Hands-Off Time Tracking with Finch

If you’re a freelancer, you’re probably familiar with having to split your time between your work and the more managerial aspects of your business–like invoicing and bookkeeping. Here at AppStorm, we’re fond of the apps that take the edge off of this part of our day, and we’ve likely all used some sort of time tracker software. Usually, you have to create a client, and then a ticket, fill in all of the details of the project, and start a timer, all before getting to work. But what if you just want to get started and worry about all of that tedium later?

Enter Finch, a new kind of time tracking app from TouchStudios. Finch sits in your menubar or in your dock and automatically clocks the time you spend using each app.

Interface

Often, I start reviews with a “Getting Started” section, but Finch really has nothing to get started with. Just run the app, maybe choose a few settings, and after that, it’s completely hands off.

The Finch interface really has the right idea. Aside from a few visual bugs, the interface looks great, and uses a lot of the same features you might be used to if you use other popular productivity apps.

The simplistic window design shows 3 buttons at the top. The first two will display your usage history either by window title or by app. In either view, you can create and assign tags to specific apps, or even specific webpages, so that Finch can accurately determine how much time you’re spending on work or play (in my case) or even on a particular client or project.

History displayed by window title.

History displayed by window title.

Each entry in Finch has a drop down arrow that lets you see which window you used and for how long. For even more precision, you can search and filter by app or window title to find a specific window that you spent time on.

History displayed by app.

History displayed by app.

The third button will graph your app usage into a bar chart, giving you a visual representation of how your time is spent. I’ll cover this a bit more down below.

Tracking Your Time

The time that Finch saves you in pre-work time tracking it definitely makes up for in the end. It was convenient to get started on a project at an impulse, whenever the idea struck. But after wrapping up, you’ll have to review Finch to determine how long you worked and how much time to bill for.

Since Finch logs your time by app and not by project, tallying up the time spent on a job can be a little tedious, particularly if you use multiple apps for a project. Safari, for example, would need to be broken down into the time you spent on job-specific sites and unrelated webpages. It can be a bit disheartening to have to recap your time after a day spent on work, but ultimately, Finch does lead to more accurate time tracking.

See each webpage on which you spent (or wasted) time.

See each webpage on which you spent (or wasted) time.

Look at the Billings timer, for example. It’s handy in the sense that it sits in your menubar and keeps you on task (presumably), and when you’re finished working, you can just kill the timer and be done with it. But what if you get off task, take a break to surf the web, or switch over to another project? Finch may require some analysis upon completion, but it will log every app and every webpage you spend time on, allowing you to be very precise with your billable hours.

Other Uses

As you may know, I’m a big proponent of alternative uses for apps and services, and it would simply be irresponsible of me not to explore such uses for Finch. While it may take a unique approach to tracking your billable time as a freelancer, Finch can also provide you with information on how you spend your time when you’re not working.

I found Finch to be just as effective in telling me exactly when and how I get sidetracked from my work and waste time as it was in telling me how long I spent working on a certain project. You can display a “Report” of your time that shows you exactly how much time you spent on certain tasks (or time wasters) in the form of a bar graph. Use this information to your advantage to destroy distractions and stay on task.

This graph gets more complicated when you add more tags.

This graph gets more complicated when you add more tags.

Additionally, the app would probably make an effective monitoring tool for little ones–keeping an eye on how your children, or other users on a multi-user machine, are spending their time.

Conclusion

Using Finch for time tracking your freelance work is a matter of whether you’d rather do the work before (setting up a ticket, starting a timer) or after (tallying application time) working on the project itself. I found it most useful as a purely informational app, gleaning the data on where and when I spent (or wasted) my time. There’s definitely a lot of potential in Finch, and for this method of time tracking in general.

How do you track your time?


Summary

A unique time tracking app that automatically monitors how you spend your time.

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  • http://www.tikke.co.il Amir Taiar

    I am using toggl.com which is grate!
    Yes, no app for my mac, but grate interface, easy to use, have Android app (will never have an Iphone), and free!

  • Skoopman

    I am looking for a time tracking app at the moment. Currently trying Toggl and Ronin, the problem is, that it tracks “everything”. If I start the timer and play a few minutes a game, it will still track my time. Finch might be the better solution, because it tracks the time you use every app. I might give it a try.

  • http://www.zeego.net Daniel Di Pietro

    there isn’t trial version : (

    • http://www.finchformac.com Kourtney

      Now there is. I bought it, but totally worth it. Cool that they finally made a trial version tho…Plus, so much better than when I got it a month ago

  • Bro_Marko

    The review is almost better than the app, and convinced me so I bought it. But the app itself is really way too limited and very quickly the motivation using it is gone.

    Therefore, my absolute favorite working / motivation / time-tracking app remains still VITAMIN-R: http://www.publicspace.net/Vitamin-R/

    It has a TRIAL and you cannot go wrong buying with this one, since it has almost 3x more features than this one, at almost the low cost.

    • Joe

      Dead on Bro_Marko.

      Bought this, used it for a day or so and it hasn’t been launched since.

  • http://asexy.com.br A Sexy

    yea, have Android app (will never have an Iphone), and free!

  • William

    Sometime ago I was wondering if there was someway of tracking the time I spent on the computer without having to input that information… ‘Cause that’s the annoying part to me, as it’s not very intuitive and easy to collect data.

    I wish it had a trial version, but if it is a really hands-off time tracker, I guess it’s worth giving a shot.

    But I guess it won’t have many features for viewing reports and so, at least I could see there a export option.

    Seems useful, I’ll give it a shot!

  • Mike

    You might also want to check out Time Sink http://manytricks.com/timesink/

  • Suarez

    Great article!
    I have to agree with you. I am currently having a hard time managing my time and I think having a time tracking software isn’t enough. Although it helps a lot, some tools can be problematic. They have one thing in common, they rely on the user to estimate how much time they worked on a task. This is not really accurate because the activities aren’t tracked in real time.
    Finch sounds like a great software but if you’re willing to do some research and find other alternative, the blog I’ve recently read could be your guide:
    http://www.timedoctor.com/blog/2010/11/16/5-reasons-why-most-time-tracking-software-is-flawed

  • http://www.essaylib.com/homework.php homework help

    It was a really good idea with the design of os. This desire for making new apps amazes me. It’s was good to find an analyst of your level, who are aware of the facts given in this one. How knowledgeable material this is. You’re not bereaved of mind.

  • anna

    Very nice and detailed article! Have you ever tried Timetrack? I’m curious about your opinion, I use it at work and really like this app (especially that in previous jobs I was using Kronos and Set…). It can be downloaded from http://www.timetrack.eu.

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