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The Ultimate Countdown Timer

AmbiaMara was originally written as a timer for public speakers. It has a HUGE digital display that’s easily visible across a room, even on small device screens. It has the ability to run in “podium mode,” which may be familiar to public speakers. These are a set of simple horizontal “traffic lights,” that change as time progresses, as opposed to a display of numbers counting down.

You can choose to count down in one-second increments, from 23:59:59 (twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds). Upon finishing its countdown, you can choose exactly how the alarm will be expressed.

AmbiaMara has also been specifically designed for use by people with visual challenges, or who prefer to use audio cues. It supports Apple’s VoiceOver Mode and Increased Contrast Mode.

The app was designed to encourage discovery of its operation, but this guide will explain the app in detail.

The one part of this guide that is probably important to read, is the section on gesture control. This is not something that you can easily discover on your own, and is one of the more useful capabilities of AmbiaMara.

Timer Display Modes

The timer is designed to provide an incredibly simple, clear and visible display as it counts down, in three modes:

Fig. 1: Digital Mode, on an iPhone SE Screen

Fig. 2: Podium Mode, on an iPhone XSMax Screen

Fig. 3: Dual Mode, on an iPad Pro 12.9-Inch Screen

Digital Mode (Fig. 1)

The current remaining time is displayed in enormous digits (you can select the color in which the digits appear). The countdown is a simple, linear countdown, with a flashing screen (and any selected sound) at the end.

The digital display has been specifically designed to resemble the classic “vacuum fluorescent” displays of the 1980s.

Podium Mode (Fig. 2)

Three simple “traffic lights” are displayed, with “thresholds,” that transition from green (talk away), to yellow (start wrapping up), to red (time to wrap it up), and finally, to the alarm. If you have selected audible ticks, then the ticks will increase in volume and count.

Dual Mode (Fig. 3)

Digits are displayed, but with the “traffic lights” shown below the digits. The transitions from one state to the next are marked by a brief flash of the screen (Yellow for the transition from Talk to Warning, and orange for the transition from Warning to Final), and the tick tempo and volume will increase.

Selectable Alarm Sounds

It is possible to select whatever sound you wish to play upon reaching the end of a countdown. There are several choices that you have for this sound:

Preselected Sound

The app comes with a number of built-in sounds, and you can choose to have one of these play upon alarm.

Song From Your Music Library

You can choose a song from the music that you have on your device.

Silent and/or Vibrate

You can choose not to have a sound play upon alarm (The screen will flash when the countdown is complete). However, on devices that support vibrate (iPhones), you can have the device vibrate during Alarm Mode.

Multiple Timers

You can add as many timers as you like; with each one being set up independently (every timer can have its own display mode and alarm sound). Timers appear in a list in the first tab (called the “Timer List” tab). They also appear as tabs along the bottom of the screen. You select a timer by touching its row in the list, or its tab in the tab bar. You add new timers by touching the “+” button at the top, right corner of the Timer List tab (Fig. 4). You delete timers by left-swiping the timer row in the Timer List tab (Fig. 5).

Fig. 4: Add Timers by Touching the “+”

Fig. 5: Delete A Timer by Left-Swiping in the List

Show Timer Controls Bar

Note the switch at the bottom of the screen in Figs. 4 and 5. It is labeled “Show Timer Controls in Running Timer” (if the phone language is English). If it is on (the default), then a bar of controls will appear along the top of a running timer (Fig. 6). If it is off, then this bar will be hidden (Fig. 7).

Fig. 6: Timer Controls Displayed

Fig. 7: Timer Controls Not Displayed

If the Timer Controls Bar is hidden, then you’ll need to use gestures to control the timer. We’ll cover these gestures in detail below. Most experienced users will probably opt for gesture control, as it simplifies the display.

You may also note that Figs. 6 and 7 show the timer with the device in Portrait orientation. It does not have to be in Landscape.

Timer Set Screen

When you select a timer in the Tab Bar, or the Timer List (or when you first start the app), you will be taken to the Set Screen for that timer. Each timer has its own Set Screen, reflecting that timer’s setup.

Initially, the timer will be in Dual Mode, with a start time of 00:00:00.

