Freelancing across Timezones
For freelancers, the concept of a 9 to 5 workday is a nice idea but working across multiple timezones means that tracking of your client's workday requires a bit of forethought. There is any amount of software out there for calendars, timezone clocks and date displays. While searching for a nice unobtrusive solution, I worked my way through Dashboard & Konfabulator Widgets, floating windows and drop down menus. All of them gave me what I needed but not without excessive clicking, waiting, or loading times.The solution I found best for quick display was using ScriptSoftware's iClock which has a range of world clock, calendar options and other options like Alarms, Stopwatches, Calculator's etc. Not that iClock didn't require a bit of tweaking and shoving in the right direction.
After setting up the clocks for the particular zones you are monitoring, I set to making it look a bit more attractive than the options that iClock gives you as default. As well as the different cities, I wanted a quick desktop indication of country and a calendar to accompany it. These all had to be visible with one keystroke and no loading times. Enter Expose and Photoshop.
Shine a Light on the Subject
1. Firstly we dip into the iClock floating clocks preferences. To make the cities and times nice and legible, I chose a clear font like Futura with a colour that will contrast well against my desktop.
2. I made the background of the timezone boxes transparent and set it at Desktop level.
3. Having confirmed the timezones, I take a snapshot of the desktop (Apple-Shift-3) with the clocks and open it in Photoshop. Alternately, if your desktop picture is the same size as your screen resolution, just open the appropriate picture.This method works best with desktops of flat colours.
4. Navigate your way to Computer/Library/Application Support/Apple/iChat Icons/Flags. You will find a range of flags covering most countries. Find the gif's that match your client's country and bring them into Photoshop. Align them with the timezone text for the appropriate country using the previous snapshot. Knock out the menubar, dock and any other areas of the snapshot that were not in the original desktop picture. Replace your desktop with this image.
5. Bring up the calendar preferences and style the display in a similar fashion and embedded it at desktop level. The nice option is that clicking on a date on the desktop calendar will bring up that day in the calendar application of your choice (iCal, Daylite, Now Up to Date, etc)
6. Set your Expose "Show Desktop" to the key of your choice. I have it mapped to the "fn" key on the Powerbook for trackpad use and on the scroll wheel button when using a mouse.
There are obvious downsides to this approach such as:
- iClock is not free
- iClock does not style the time and location differently.
- The calendar does not read iCal events at the moment.
- As new clients in new timezones come onboard you will obviously have to alter the desktop picture which might become repetitive.
But this is the solution I've found works well for my needs. I'm dipping into Dashboard to use MonkeyBusinessLabs excellent ToDo widget but other than that it's a F12 free workflow.
Is anyone else using any solutions they find work well for tracking clients across the continents?
[Update] After discovering the menuapp CheckOff from www.carpeaqua.com, I no longer need to use Dashboard for a simple ToDo solution. The latest versions of iClock allow you to now left align the text.