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ActiveLog User Manual

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1. Preface

ActiveLog was born out of our own need to better organize our time and to improve our habits: get things done that are not fun but necessary and to work on them regulary and steadily.

We wrote first versions of the software for desktop and laptop computers, but the now available mobile Android version opens up a new dimension: the program as a permanent companion.

2. Introduction

The basic idea is to represent activities graphically as blocks whose height reflects the duration. There can be different types of activities, freely customizable by the user. Activity types can have sub-types and so anyone can build his personal hierarchical tree of activity types.

Activities can be timed. A double-click starts its timing so that it will be moved to the time table at the present time. Another double-click allows stopping the timing and the remainder of the activity goes back into the so-called "duty-bag".

Most essential for us is the possibility to set weekly duties. As an example say we want to bring ourselves to work 8 hours a week on the activity "programming" and 4 hours on "work out". Every Monday Morning, there will be a menu item "Fill" in the Duty Bag screen which will generate the due activities. The duties we set ourselves can be modified at any time, but such a change is effective only at the next time we fill the bag.

ActiveLog is strictly about motivation. Due activities cannot be simply erased. It is not possible to cheat by moving a due activity to some past point in time in the time table. Once you got duties you have to carry them out!

3. Time table

In the menu bar, you see three buttons which allow switching between the three main screens of the app. In addition, there is a menu item to get to the settings screen as well as further menu items which may be hidden on small screens.

In the time table, every column represents a day. The past is colored in gray. You can scroll the screen horizontally and zoom in and our using a two-finger pinch-gesture. Zooming also affects the duty bag.

A simple tap on an activity selects it. Then certain menu items (in the menu bar) are activated for that activity (edit description, take note, pin/unpin). Activities that lie in the past cannot be moved or deleted. Activities in the future are planned activities and can be moved around (but not dropped into the past!) or be dragged to the duty bag by a long-press on them.

A double-click on a planned activity starts its timing: it is moved to the present time position. If there is already another activity being timed, the double-clicked activity will be scheduled right after the current one.

4. Duty bag

The duty bag contains all due activities for the week and await being executed in the time table. Every Monday Morning, you will find a menu item "Fill" in the menu bar that generates the duties for the week. A double-click on an activity starts timing it in the time table, a long-press allows dragging it onto the time table to plan its execution for some future point in time.

In addition, we have crossed-out activities in the duty bag. Those are "anti-activities" which occur under two circumstances: first, when you add an additional activity by hand (from the activity types screen) and start timing it; second, when a currently timed activity ends and is automatically extended.

Anti-activities thus represent "overtime". You can use them to neutralize activities of the same type by just dragging them together. By the way, you can also combine two activities of same type in the same way: by dragging them together.

Under default-settings, Anti-activities are removed at the next time you fill the bag. This should prevent "working ahead" which goes against our ideal of constant, steady work.

5. Activity types

Activity types are organized hierarchically as a tree. Each activity type can have one or more sub-types. In the activity type screen, the top activity type is the currently selected one, the ones below are its sub-types. Tap on such a sub-type to make it the currently selected one and to see its own sub-types. Tap on the selected activity type to move up again.

The menu item "Generate" generates a new activity of the currently selected type in the duty bag. Since this is an additional one, not one of your duties, it is marked with a white circle. When you time such an activity, an anti-activity of equal size and type will be generated in the bag.

6. Description of all menu items

In the time table and the duty bag, activities can be selected by a simple tap. Then, additional menu items referring to the selected activity appear in the menu bar.

On each screen you will find the two menu items "Settings" (represented by a symbol) and "About" (a short status message about the app).

6.1. Menu items of the time table

  • "Show today": The time table is scrolled to a position where the current day is shown in the middle column.
  • "Cancel timing": The currently timed activity will be stopped and put back into the duty bag as if it never had been started. This is different from double-clicking the timed activity as (under default settings) the latter would cut the activity into two parts, moving back the remainder part into the bag only.
  • "Edit description": Beyond the mere type of the activity, you can enter a more precise description of that particular activity. When you select an activity in the time table, its description is shown at the top.
  • "Take note": You can attach a note to the activity. To see the note, select it in the time table. For that, you also have to enable "Display notes" in the settings under "Look and feel".
  • "Pin" (or "Unpin"): A pinned activity is not movable and will not be automatically extended when timed.
  • "Import/Export file": All data will be imported from or exported to an external file location that you can choose in the settings under "Data management". This allows you for example to create backups of your data or to move it to other devices by SD-card. Note that all data is also stored automatically locally by the app, so you do not manually have to save your data.
  • "Recover from backup": Loads the most recent backup from the local memory.