You will choose the Timer Mode and timer characteristics via the Timer Settings Screen (Accessed via the “gear” icon at the top, left of the timer’s Set Screen), and the actual start time, using the picker in the center of the timer’s Set Screen (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8: Initial Timer State

Fig. 9: With an Initial Time Selected

Start Button

Since the initial timer is at 00:00:00, it can’t count down, so you don’t have a start button.

When you use the picker to select a start time, a big yellow arrow appears below the picker. Pressing this button will start the timer, and send it into its chosen Display Mode.

Timer Mode and Time Display

You will also note that the time display above the picker updates to reflect the set time (Fig. 9).

The time display will also reflect the timer’s display mode. If it is in Digital Mode, then the display will only show digits in an “LED” font, in the color selected for that timer.

If it is in Podium Mode, then the font will be a white system font, and a little “traffic lights” image will be displayed next to the time.

If it is in Dual Mode, then the digital display will be shown in the selected color, along with the “traffic lights” image.

Figs. 8 and 9 show the timer in Dual Mode, with white as the selected display color (the default).

Timer Settings Screen

If you touch the “gear” icon in the top, left of the Set Timer Screen, you will be presented with the Timer Settings Screen for the selected timer.

This screen will have different configurations, determined by the segmented switch at the top of the screen (Figs. 10, 11 and 12):

Fig. 10: Digital Mode

Fig. 11: Podium Mode

Fig. 12: Dual Mode

In Digital and Dual Modes, you can select the color of the display with a simple picker, featuring bars of colors. In Podium and Dual Modes, you can choose two time thresholds, using time pickers:

Warning Time

In Dual Mode, the transition from Initial Time (the leftmost “traffic light” is highlighted as green) to Warning Time (the center “traffic light” is highlighted as yellow), is marked by a yellow screen flash.

Final Time

In Dual Mode, the transition from Warning Time to Final Time (the rightmost “traffic light” is highlighted as red) is marked by an orange screen flash.

Auto-Selection of Thresholds

The first time that the time is set in a new timer, thresholds are automatically calculated. You can override this original calculation.

Alarm Setting Screen

Below the time pickers, and above the Done Button, is a button that will display up to three icons; representing the audio/vibration state of the timer:

Fig. 13: Completely Silent (No vibration, sound, music or ticks)

Fig. 14: Vibration

Fig. 15: Selected Sound

Fig. 16: Selected Song

Fig. 17: Audible Ticks

Figs. 15 and 16 are mutually exclusive. Only one will be displayed (or neither).

Touching this button will bring up the Alarm Setting Screen, which allows you to choose a sound to be played (or no sound).

Vibrate Switch

On devices that support vibration (iPhones), a switch will be displayed at the very top of the screen. It will not be shown on iPads.

If it is on (default is off), then the device will vibrate when the alarm sounds. Vibration will occur whether or not a sound is playing.

Alarm Mode Segmented Switch

A segmented switch that allows you to choose how the sound will (or won’t) be played when the countdown is complete is displayed near the top of the screen:

Fig. 18: Silent Mode (The Default)

Fig. 19: Sound Mode

Fig. 20: Music Mode

Silent Mode (Fig. 18)

When this segment is selected, no pickers or buttons will appear beneath the switch, and no sound will be played at the end of the countdown. You can still have the device vibrate (as long as vibration is supported by the device), and/or have audible ticks.

Sound Mode (Fig. 19)

When Sound Mode is selected, a single picker will appear beneath the segmented switch. This will allow you to select one of several embedded sounds.

Fig. 21: Sound Test Button

Below the Sound Picker is a yellow icon button that resembles a speaker with a question mark: This will be a button that you can touch to test the selected sound. Touching this will cause the sound to be played repeatedly. Touching the button again will stop the sound playing.

Music Mode (Fig. 20)

Note that when selecting Music Mode (Fig. 20), the app will ask for permission to access your music library. Without this permission, it will be unable to access or play a song.

If you deny access, the Music segment of the switch will be disabled, and you will be unable to choose the Music Mode.

In order to re-enable access, you will need to do so in the Privacy row of the Settings app.

The only access required by the app is to read artists, albums and songs, so they can be displayed to you as a selection.

Once you have authorized access, the app may take a few seconds to read in your artists and songs. Once this is done, it will remember them while it is running.

If you terminate the app, and reopen the timer’s Alarm Setting Screen in Music Mode, the app may spend a few seconds reading in your music library.

