I’ve been thinking a lot about countdown timers lately, partly because I’m always curious how long it’ll be until the next major holiday (like the debut of Star Wars: Episode IX), and partly because Lifehacker Editor-in-Chief Melissa stumbled across the Progress Bar app and I was curious if there was a cheaper way to accomplish the same thing.
For those unaware, Progress Bar is a $7 app that drops a lovely little progress bar into your Mac’s Menu Bar. As time passes, the bar fills up. You pick the interval, either the day, the month, the year, or your (estimated) lifetime. Whether you need a daily reminder of your own mortality or you’re counting down the days until your fun-filled weekend, it beats pulling up the calendar and doing some mental maths.
I found plenty of Pomodoro-like apps that let you set up a timer in your Menu Bar, useful if you’re trying to give yourself a break every half an hour (or want a more explicit countdown for your work day).
That includes apps like the easy-to-use Horo, which I love. I wasn’t able to find a perfect free match for Progress Bar—especially not one that lets you watch your entire life tick by — but I did find one reasonable alternative if you don’t feel like coughing up $7 (at first).
The appropriately named app Countdowns is free to download and use. Install it, and you’ll get a little icon in your menu bar. Click on that, select the “Quick Add” option, and you can pick from a list of pre-populated dates ranging from annual holidays to critical events (like the aforementioned Star Wars movie):
Pick a pre-populated date, or create your own, and a big text countdown will appear in your Menu Bar. You can cut out the seconds, if you don’t want to get too granular, but you’ll still have the days, hours, and minutes to look at. You can’t replace the text with pretty graphics, but the countdown timer does everything you’d expect it to do — no more, no less.
You get one free countdown timer when you download the app. If you want more, you’ll have to pay $3 monthly for a subscription (don’t do that) or $14 for a one-time, lifetime subscription (much better). That makes this app costlier than Progress Bar, but at least you can customise what you’re counting down to—beyond your grand exit, that is.