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Forget Screen Time! Track Your App Usage in macOS Catalina with These Alternatives

https://www.howtogeek.com/446343/fix-screen-time-in-macos-catalina-with-these-alternatives/

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A man at a table in a cafe looking at his watch with his laptop open in front of him.
sergey causelove/Shutterstock

The Screen Time feature first appeared in iOS 12 to help you monitor your app usage on iPhone and iPad. It’s now on macOS Catalina, with one major flaw: it only shows how long apps are open, not how long you use them.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to Screen Time that are far better at tracking your screen time than Apple’s built-in tool.

The Problem with the Screen Time App in Catalina

In iOS, you cannot have more than two active “focused” apps onscreen at the same time, but that’s not the case on a Mac.

Most people leave apps open in the background on their Mac without even noticing. Do you ever close your browser? Are you listening to music right now via Spotify or Catalina’s iTunes replacement? Are the apps you use for email, notes, or calendar open right now? Which apps are open in the menu bar at the top of your screen?

The Screen Time "App Usage" stats in macOS Catalina.

Screen Time tracks open apps, rather than those currently in use. As a result, it provides no meaningful data about where your time has gone. You can’t see how much of your day you spent typing a report, reading, replying to emails, or browsing Facebook.

Ultimately, this makes Screen Time pretty useless on a Mac if you wanted to use it to boost your productivity. One work-around is to close apps as soon as you’re done with them, but that’s just not how the vast majority of people use their computer. If you want to isolate which apps are sapping your time, you’ll have to find an alternative.

Screen Time Has Parental Controls

With Screen Time, Apple also merged its existing parental controls into a single interface. The options previously available under System Preferences > Parental Controls can now be found in the control panel at System Preferences > Screen Time, instead.

This includes the ability to restrict content based on age ratings, blocking adult websites, and playing multiplayer games via Game Center. You can also define “Downtime” in which apps must be whitelisted to be used. So far, so good.

The "Create a New App Limit" menu in the Screen Time app.

You can also set limits on how long an app can be used in the App Limits portion of the Screen Time preferences. In theory, this sounds great. Click the plus sign (+) to add an app or category you want to limit, and then set the amount of time the app or category can be used every 24 hours. The limits reset at midnight.

Unfortunately, app limits are subject to the same arbitrary monitoring as every other app. For example, if you set a time limit of two hours per day for Safari, the timer ticks down as long as the app is open, even if no one is using it. If you have kids, they’ll probably be the first to notice how shortsighted and “unfair” this is.

Setting limits for children is all part of fostering a healthy relationship with modern technology. Unfortunately, Apple’s tools for doing this are half-baked.

Parents can still use Downtime to limit apps between set hours, and content filtering to prevent their children from being exposed to mature content.

Notifications and Pickups Aren’t Too Useful

Screen Time also tracks how many notifications you receive, as well as Pickups (the number of times you wake your Mac from sleep or restart it).

It’s a lot easier to drown out notifications on your Mac than it is on iOS. On a Mac, media players, like Music and Spotify, push a new notification every time the track changes. If you’re low on disk space or awaiting a macOS update, you’ll be dismissing notifications all day long. This feature isn’t necessarily broken in the same way app tracking is, but it’s not very useful, either.

The "Notifications" stats in the Screen Time app.

Pickups manages to be even less useful. On an iPhone or iPad, Pickups tracks how many times you unlock your device and which app was responsible. This can be useful if you want to limit your notifications or certain apps during work hours to improve your productivity. You can check Pickups to find out which apps are distracting you the most.

On a Mac, this doesn’t make much sense, though. Notifications don’t wake the screen or demand the same amount of attention they do on iOS. When I leave Music playing and wake my Mac, Screen Time registers Music in Pickups as the reason I woke my Mac. In reality, I just wanted to wake the computer so I could get back to work.

The Best Alternatives to macOS Screen Time

Apps that track your computer usage are nothing new. Some people use them to improve and track their productivity. Some freelancers who charge an hourly rate use them to create reports. Others just use them to remind themselves they actually got something done during the day.

Timing is one of the most accomplished apps of this type. It’s available in three tiers: Productivity ($39), Professional ($69), or Expert ($99). At its most basic settings, Timing automatically tracks how long you spend in each app and includes information like window title and pathname.

All the data is collected and displayed on the Review screen. This is where you can see which apps you’ve used. You can also organize usage by project or task. You’ll see the websites you’ve visited, relevant keywords (like a project’s title), and the folders you frequented the most.

The Timing app is best for people who like to be hands-on with their productivity. The app can generate a productivity score, but how well this feature works depends on how you organize the data. You can export your data in raw.CSV format. If you upgrade, you can export in XLS and PDF formats and generate invoices.

If you opt for the Professional edition of Timing, you can add data points for manual tasks you complete away from your Mac, so you can track all aspects of your day. If you need to fully customize reports, generate invoices, and an API and Zapier plugin, go for the Expert tier. You can also find the Expert version of Timing on SetApp.

"Time Sink Organizer" stats in the Time Sink app.
manytricks.com

Time Sink is another alternative, and it only costs $5. It’s much easier to use than Timing, but it works the same way. The app automatically and accurately tracks the time you spend in various apps. You can also manually register activities you perform away from your Mac.

Time Sink uses Pools to help you track related activities. Because it groups similar activities into categories (like “Chatter”), you get a broad overview of where your time goes—not even Screen Time does this. Time Sink also registers both the total time an app is open and the amount of time you actively use it. You can see all of this in the app’s Activity Report.

If you need more powerful features, like invoice generation or an API, then Time Sink isn’t for you. However, if you just need a cheap app to help you track your daily habits and improve your productivity, Time Sink could be the best $5 you spend this week.

"Daily Activity" stats in the ActivityWatch app.
activitywatch.net

ActivityWatch is a free time-tracking app for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It automatically logs your activity on your Mac, including which applications you use and on which domains you spend the most time. A small application runs in the background to collect the data, which you can view in your browser.

Other similar Mac apps that automatically track your app usage include ManicTime, RescueTime, and WakaTime,

Use Screen Time for Parental Controls

None of the alternatives to Screen Time offer anything like the parental controls Apple has built into its native feature. If you want to use the parental controls on your Mac, you still need to set up Screen Time.

However, if you primarily want to track exactly what you’re doing with your time during your workday, you have far more accurate options than Screen Time.

How Apple could get this so wrong, when products like Timing and Time Sink have gotten it right for so long, is perplexing.

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.

This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.

Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.

Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.

As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.

Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.

To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.

Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.

African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.

But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.

Jumia vs. Konga

The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.

Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.

Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.

That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.

While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.

E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.

So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.

In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.

Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.

Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.

Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.

Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.

The numbers

Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.

So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.

But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.

Here’s the tally of guest stays in Airbnb’s during New Years Eve (data via CNBC, Jon Erlichman, Airbnb), and their resulting year-over-year growth rates:

  • 2009: 1,400
  • 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
  • 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
  • 2012: 108,000 (248%)
  • 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
  • 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
  • 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
  • 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
  • 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
  • 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
  • 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)

In chart form, that looks like this:

Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.

Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.

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