Microsoft Outlook Journal Replacement

We’ve had several new customers recently talk about how they are using Qlockwork as a Microsoft Outlook Journal replacement (there is a free 10 day trial).

So how does it shape up? Does Qlockwork do everything that Journal did?

Well, to quote Microsoft themselves:

  • Journal automatically records actions that you choose which relate to specific contacts and puts the actions in a Timeline view.
  • YES - Qlockwork automatically records actions, though we put the actions in Outlook’s excellent Calendar view (which we preferred)
  • You can use Journal to track Microsoft Outlook  items, such as e-mail messages or meetings. It can also track other Microsoft Office files, such as Word documents or Excel workbooks.
  • YES – Qlockwork tracks all of these, plus non-Office, non-Microsoft applications like Google Chrome or Paintshop or CAD applications.
  • Journal keeps a record of any interaction that you want to remember — even something that is not located on your computer, such as a phone conversation or a paper letter that you mailed or received.
  • YES – in the same way you can manually add these to Journal, you can manually add them with Qlockwork.

In addition, we do lots of other useful things like reporting on your calendar meetings, auto assigning projects to activities based on keywords, producing nice reports in Excel and emailing your timesheets automatically to your secretary.

We still believe it is the best alternative to the Journal for Outlook users. If you’d like to try it out and see for yourself, there is a free 10 day trial and it’s very easy to install and use. Please do give it a try.

So far our new Journal customers seem happy! We’ve just had a nice email today from Jim in Colorado:

 “I am an independent software consultant based in Colorado. Your product is a welcome addition since the deprecation of MS Office Journal. Best,Jim”


How to Make Your Windows Laptop Run Faster

As my personal machine I have a 5 year old Dell Inspiron laptop running Windows 7. It was running very slowly, but when I looked at its specs vs a new machine it didn’t seem that bad (4GB RAM, 300 GB Diskspace). So why did it run so slowly? There were several issues, probably in order of importance:

  • Aero! In a retro moment I turned off the Windows Aero desktop and went back to the one that looks like XP.  My laptop now runs like the wind! And I never minded XP! Just right click on the desktop and choose “Personalise”. Then under “Basic and High Contrast Themes” click on “Windows Classic”. It was as if I’d gone back in time and got  a much faster laptop simultaneously.
  • Memory – I was using most of my memory before I’d even started an application! The main culprit was I had 2 cloud backup systems (a backup and a backup for my backup). Great security but those backup systems tend to be fairly resource hungry. So instead I cancelled one of my cloud backups, bought an external hard drive and set up a Windows backup.
  • While I was doing that I also moved a lot of files to the external hard drive, freeing up diskspace on my laptop. Windows runs a lot faster with plenty of spare diskspace to play with. Note that you should only do that with files you don’t mind losing. External hard drives are not that reliable.

A few simple changes and I had a laptop than ran like lightening. Am I sad to see the end of the pretty Aero view? Not really, you know it doesn’t compare with a speedy Window launch….

If you want to be more productive on your laptop and you don’t want to buy a new one yet, I’d strongly recommend that you consider turning off the aero view. If you want to find out how much time you waste with a slow laptop, try Qlockwork, our automatic time tracking application (10 day free trial)


Is Windows 10 better than Windows 8?

As a big Windows user that’s a fundamental question for me.

For Qlockwork development we still run Windows 7 by default because we love it. We obviously test on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, but day to day I personally tend to find it annoying. So, I’m interested in Windows 10 from both a user perspective and a technical perspective.

The good news is that from a user perspective two of the most annoying issues with Windows 8 have been resolved for Windows 10.

  1. the start menu is back (how I missed it!)
  2. apps don’t always appear full screen (that was so annoying) they are windows again on your desktop (desktop yay!!)

That’s a big step forward as far as I’m concerned. I love the desktop and I want to live on the desktop. Anything that pulls me away from that is just negatively impacting my nice work environment and my productivity.

We’ll be doing a lot more playing with Windows 10 over the next weeks and months but it looks like Windows 10 is a step in the right direction. Maybe I’ll finally be able to buy that new Windows laptop…




Common Qlockwork Questions

I was just writing this out for a prospective customer. Made sense to post it here too.

How does Qlockwork work?

-Qlockwork comes in 2 parts: an application that runs all the time (see the Qlockwork icon in the system tray) and an addin to view your data in Outlook. This means that Qlockwork always records your activities even if Outlook isn’t running.
-The desktop application monitors what application you are currently working on (is in the foreground and you are typing into or clicking on). If you are moving between multiple windows/applications on your desktop then for each tracking period (2,5,6 or 10 minutes as selected) Qlockwork will decide which application you’ve used the most and track your time against that.
-Qlockwork only tracks your time if you are using your PC. If you are away from your desk and not using the mouse and keyboard it will not track your time.


So shouldn’t I always track at 2 minute intervals as that will be more accurate?

-It depends how you work. 2 minute intervals work well if you constantly switch between applications and spend very little time just sitting and thinking. We tend to find that 5 minutes (the default) is ideal for work where you may write for a bit, then spend a while thinking, then write again. For example, when writing or reading documents, composing spreadsheets or using something like autocad.
-We have customers who use all the different time intervals, they just choose what works best for them.


Does it track any application?