6.2. Menu items of the duty bag

  • "Edit tile": Refers to the selected activity (to select one, tap on it). A dialog box opens which allows to make certain changes to the activity. The center part allows changing the type, which however may result in a lengthening of the activity, depending on conversion rates (see section 8). If the activity is not part of the duty (i.e. it is marked with a white circle), the bottom middle button removes the white circle and creates an additional anti-activity. Also: the slider allows splitting the activity into two parts.
  • "Take note": Like in the time table, you can add a specific note to the activity (or edit a note you already made).
  • "Add holiday": Adds anti-activities corresponding to one full day, according to the duty settings. This may result in the generation of many little tiles. You could use the next menu-item "Clean" to merge tiles (where you should set "Fusion" in the general settings as the cleaning method).
  • "Clean": In the general settings, you can choose between two cleaning methods: "Fusion" and "Vertical alignment". This menu item triggers the chosen action.
  • "Resolve": calculates how many hours duty are still remaining. However, a conversion of all activities to the most general type "Activity" is made, which can result in very large numbers due to conversion rates (see section 8), especially if you have many very specialized duties. There is also the possibility to actually perform the conversions, which is useful when you wrap up on Sunday before the next filling.

6.3. Menu items of the activity type screen

  • "Generate": Adds a new activity marked with a white circle to the bag. Its type is the one currently displayed on top of the activity types screen.
  • "Add": Creates a new activity type as a sub-type of the one currently displayed on top of the screen. You should change its name and its color!
  • "Remove": The currently displayed activity type will be removed, as well as all its sub-types.
  • "Edit": A box opens up to edit the currently displayed activity type. In particular, you can change the duties (measured in hours) and the conversion rate. Both changes will only take effect at the next filling. The conversion rate indicates the factor used to multiply the length of activities when you convert them to the next more general activity type. A rate of zero means that no conversion is allowed, rate 1 means "no change of the length", rate 2 means doubling the length, etc.
  • "Move type": You can move the activity type to a different position in the tree. If you do that, the conversion rate will be set to zero (to prevent certain ways of "cheating" with duties).
  • "Import types": When you have been removing activity types, the corresponding activities will be displayed with the most special super-type that still exists. However, in your saved data, the precise activity types are still stored for each activity. Using this menu point, you can recover activity types that have been removed. Note that colors have been lost and must be set by hand.

7. Description of all settings

The settings symbol in the menu bar allows entering the settings screens. The first item "Open help screens" shows the series of screens that also popped up the first time you launched the app.

7.1. General settings

  • "When generating new activities:": There are different ways to choose the duration of activities that you generate by hand from the activity types screen:
    • "Use fixed length": The duration is the same each time you generate an activity: the one given in the next settings item "Generate length".
    • "Enter length": You will be asked to enter the duration by hand (in seconds) each time you generate an activity.
    • "Enter finishing time": Like "Enter length" only that you enter the finishing time instead of the duration.
  • "Generate length": The standard length in seconds of activities generated by hand.
  • "Cleaning mode": indicates the method of cleaning that you trigger with the menu item "Clean" in the duty bag:
    • "Vertical alignment": The horizontal positions of the activities in the bag will be uniformized. Note that you can achieve this effect permanently using a settings item in "Look and feel".
    • "Fusion": All activities of the same type will be combined into a single large activity.
  • "Negligeable less than (s)": Activities that are shorter than indicated here (in seconds) will be removed at the next filling. It is possible that activities are so short that you do not even recognize them.

7.2. Data management

  • "Storage location": You can choose where data will be exported and from where it will be imported (export/import are menu items in the time table):
    • "Local storage": The location where data is automatically stored by the app.
    • "External storage 1/2": Two default locations set by the device, which may be different on different devices. Typically one of them should be the physical SD-card, but that is not guaranteed.
    • "Browse location": Manual choice of the location (see next item).
  • "External data location": You can choose a path where data is exported and from where it is imported, which applies when you chose "Browse location" in the previous settings item. A single tap opens a file browser. Starting from Android version 4.4. (KitKat), only special locations are valid for data operations of the app. For example, the allowed location on the SD-card would be "(SD-path)/Android/data/de.tekplace.activelog/files/"
  • "Export all?": The app is smart enough to remember which data (i.e. which months) have been modified and only exports the modified data. If you select this item, The app will export all data regardless of what changes have been made.

7.3. Look and Feel

  • "Tile display style": You can choose between "Flat" and "Deep". The former only draws the color of the activity type itself whereas the latter also displays the colors of the entire path in the activity types tree.
  • "Fix tile width in bag?": The number of "columns" in the duty bag can vary when you zoom in or out (even within the time table) using a pinch-gesture. If you select this settings item however, the number of columns in the bag will be fixed.
  • "Columns in bag": If you have selected the previous setting "Fix tile width in bag?", you can choose here the number of columns.
  • "Organize columns": When selected, activities in the duty bag will snap to columns automatically. You have less freedom in placing your tiles, but it looks cleaner.
  • "Minimum days in time table": Using a pinch-gesture, you can zoom in and out in the time table (and also in the duty bag), which may result in a smaller number of displayed days. This number determines the minimum amount of displayed days.
  • "Selection tolerance" (in the bag or the time table): very short activities can be hard to select with the finger. This value (measured in pixels) determines how far one can be off the activity and still select it. Increase this value to make it easier to select small activities.
  • "Animate scrolling": When selected, the time table keeps moving for a while when you push it horizontally.
  • "Show next event": When selected, you get short messages on the screen showing which activity is the next planned one coming up.
  • "Display notes": If selected, notes that have been attached to activities will be shown in the time table whenever you select the activity.
  • "Note display size": The text size of notes displayed in the time table (if you selected the previous settings item).

