a timer with a twist

Sometimes, you need to keep track of time, but you don't have a very precise cut-off time. Even when you do, it's nice to be able to focus on what you're doing rather than a countdown staring you in the face.

That's what Timebar is for. Just think of it as a virtual hourglass on the top of your screen.

Starting countdowns

Click the Timebar icon in your menu bar, and you'll get this pop-up window:

Screenshot of popup

There are few things of interest here:

  1. Drag the slider to set the duration of your countdown. You can choose from 32 possible durations, starting with fine-grained choices (1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, ...) and gradually becoming more coarse (..., 7 hours, 7½ hours, 8 hours). Under the slider, you can see when the countdown will end.
  2. You can also enter a message that will be shown once your countdown is over. Have to make a phone call? Put the phone number in here. Need to motivate yourself? Write something witty. Let Timebar be your whimsical menu bar buddy.
  3. Timebar tints your menu bar with a colour that drains away as the countdown progresses. You can click the blue rectangle to pick a custom colour. (Your humble Timebar author is rather partial to bright pink, but he just likes being ridiculous.) Next to the colour box, you can see a preview of what your menu bar will look like.
  4. If you like, Timebar can play a sound when your countdown is over with.

If you want more precision, switch to text entry mode and tell Timebar exactly how long you'd like the countdown to be:

Screenshot of popup in text mode

Timebar's pretty good about figuring out what you mean. Try "1 hour and 15 minutes" or "1:15".

That's about it — hit Start and you're off to the races. Once your timer is running, you can see exactly how long is left by clicking once on the Timebar icon:

Screenshot of countdown

Control- or right-clicking on the Timebar icon will show you the same menu as the gear button in the main Timebar popup. The first menu item makes it a snap to repeat your last countdown.

Screenshot of menu

Custom sound effects

If you'd like to add custom sound effects, just copy them into your Mac's ~/Library/Sounds folder. Not sure how to do that? Check out Macworld's helpful article about adding custom sound files to your Mac.

Free Extras: Terminal command & Alfred workflow

If you're a Terminal or Alfred user, download the free Timebar extras.

Screenshot of Alfred workflow

You can learn more about the extras by reading Readme.rtf, included in your download.

Controlling Timebar from scripts

Timebar countdowns can also be started by opening special URLs. They look like this:


duration is given in seconds. message is optional.

For your convenience, the timebar command line tool that's included in the Extras download can generate these URLs for you – just add --print to the end of your timebar command. For example, timebar --duration 60 --message "Hello there" --print will print out the example URL shown above.