For $8.99, Touch Studio's Finch app for OS X promises to to quietly track your computer usage as you work. With it, you should be able to monitor which apps and sites you spend the most time in, and adjust your workday accordingly.
Finch runs in your menu bar, keeping track of your usage by monitoring window title bars. It offers instant reports showing the duration of window use per app.
The problem is that Finch doesn't do this very well.
Monitoring While The User is Absent
If you leave a window open when you're rushing out to dinner, Finch records the entire time it's there. There doesn't seem to be any activity trigger beyond the fact that the window is on-screen. In my tests, that caused a lot of false-data which showed I spent more time at certain sites than I actually did. There really needs to be some kind of time-out on these.
Incorrect Multiple Results
What's more, Finch sometimes had problems keeping track of staying on the same page. While writing up this post, it reported dozens of visits, all to the same page, the one I'm typing into right now. Nothing changed as far as I can tell in my title bar, even when I hit the "Save" button at regular intervals.
No Application-by-Application Results
Finch doesn't group its results by application because it only looks at titles, I couldn't build up usage stats for "How long was I in Email? How long in Firefox? In Safari? In Echofon?" You'd imagine that would be a big part of analyzing usage patterns, but it's not part of the app.
Nor can you create regular sessions to automatically monitor your workday. I'm only interested in usage between 7:30 AM and 3:30 PM. Finch provides no support for this kind of regular monitoring and no way to do session-by-session trend analysis.
Finally, there's one more thing. And it's totally not Finch's fault. The app is creepy. It's like an electronic stalker looking over your shoulder. Every window you visit. Every website, no matter how stupid or crazy or embarrassing is listed in the results. There's no way to filter with Finch to only look at the usage patterns that are relevant to you. If you click a RickRoll link in your business e-mail, that site is going to be added to your Finch history.
All in all, I like the idea behind Finch better than the implementation. I hope Touch Studio continues developing the product but does so in a way that better lends itself to business use and "Getting Things Done" (GTD) analysis. As is, I cannot recommend it.