the detailed view...
||This is the site you are tracking. Click here to browse to it
||Overall status indicator. Status can be Good, Warning, or Over the Limit
You can hover the mouse over this to see more detail
|How much time you have browsed this site today (since midnight)
||How much time you can browse today (before midnight) to stay on track
||Entry selected indicator
||Icons indicate whether to alert or block if you go over the limit. May also show snooze icon
||This is your browsing limit for the site. By default, it's one hour per day, but you can easily change it
||This is your browsing time for the site over the last seven days, in minutes
The figure below shows a similar tracked site entry when displayed in the abbreviated view...
Personal Web Tracker assigns each site a status, based on how well you are doing in keeping within the browsing limit for the site.
You are within the browsing limit and on track to stay that way
You have not yet reached the browsing limit, but you could go over if you don't pace yourself.
A warning status appears when you've used more than 90% of your browsing time and you have little time remaining in your term.
You have reached or exceeded the browsing limit
If you hover the mouse cursor over one of these status icons, you will see a popup screen with more detailed information, similar to the one shown below
The Daily average is calculated by using the browsing times from up to the past 7 days. The progress bars give a better picture of how you are doing. Ideally, the browse time percentage value will be less than the term percentage
Selecting tracked sites
Many of the actions that you can perform on tracked sites (such as "modify", "delete", "reset", etc.) require you to "select" one or more tracked site entries.
To "select" a single tracked site entry, click anywhere within that entry. You know that an entry is selected when the selected indicator shows a checkbox
containing a check mark. You can select multiple entries by holding down the Ctl key on your keyboard at the same time that you are clicking the entries. You can
also select a set of contiguous entries by clicking one entry, then clicking another while holding down the shift key.
Remember that some actions require that only a single entry is selected ("modify", "move up", "move down"), where other actions ("delete", "reset") allow multiple selections.
Selected Not selected
Over limit status icons
Tracked entries may have special indicators if you have selected to be alerted or blocked when you are over the limit for that site.
You will be alerted when over the limit
You will be blocked when over the limit
You have been alerted and are snoozing (10 extra minutes)
Sorting tracked sites
You can sort the list of tracked sites by clicking the mouse on the column title of the field you want to sort on. For example, if you want to sort by status, click on the "Status" column title. Similarly, to sort by time browsed today, click on the "Browsed Today" column title. Clicking multiple times on the same column title will alternate between ascending and descending order. You can also use the mouse to drag
and drop any entry to another location in the list.
Domains, subdomains, and directories
The address you see in your browser's address bar is called a URL. It looks something like this: http://www.awebsite.com/articles. It's the address of whatever page you are looking at with your browser. The main part
of the address is called the domain. In this case it's "awebsite.com". URL's can also contain directories, which appear after the domain. In our example, it's "articles". Another example of a domain directory is google.com/finance. Also, domains can have things called subdomains. They appear
before the domain. An example of a subdomain is http://weather.yahoo.com, where "weather" is a subdomain of yahoo.com. One or both of either a subdomain or a directory may or may not exist in a URL. This is important
because Personal Web Tracker lets you narrow down exactly what URL (with or without subdomain and/or directory) you want to monitor.
Setting browsing limits
When you first add a web site to the list of "tracked" web sites, it is given a default limit of one hour per day. However, using the Edit button, you can change the limit to anything of your choosing.
For example, you can set daily, weekly, or monthly limits from 5 minutes to many hours. You decide the length of the term (day, week, month) and how many minutes or hours you want to limit yourself to within that term.
What to do when a limit is reached
By default, web sites that you add will have no "action" associated with them. You can always view how you're doing, but if you actually reach a limit, Personal Web Tracker will do nothing at all.
If you want to change that, use the Edit button to select or change the action for that web site. Your choices are
- Do nothing - This is the default action. As already described, nothing will happen
- Alert - When you reach the limit, You will see a special web page in place of the site you were browsing. That special web page will have a Snooze button and a Cancel alert button. Note that you'll be able to
do all this unless the configuration is locked and you're not the administrator (more on that later)
- Block - When you reach the limit, You will see another special web page in place of the site you were browsing. That special web page will just let you know that you are now blocked from
viewing that web site. The only way to unblock that site is to edit the configuration for that site and remove the block action
Locking and unlocking
Personal Web Tracker can be "locked". This means that a user will not be able to add, delete, or modify any tracked sites. If you want to block other users of the browser from changing the configuration, you can lock it by clicking the lock icon and entering a password. With the configuration locked,
only the person with the password will be able to unlock it. This feature is useful, for example, in a family situation where a parent wants to impose some browsing limits. Of course,
this is not necessarily a foolproof solution. If you have other types of browsers installed on your system, anyone can open another browser that does not have Personal Web Tracker installed and browse anywhere.
If your only browser has the Personal Web Tracker extension, you could defeat the lock by merely uninstalling the extension and installing it again, unless... you lock access to the
extensions page, which is an option when you are locking.
Resetting a tracked site
You can reset any tracked site. To "reset" means to set both the browsing term and browsing time to zero. It's as if you just added the site and have a clean
slate. This is done by selecting the sites you want to reset, then clicking the reset icon. You can optionally clear the 7 day history.
The "All Untracked Sites" entry
There is only one permanent tracked entry, the "All Untracked Sites" entry. It represents all sites you have browsed that you have not specifically added as a tracked site. Like other
tracked sites, you can set a browsing limit for it, configure alerts and blocks, or reset it. The only thing you cannot do is delete it.