-Basically yes. Almost all applications interact with the Windows operating system in the same (standard) way. Qlockwork then talks to the operating system directly to find out what you are doing.
-Usually about once a year one application (usually Google Chrome) changes how it works and we need to roll out a patch to Qlockwork to keep working with that application. That patch is then freely available to all Qlockwork users.


What about new versions of Windows?

•Qlockwork has been available since 2006 and we have released new versions to handle every new Windows release since then (Windows Vista/7/8/8.1) and Office (2007,2010,2013) these releases have been freely available to existing customers. Fortunately, Microsoft are usually careful not to break existing applications when they release a new OS so generally only very minor fixes are required for a new OS.


Will Qlockwork record activities on phones or Apple products?

•Unfortunately not, it will only record on Window Oses


Can you tell Qlockwork not to record?

•Yes, Qlockwork is not an employee monitoring tool and employees can turn it off if they want to, they can also exclude certain activities from their reports or they can instruct Qlockwork to only record during normal work hours. Doing this will leave an obvious untracked hole in their day, but it does mean you are not recording them against their will.


Does Qlockwork record meetings as well as activities?

•Yes, Qlockwork reports contain meetings as well as activities


What if I attend a meeting but while it’s going on I work on another project or browse the web?

•You can instruct Qlockwork to report your time as spent in the meeting and ignore the activity or vice versa or a combination of the two


Does my IT department need to get involved?

•No, Qlockwork is designed to require no involvement from your IT department. Everything happens on the desktops of the users and syncs with your existing Exchange server automatically. All you have to do is install Qlockwork on each desktop.


Where is the data stored and backed up?

•The data is all stored in a new calendar on your Exchange server. As long as your Exchange server is fully backed up the data should all be backed up.


Is the activity data secure?

The data never leaves your systems.

How to get Skype on the desktop in Windows 8.1

Yesterday I was frustratingly trying to use Skype on a Windows 8.1 machine whilst also looking at a document.  I was using the default Metro Skype that comes with Windows 8, but unfortunately that takes up the full screen and I couldn’t look at anything else at the same time. Fine on a tablet perhaps but it hardly makes use of the power of Windows to run multiple applications at once!

After some searching to find out how to fix this, it seems the answer is to install the desktop variant of Skype on the machine, then specifically launch that (you may have to deinstall the Metro version so that isn’t launched in preference by default).

The other benefit of running the desktop version rather than the Metro version is that Qlockwork will record the desktop version.




Recent installation problems resolved

We’ve just released a new version of Qlockwork to fix an installation problem on Windows 7 and 8.

The symptoms were that on a machine that Qlockwork had never been installed on before, installation seemed to work OK, but the Qlockwork tab never appeared on Outlook.

The fix was a very small change to our installation process. We suspect that a slight change to the installation code on Windows had been rolled out by Microsoft in a recent hotfix.

It should now be resolved but if anyone sees any further problems please do let us know.

Changing a vertical list to a horizontal list in Excel

Recently I found a paste option in Excel that just demonstrates that however long you use a tool you can always find a new useful feature!

I wanted to change a vertical list of cells in Excel into a horizontal one. It turned out to be very easy.

  • Just highlight the vertical set of cells you are interested in and take a copy (right click->Copy)
  • move your cursor to the cell you want to paste to, click it and select Paste Special->Transpose (the transpose button looks like two sets of data one vertical, one horizontal with an arrow between the two)

When your data is pasted in, it is swapped from vertical to horizontal (or vice versa). Very handy!



Productivity and Reading, Is Reading Paper more Productive than Reading a Screen?

Reading paper isn’t more effective than reading a screen, but you’ll stick at reading paper longer, according to an interesting study in the journal of the American Psychological Association.

The study was investigating whether readers preferred to read from a screen or a book and which was the most effective at providing information.

The research showed that under fixed study time, reading from a screen was just as effective as reading paper at transferring information successfully. However, when people were allowed to choose their own length of study, they kept studying longer if they were reading paper than if they reading a screen.

We seem to exhibit better self control at knuckling down and concentrating on paper than on screens. This may be because reading from paper is slightly less tiring. I certainly find it so, though I find a good eReader to be as easy to read as paper.


Outlook 2013 – better to buy it or get it with Office 365?

We’re currently considering whether to upgrade our default Outlook client to Outlook 2013 from Outlook 2010.

The first question is is it worth it? Outlook 2010 is pretty good.

The second question is should we buy Outlook 2013 standalone (£91 in the UK) or get it as part of the Microsoft small business premium package (£12.10/month in the UK).

Office 365 includes hosted Exchange, which we already pay for with a different vendor. Going to 365 will increase our per monthly user costs by ~£5, but save us the initial £91 for Outlook 2013.

It also means we have the effort of changing hosted Exchange providers, but I’m very unhappy with the spam filtering on our current provider so perhaps that is no bad thing. More investigation required I think.

Microsoft Outlook Journal Alternatives

Microsoft have been backing away from the Journal feature in Outlook for several years and it is officially “deprecated” (Microsoft don’t encourage people to use it anymore). So what alternatives are there? Well, we developed Qlockwork specifically because we wanted a better version of the Outlook Journal.

We wanted Qlockwork to

  • Use the excellent Outlook Calendar user interface
  • Record everything automatically, without timers
  • Record everything, not just Office applications
  • Be really simple to use, just like Outlook

We still believe it is the best alternative to the Journal for Outlook users. If you’d like to try it out and see for yourself, there is a free 10 day trial and it’s very easy to install and use. Please do give it a try.