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Chronometrist is a friendly and powerful personal time tracker and analyzer. It has frontends for Emacs and CLIM.

The main Chronometrist buffer, with the enabled extensions chronometrist-goal ("Targets" column + alerts) and chronometrist-spark ("Graph" column displaying the activity for the past 4 weeks).


  1. Extremely simple and efficient to use
  2. Displays useful information about your time usage (including fancy graphs with the chronometrist-spark extension)
  3. Support for both mouse and keyboard
  4. Human errors in tracking can be easily fixed by editing a plain text file
  5. Hooks to integrate time tracking into your workflow


  1. No support for concurrent tasks.


timeclock.el (Emacs built-in)

Compared to timeclock.el, Chronometrist

  • stores data in an s-expression format rather than a line-based one
  • supports attaching tags and arbitrary key-values to time intervals
  • has commands to shows useful summaries
  • has more hooks

Org time tracking

Chronometrist and Org time tracking seem to be equivalent in terms of capabilities, approaching the same ends through different means.

  • Chronometrist doesn't have a mode line indicator at the moment. (planned)
  • Chronometrist doesn't have Org's sophisticated querying facilities. (an SQLite backend is planned)
  • Org does so many things that keybindings seem to necessarily get longer. Chronometrist has far fewer commands than Org, so most of the keybindings are single keys, without modifiers.
  • Chronometrist's UI is cleaner, since the storage is separate from the display. It doesn't show tasks as trees like Org, but it uses tags and key-values to achieve that. Additionally, navigating a flat list takes fewer user operations than navigating a tree.
  • Chronometrist data is just s-expressions (plists), and may be easier to parse than a complex text format with numerous use-cases.

Common Lisp port

In March 2022, work began on the long-awaited Common Lisp port of Chronometrist, which aims to create -

  1. a greater variety of backends (e.g. SQLite)
  2. a common reusable library for frontends to use,
  3. a greater variety of frontends, such as -

    • a command line interface (CLI), for UNIX scripting;
    • a terminal user inteface (TUI), for those so inclined;
    • a CLIM (Common Lisp Interface Manager) GUI 1,
    • Qt and Android interfaces using LQML,
    • web frontends (possibly via Parenscript or CLOG),
    • and perhaps even an interface for wearable devices!

The port was also driven by the desire to have access to Common Lisp's better performance, and features such as namespaces, a de facto standard build system, multithreading, SQLite bindings, a more fully-featured implementation of CLOS and MOP, and type annotations, checking, and inference.

The literate sources for the Common Lisp port may be found in cl/ Currently, this port can -

  1. import from a plist-group file and export to an SQLite database

    (chronometrist:to-file (chronometrist:to-hash-table
                            (make-instance 'chronometrist.plist-group:plist-group-backend
                                           :file "/path/to/file.plg"))
                           (make-instance 'chronometrist.sqlite:sqlite-backend)
  2. display a (WIP) CLIM GUI - (chronometrist.clim:run-chronometrist)

The Emacs Lisp codebase will probably become an Emacs frontend to a future Common Lisp CLI client.

Literate program

Chronometrist is written as an Org literate program, which makes it easy to obtain different views of the program source, thanks to tree- and source-block folding, tags, properties, and the org-match command.

The canonical source file is elisp/, which contains source blocks. These are provided to users after tangling (extracting the source into an Emacs Lisp file). 2

The Org literate program can also be loaded directly using the literate-elisp package, so that all source links (e.g. xref, describe-function) lead to the Org file. See How to load the program using literate-elisp.

Source code overview

At its most basic, we read data from a backend and display it as a tabulated-list-mode">tabulated-list-mode buffer.

The plist and plist-group backends (collectively known as the s-expression backends) read a text file containing s-expressions into a hash table, and query that. When the file is changed—whether by the program or the user—they update the hash table and the buffer. The s-expression backends also make use of a plist pretty-printer of their own.

There are also some migration commands.

