Four Pomodoro tools tested

Tomato Battle

The appearance of Pomodorium is just as hard to get used to as the overall concept (Figure 3). The look and feel leave much to be desired. It is not possible to enlarge the font or improve the contrast. On the Debian lab machine, at least all the menus were visible, but on Linux Mint, the My Character menu went into hiding under the top edge of the screen. Any attempt to make the window larger also failed.

Figure 3: Pomodorium is not exactly impressive in terms of its appearance.

Each new Pomodoro unit starts with a fanfare and ends with a ka-ching of coins. In between, you will not be bothered by the ticking clock  – if you need this sound as an incentive, you are likely to be disappointed, because Pomodorium does not offer a way of configuring the sound. Users who want to use the tool in the office are advised to switch off the speakers, especially if they use the breaks for the built-in game elements. Because Pomodorium does not detect which task the user is working on, statistics that go beyond the simple figure of the average number of Pomodori completed per day are totally lacking.

For each completed unit, the program adds 25 gold pieces to the user's till. If you work through four phases in succession (with breaks), 60 bonus credits are added. You can spend your virtual wealth in My Character, where you can buy equipment, potions, or weapons (Figure 4). Then, it's off to the Map to visit cities and get rid of monsters. As playing time increases, the monsters become resilient, and you also need coins to pay for travel between locations. It is not very consistent with the Pomodoro ethic that the Help menu offers a backdoor via which users can purchase virtual gold for real money.

Figure 4: Role playing, outfitting your character, and battling monsters are clearly the focus of Pomodorium.

Synchronization between different computers is not supported. Users with more than one workstation need to reach the higher levels separately with each character. Although the overall concept would really benefit from allowing users to compete, Pomodorium is not team capable. The tool is certainly not the first choice when it comes to tough, professional use. For students or professionals with motivation problems and a penchant for role playing, however, Pomodorium is an entertaining resource. If your or your colleagues' work is particularly stressful, sending a few monsters off to the happy hunting grounds during a break can be quite liberating.

TeamViz

This program motivates and supports users not only on the desktop but also on mobile devices. TeamViz [6], originally known as the Pomodoro App, is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux (packages for Ubuntu, 32/64 bit) from the TeamViz website. In the download area, users will also find links to an Android app and the iPhone version. The software relies on Qt, is not released under an open license, and is based on a Freemium model. The simple client is free, but to synchronize data between different computers and mobile devices, you pay about US$  24 per year. The Enterprise version (about US$  50 a year), which lets you work in teams (of up to 12 people), is still advertised as Coming Soon.

The test team looked at the current 3.2 version. The Linux version was still in beta when this issue went to press. The manufacturer offers 32-bit and 64-bit versions for Ubuntu. They ran without any problems on Linux Mint and Debian. The latter additionally requires Curl, which you can install retroactively, if necessary. After downloading and unpacking the archive, a call to ./TeamViz starts the program. To begin, create a user account for the TeamViz server and then log on.

Just like Flowkeeper, TeamViz also helps you plan your tasks. Users can create lists for various projects and assign individual tasks to them; the tool then assigns the Pomodori. Several phases are possible with the mobile app; however, users of the desktop version can open a task several times if one Pomodoro is not enough. This lets you plan well beyond the current day. When you hover over an object in the current list, a small timer icon appears. Clicking this assigns the task to the to-do list Today's Tasks. If one item in the schedule remains unfinished, TeamViz adds it for the next day without prompting.

To start a Pomodoro, hover over the tasks in the day's list and press the icon with the tomato. The timer window opens, and Start sets the clock running. The main window disappears into the background, and only a small timer remains at the top of the screen. To interrupt the workflow, click on the sad face in the small window. In the test, the program was slow to respond. To improve this, move the main window to the foreground and enter the reason for the break in the input field (Figure 5). This function is useful for jotting down ideas or forgotten tasks, because the entries automatically appear in the Unplanned Tasks list.

Figure 5: If you want to interrupt your work, you should enter the reason right away. Entries automatically appear in the Unplanned Tasks list.

Tomatoes and Cans

After completing a task, a break starts. Pomodori users can customize the length of time-outs. The latter are at least 10 minutes and at most 90 minutes, and the pause duration is also variable. What you cannot influence is the sequence of small and major interruptions. After each Pomodoro, TeamViz automatically starts a small break, and a long break automatically begins after every fourth phase of work. You can disable the classic ticking sound of the clock in the program settings, but TeamViz still emits a short sound at the start of each Pomodoro unit. During the breaks, the tool is silent, and at the end of a phase, an alarm goes off.

TeamViz is the only candidate in the test field to provide graphical statistics of completed or aborted Pomodori. Users can thus see at a glance when they were particularly productive in a given period (Figure 6). From a table, you can see how many Pomodori you needed for a task and when you interrupted the ongoing phases. A click on Export theoretically should save your data in a CSV file. However, the Linux version of the program balked and crashed reproducibly on all test computers. Malfunctions like this show why the program for this platform is still tagged "beta."

Figure 6: TeamViz impresses with graphically appealing statistics and currently only refuses to export data if you run it on Linux.

Syncing with other devices worked smoothly in the lab. The Sync function is only free for the first month in the free version, after which the manufacturer prompts users to proceed to checkout. The program uses the TeamViz server to sync, with no option for setting up your own WebDAV server or the like.

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