When Music Mode is selected, and you have authorized access to your music library, two pickers will appear beneath the segmented switch:

Fig. 22: Music Selection Pickers

The top picker will allow you to select an artist from your collection. When you have selected an artist, the second picker will be populated with songs by that artist in your collection. Select one of these songs to be the one played upon reaching the end of the countdown.

Fig. 23: Music Test Button

Below the pickers, you will see a button with an icon similar to the Sound Test Button. This is the Music Test Button, and it will behave in exactly the same way as the Sound Test Button, except that it will play the selected song.

Audible Ticks Switch

Near the bottom of the screen, is a switch that allows you to choose whether or not to have the timer play audible “ticking” as it counts down (default is off). These are very subtle ticks that may increase slightly in volume as the timer progresses through thresholds.

Running the Timer

Fig. 27: The Run Timer Button

Once you have your timer set with a Timer Mode, a start time, and an Alarm/Audio/Vibrate Mode, you’re ready to run it.

You run the timer by opening its Set Timer Screen (from the Timer List or a tab in the tab bar on the bottom of the screen), and touching its Run Timer Button.

If the timer has been properly set up, a large yellow button is displayed below the Time Set Picker (Fig. 27).

Touching this will start the timer, which switches the app to the Running Timer screen in the timer’s selected Timer Mode (Figs. 1, 2 and 3). The Running Timer Screen appears, and the timer countdown starts immediately.

Timer Running Indicators

If you are in Digital or Dual Mode, then the digits will decrement once per second. If you are in Podium Mode, there is no indication of operation beyond the transitions between states, and the fact that one of the “traffic lights” will be highlighted. A paused Podium Mode timer will have all of its “traffic lights” dimmed (Fig. 28).

Podium and Dual Mode State Transitions

If you are in Podium or Dual Mode, the timer will count down through three states: Talk (Fig. 29), Warning (Fig. 30), and Final (Fig. 31).

In Dual Mode, the “traffic lights” are below the digits (Fig. 3). In Podium Mode, the “traffic lights” are the entire display (Fig. 2).

Fig. 28: Timer Not Running

Fig. 29: Talk Mode

Fig. 30: Warning Mode

Fig. 31: Final Mode

Screen Flashing

When the timer transitions between states, the screen flashes.

When transitioning from Talk Mode to Warning Mode, the screen flashes yellow. When transitioning from Warning Mode to Final Mode, the screen flashes orange.

Audible Ticks

If you have enabled Audible Ticks in the Alarm Settings Screen, then you will hear a single, faint tick each second. If you are in Dual or Podium Mode, the number of ticks will increase as you transition to Warning and Final Mode. The ticks will also get slightly louder.

Alarm State

Once the countdown is complete, AmbiaMara enters “Alarm State.” This is where the display disappears, and the entire screen flashes red.

If you have selected vibration and/or an alarm sound/song, then the selected audio will play repeatedly (and the phone may vibrate once per second) until the alarm is stopped.

You stop the alarm by either tapping anywhere in the screen or the Stop or Reset Button in the Timer Controls Bar (More on these later).

Managing A Running Timer

While AmbiaMara is in Run Timer State, you can control that timer either with gestures (swipes and taps), or via the Timer Controls Bar (if the switch in the Timer List is on).

The Timer Controls Bar

If you have the “Show Timer Controls in Running Timer” Switch on, a bar containing four buttons will appear along the top of the Running Timer Screen:

Fig. 32: The Stop Button

Fig. 33: The Reset Button

Fig. 34: The End Button

Fig. 35: The Pause Button

Fig. 36: The Continue Button

The buttons in Figs. 35 and 36 are mutually exclusive, and are displayed as the rightmost button. This button will either be in Pause Mode (Fig. 35), if the timer is running, or Continue Mode (Fig. 36), if the timer is paused.

The Stop Button (Fig. 32)

Touching this button will stop the timer and dismiss the Running Timer Screen.

The Reset Button (Fig. 33)

Touching this button will pause the timer and resets the time to the start.

If the timer was previously running, the screen will flash red.

After this button is hit, the timer will be paused, but the Running Timer Screen will still be shown, and the time will be the initial timer start time.

The End Button (Fig. 34)

Touching this button forces the timer to immediately go into Alarm Mode. The screen will flash, the phone may vibrate, and any selected alarm audio will play.