Extensions exist for -

  1. attaching arbitrary metadata to time intervals,
  2. time goals and alerts, and
  3. support for the Third Time system

Contributions and contact

Feedback and MRs are very welcome. 🙂

If you have tried using Chronometrist, I'd love to hear your experiences! Get in touch with the author and other Emacs users in the Emacs channel on the Jabber network - (web chat)

(For help in getting started with Jabber, click here)


I'd like for all software to be liberated - transparent, trustable, and accessible for anyone to use, study, or improve.

I'd like anyone using my software to credit me for the work.

I'd like to receive financial support for my efforts, so I can spend all my time doing what I find meaningful.

But I don't want to make demands or threats (e.g. via legal conditions) to accomplish all that, nor restrict my services to only those who can pay.

Thus, Chronometrist is released under your choice of Unlicense or the WTFPL.

(See files UNLICENSE and WTFPL).


The main buffer and the report buffer are copied from the Android application, A Time Tracker

wasamasa, bpalmer, aidalgol, pjb and the rest of #emacs for their tireless help and support

jwiegley for timeclock.el, which we used as a backend in earlier versions

blandest for helping me with the name

fiete and wu-lee for testing and bug reports



from MELPA

  1. Set up MELPA -
  2. M-x package-install RET chronometrist RET

from Git

You can get chronometrist from or

chronometrist requires

Add the "elisp/" subdirectory to your load-path, and (require 'chronometrist).


Run M-x chronometrist to see your projects, the time you spent on them today, which one is active, and the total time clocked today.

Click or hit RET (chronometrist-toggle-task) on a project to start tracking time for it. If it's already clocked in, it will be clocked out.

You can also hit <numeric prefix> RET anywhere in the buffer to toggle the corresponding project, e.g. C-1 RET will toggle the project with index 1.

Press r to see a weekly report (see chronometrist-report)


Run M-x chronometrist-report (or chronometrist with a prefix argument of 1, or press r in the chronometrist buffer) to see a weekly report.

Press b to look at past weeks, and f for future weeks.


Run M-x chronometrist-statistics (or chronometrist with a prefix argument of 2) to view statistics.

Press b to look at past time ranges, and f for future ones.


common commands

In the buffers created by the previous three commands, you can press l (chronometrist-open-log) to view/edit your chronometrist-file, which by default is ~/.emacs.d/chronometrist.sexp.

All of these commands will kill their buffer when run again with the buffer visible, so the keys you bind them to behave as a toggle.

All buffers keep themselves updated via an idle timer - no need to frequently press g to update.

Time goals/targets

If you wish you could define time goals for some tasks, and have Chronometrist notify you when you're approaching the goal, completing it, or exceeding it, check out the extension chronometrist-goal.el.

How-to Guides

See the Customize groups chronometrist and chronometrist-report for variables intended to be user-customizable.

How to display a prompt when exiting with an active task

Evaluate or add to your init.el the following - (add-hook 'kill-emacs-query-functions 'chronometrist-query-stop)

How to load the program using literate-elisp

The literate Org document will automatically literate-elisp-load itself when opened, if literate-elisp is installed via package.el.

If you want it to be loaded with literate-elisp-load on Emacs startup, add the following to your init.el -

(add-to-list 'load-path "<directory containing>")

(require 'literate-elisp) ;; or autoload, use-package, ...
(literate-elisp-load "")

How to attach tags to time intervals

  1. Add chronometrist-tags-add to one or more of these hooks 3 -

    (add-to-list 'chronometrist-after-in-functions 'chronometrist-tags-add)
    (add-to-list 'chronometrist-before-out-functions 'chronometrist-tags-add)
    (add-to-list 'chronometrist-after-out-functions 'chronometrist-tags-add)
  2. clock in/clock out to trigger the hook. The prompt suggests past combinations you used for the current task, which you can browse with M-p=/=M-n. You can leave it blank by pressing RET.

How to attach key-values to time intervals

  1. Add chronometrist-kv-add to one or more of these hooks 3 -

    (add-to-list 'chronometrist-after-in-functions 'chronometrist-kv-add)
    (add-to-list 'chronometrist-before-out-functions 'chronometrist-kv-add)
    (add-to-list 'chronometrist-after-out-functions 'chronometrist-kv-add)

To exit the prompt, press the key it indicates for quitting - you can then edit the resulting key-values by hand if required. Press C-c C-c to accept the key-values, or C-c C-k to cancel.

