Monthly Downloads: 6
Programming language: Haskell
License: BSD 3-clause "New" or "Revised" License
Tags: Utils    
Latest version: v0.1.3

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terminal-punch is a simple command-line time tracker.


cabal new-install terminal-punch


Despite its early stage, terminal-punch seems to work very reliably. It has a property-based test suite that covers most aspects of its time measurement.

Basic operation

Start by running punch in a terminal.

(Since the name of the executable is punch, I will use that name for the program in the remainder of the text.)

The program listens to the following keys:

  • space to start or stop an interval.
  • q or esc to quit.
  • e to temporarily show extended history.
  • Any other key to update the summary.
    • This is useful if time has passed since punch was started or if the log file has been updated (see below).

Note that since the start/stop events are persisted in a log file (see below), punch doesn't need to be running in the background. It can just be opened temporarily for starting/stopping or viewing the summary. Personally, I use a keyboard shortcut to fire up a terminal with punch running in it.

By default, the summary will show the total time for the following periods:

  • Last week
  • This week
  • Yesterday
  • Today

Additional periods can be added by inserting period markers in the log file. We will explain how this is done later.

The log file

punch stores its time log in $HOME/.punch. Here is an example of what the file can look like:

Start 2019-01-17 12:29:13.80010349
Stop 2019-01-17 18:51:45.009426249
Start 2019-01-17 18:51:47.342016491
Stop 2019-01-17 19:10:45.566312123

Period "New job"
-- Started my new job
Start 2019-01-18 08:31:00
Stop 2019-01-18 13:40:00
Start 2019-01-18 16:16:00
Stop 2019-01-18 18:39:26.115783139

Each line must be one of:

  • A start event, using the keyword Start
  • A stop event, using the keyword Stop
  • A period marker, using the keyword Period
  • A comment, starting with --
  • An empty line

The syntax for time stamps should be self-explanatory from the above example. Note that the eight-digit number denoting fractions of a second is optional.

punch requires the Start/Stop events to appear in alternating order. That is, there must not be a sequence consisting of two Start events without a Stop in between, and vice versa. Moreover, the time stamps must appear in increasing order. If the log gets corrupted, it can only be fixed by manual editing.

Working with the log file

Start/Stop lines are automatically appended to the log when an interval is started or stopped. This is the only thing punch ever does to the log; it will never change the existing content of the file. This means that it is completely safe to edit the log file between start/stop events.

Users are expected to manually edit the log in the following situations:

  • To fix/add/remove incorrect or missing events (e.g. when the user forgot to start or stop an interval in time).
  • To insert period markers or comments.

Period markers are used to measure time over longer periods. For example, inserting the line

Period "New job"

somewhere in the log tells punch to keep track of the total time from that point on. The result will be seen as an extra line in the summary:

New job    :  4 hours, 8 minutes
Last week  :  42 hours, 41 minutes
This week  :  9 hours, 43 minutes
Yesterday  :  8 hours, 3 minutes
Today      :  1 hours, 39 minutes

Any number of period markers can be inserted into the log.

Limitations and future work

Multiple projects

punch doesn't currently have a way to distinguish between different kinds of work.

One idea for fixing this problem would be to support different "projects". Each project could have its own log file in the .punch/ directory. Some ideas regarding this approach:

  • Need a better UI for switching between projects. Probably best to use brick for this.
  • Switching project should automatically stop any running interval in the current project.
  • The current project should be remembered between runs.
  • Summary view could show totals both for the current project and for all projects combined.

Time zones

punch logs time relative to the local time zone. This means that, for example, switching time zones in the middle of a running interval will lead to incorrectly measured time.

The solution would be to include information about the time zone with the logged events. However, the log file is meant to be a human-editable document, so I'm not sure it's worth the extra complexity just to get consistency across time zone changes.