7.4. Duty settings

  • "Automatic filling": If selected, the duty bag will be filled with new duties when launching the app in a new week. Otherwise, you will have to fill the bag by hand using the menu item "Fill" in the duty bag.
  • "Remove anti-tiles": When selected, filling the bag with new duties causes all anti-activities to be removed.
  • "Duty for x days (7 standard)": If you enter a value different from 7 here, you will get proportionally more or less duties at the next filling. This can be useful when taking into account a holiday, for example.
  • "How to fill the bag": You have a choice of how new duties will be added to the bag: hour-tiles half-hour-tiles or for each type one single big activity.

7.5. Waking up settings

ActiveLog has the ability to wake up or to launch itself when certain events occur. For example when a planned activity starts. These settings customize this feature.

  • "Allow waking up?": Has to be selected in order to give ActiveLog the permission to wake itself.
  • "Wake up on timeout?": If selected, waking up not only occurs when a planned activity starts, but also whenever a currently timed activity ends.
  • "Turn on screen on wakeup": If the screen is off, it will stay off even when the app wakes itself, unless you select this setting.
  • "Audio alert on event": At wakeup, a standard notification sound will be played.
  • "Vibrate on event": At wakeup, the device vibrates.
  • "Vibration length (ms)": If you activated vibration, you can choose here how long the device should vibrate, in milliseconds. A value of 1000, for example, would indicate one second of vibration.

7.6. Timing settings

These settings determine how the currently timed activity behaves.

  • "When manual timing stop": A double-tap on the timed activity stops timing. What happens then can be set here:
    • "Split to bag": The remaining time will be returned to the duty bag as a separate activity.
    • "Split in time table": Like "Split to bag", only that the remainder-activity will stay in the time table, slightly moved into the future.
    • "All to bag": The activity will be returned as a whole to the bag, as if timing had never been started. This is the same effect as choosing the menu item "Cancel timing" in the time table.
    • "Disabled": Double-tapping the timed activity has no effect.
  • "When timing runs out": Should the end of a timed activity be reached, it can be automatically extended or simply stop, depending on your choice here.
  • "Timing runout supplement": When an activity is automatically extended, it will be by the amount of seconds you enter here.
  • "When planned reached,": Should the starting time of a planned activity be reached while another one is currently being timed, there are two possibilities: "Do nothing" indicates that the currently timed activity keeps running, "Split to bag" means that it is stopped, its remainder put to the bag, and the planned activity's timing starts.
  • Version 1.0.4. of ActiveLog has one additional settings item: "When timing past midnight,": If you start timing an activity that is so long that it would go past midnight, it will be cut off at midnight. The remainder can here be chosen to either be put back to the bag, or to remain in the time table as a separate activity starting the following day.

8. Conversion of activity types

In the duty bag, select an activity by a simple tap and choose the menu item "Edit tile". The following dialog box opens up:

The central area allows changing the activity type. But beware: this can imply an increase of the length of the activity. Why?

ActiveLog is about motivating the execution of certain activities as weekly duty. If you could just freely convert activity types into one another, all constraints to work on a specific duty would be gone. You could then just transform the less pleasant ones into the fun ones!

For that reason, each activity type does not only have an amount of duty attached to it, but also a "conversion rate". By the way, both can be set in the activity types screen, but changes will be in effect only the following week (to prevent "cheating").

The conversion rate is a factor to multiply the length of an activity whose type you convert to the next more general one ("moving up in the tree"). A rate of 2 would mean a doubling of the length! Also, for anti-activities, the conversions behave exactly the opposite way: length is divided by the factor when you convert to a more specialized type ("moving down the tree").

Here are a few tips concerning conversion rates:

  • The rate only applies when you generalize the activity type. You can specialize all you want without the length being modified. (Again: the opposite is true for anti-activities.)
  • A rate of zero forbids generalization completely. This means that you insist in the duties of that type to be executed, prohibiting all conversions.
  • A rate of 1 would mean that no change happens when you generalize this type. This can make sense for example if you do not care at all about this very particular activity type to be performed. It is also handy as a means to organize the activity type tree more clearly: you can use a rate-1-type as a abstract rubrique rather than something describing actual activities.
  • The higher the conversion rate, the harder the "penalty" when you convert. A rate of 2 should be considered standard, unless you want to put special emphasis on the execution of duties of that particular type, in which case you can choose a higher rate (or even 0 in the extreme).
  • This conversion-rate-system has the effect that penalties for conversions are all the much higher, the less the types are related to one another. For instance, if two types are not related at all, meaning that for a conversion of one into the other one, you have to go all the way to the root of the tree, and back down, the multiplication factor for the duration can be huge.