How to skip running hooks/attaching tags and key values

Use M-RET (chronometrist-toggle-task-no-hooks) to clock in/out.

How to open certain files when you start a task

An idea from the author's own init -

(defun my-start-project (project)
  (pcase project
     (find-file-other-window "~/"))
    ;; ...

(add-hook 'chronometrist-before-in-functions 'my-start-project)

How to warn yourself about uncommitted changes

Another one, prompting the user if they have uncommitted changes in a git repository (assuming they use Magit) -

(autoload 'magit-anything-modified-p "magit")

(defun my-commit-prompt ()
  "Prompt user if `default-directory' is a dirty Git repository.
Return t if the user answers yes, if the repository is clean, or
if there is no Git repository.

Return nil (and run `magit-status') if the user answers no."
  (cond ((not (magit-anything-modified-p)) t)
          (format "You have uncommitted changes in %S. Really clock out? "
                  default-directory)) t)
        (t (magit-status) nil)))

(add-hook 'chronometrist-before-out-functions 'my-commit-prompt)

How to display the current time interval in the activity indicator

(defun my-activity-indicator ()
  (--> (chronometrist-latest-record (chronometrist-active-backend))
       (plist-put it :stop (chronometrist-format-time-iso8601))
       (list it)
       (chronometrist-events-to-durations it)
       (-reduce #'+ it)
       (truncate it)
       (chronometrist-format-duration it)))

(setq chronometrist-activity-indicator #'my-activity-indicator)

How to back up your Chronometrist data

I suggest backing up Chronometrist data on each save using the async-backup package.4 Here's how you can do that.

  1. Add the following to your init.

    (use-package async-backup)
  2. Open your Chronometrist file and add async-backup to a buffer-local after-save-hook.

    M-x chronometrist-open-log
    M-x add-file-local-variable-prop-line RET eval RET (add-hook 'after-save-hook #'async-backup nil t) RET
  3. Optionally, configure async-backup-location to set a specific directory for the backups -

    (setq async-backup-location "/path/to/backup/dir/")

How to configure Vertico for use with Chronometrist

By default, Vertico uses its own sorting function - for some commands (such as chronometrist-key-values-unified-prompt) this results in worse suggestions, since Chronometrist sorts suggestions in most-recent-first order.

You can either disable Vertico's sorting entirely -

(setq vertico-sort-function nil)

Or use vertico-multiform to disable sorting for only specific commands -

(use-package vertico-multiform
  :init (vertico-multiform-mode)
  (setq vertico-multiform-commands
        '((chronometrist-toggle-task          (vertico-sort-function . nil))
          (chronometrist-toggle-task-no-hooks (vertico-sort-function . nil))
          (chronometrist-key-values-unified-prompt      (vertico-sort-function . nil)))))

User's reference

All variables intended for user customization are listed here. They serve as the public API for this project for the purpose of semantic versioning. Any changes to these which require a user to modify their configuration are considered breaking changes.

  1. chronometrist-file
  2. chronometrist-buffer-name
  3. chronometrist-report-buffer-name
  4. chronometrist-details-buffer-name
  5. chronometrist-sexp-pretty-print-function
  6. chronometrist-hide-cursor
  7. chronometrist-update-interval
  8. chronometrist-activity-indicator

Buffer schemas

  1. chronometrist-schema
  2. chronometrist-details-schema


  1. chronometrist-mode-hook
  2. chronometrist-schema-transformers
  3. chronometrist-row-transformers
  4. chronometrist-before-in-functions
  5. chronometrist-after-in-functions
  6. chronometrist-before-out-functions
  7. chronometrist-after-out-functions
  8. chronometrist-file-change-hook
  9. chronometrist-timer-hook


McCLIM also has an incomplete ncurses backend - when completed, a CLIM frontend could provide a TUI "for free".


the literate source is also included in MELPA installs, although not loaded through literate-elisp-load by default, since doing so would interfere with automatic generation of autoloads.


but not chronometrist-before-in-functions


It is possible to use Emacs' built-in backup system to do it, but since it is synchronous, doing so will greatly slow down saving of the Chronometrist file.