The Pause Button (Fig. 35)

If the timer is running, then touching this button will pause the timer, but will leave the time “as is.”

The screen will flash red if this button is touched, and the button will change to the Continue Button (Fig. 36).

NOTE: If the timer is in Podium Mode, then this button will act like the Reset Button (Fig. 33). Since there is no indication where the timer is at in Podium Mode, it is not a good idea to leave the timer in a true paused state.

The Continue Button (Fig. 36)

The rightmost button will switch to this button if the timer is paused (or reset).

Touching this restarts the timer from its current time. The screen will flash green, and the button will change to the Pause Button (Fig. 35).

Gesture Control

Regardless of whether or not the Timer Controls Bar is shown, a running timer can be controlled by gestures.

These gestures can happen anywhere in the screen while the Running Timer Screen is up.

If the Timer Controls Bar is not shown, then the timer can only be controlled by gestures.

Some gestures may have different results, depending on the running timer state.

In the following examples, we’ll work with a timer that has been set to 16 minutes, in Dual Mode.

Tap to Pause A Running Timer (Figs. 37, 38, 39)

Fig. 37: The Timer is Running

Fig. 38: Tap in the Screen

Fig. 39: The Timer is Now Paused

Tap to Continue A Paused Timer (Figs. 40, 41, 42)

Fig. 40: The Timer is Paused

Fig. 41: Tap in the Screen

Fig. 42: The Timer is Now Running Again

Right-Swipe to End A Timer Immediately (Figs. 43, 44, 45)

Fig. 43: The Timer is Paused (or Running)

Fig. 44: Right-Swipe in the Screen

Fig. 45: The Timer is Now in Alarm State

Left-Swipe to Reset A Running Timer (Figs. 46, 47, 48)

Fig. 46: The Timer is Running (or Paused, but After Start)

Fig. 47: Left-Swipe in the Screen

Fig. 48: The Timer is Now Reset (Paused, at Start)

Left-Swipe to Stop A Reset Timer (Figs. 49, 50, 51)

Fig. 49: The Timer is Reset

Fig. 50: Left-Swipe in the Screen

Fig. 51: The Timer is Now Stopped

Tap An Alarming Timer to Reset (Figs. 52, 53, 54)

Fig. 52: The Timer is in Alarm Mode

Fig. 53: Tap in the Screen

Fig. 54: The Timer is Now Reset

These gestures are simple, and easy to remember. Most people that are used to the timer will probably choose to hide the Timer Controls Bar, and control running timers completely by gesture.


VoiceOver Support

If you turn on VoiceOver Mode on your device, you will get very detailed audio cues for all of the controls and displays in the app.

It has, quite literally, been designed for use by people that may be totally blind.

Increased Contrast Support

You can also enable “Increase Contrast” mode, which will cause the app to display its screens with a dark gray background, and reversed text in the pickers (Figs. 55 and 56).

Fig. 55: Enable Increased Contrast in Settings

Fig. 56: Increased Contrast Display

Color Flexibility

You can select the color for Digital Mode, and the “traffic lights” use position, as well as color, to indicate the timer mode.


The app will honor whatever display conventions your device is using (usually a result of the “locale” setting in Settings). It is also localized in several languages.

AmbiaMara is Designed to be the Main Running App

AmbiaMara is not designed to be a background timer. It is meant to be “front and center” while running.

While the timer is running, it will prevent the device from going to sleep or auto-locking, so you need to keep that in mind from the perspective of energy usage or security.

AmbiaMara Works With Your Device

AmbiaMara will play sounds, even if the device’s ringer switch is off (or is disabled in the Control Center). This means that you don’t need to take the device out of Silent Mode to use AmbiaMara.

Additionally, AmbiaMara does not rely on any network connectivity, so you can run it in Airplane Mode with no issues.

AmbiaMara has been designed for minimal energy impact, but it will still use more energy than a locked or sleeping device. If you put AmbiaMara into the background, then it will pause (not stop or continue), and will no longer keep the device awake. Once you bring AmbiaMara to the foreground again, it will continue where it left off, and will also continue to keep the device awake.

AmbiaMara is Open-Source

Complete source code and technical documentation is available here. (Opens as A New Tab)


AmbiaMara is bound by the Great Rift valley Software Company Standalone App Privacy Policy.

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