Gecko Monitor ($49.00, Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000) is a comprehensive computer-based monitoring solution that monitors web browsing history, keystrokes, and applications. It can also be set up to take screenshots of user activity every 60 seconds, or at another predetermined interval. This monitoring system is unique in that it also monitors printer use and what files your children have printed, giving you greater control over how your children use the computer. If the standard settings are a bit too invasive for your family, the entire system can be customized through the system’s settings.
Here’s a look at the Settings menu.
Gecko worked great during our testing. It recorded all visited websites in real time, showed all the programs that were launched and used, and the keylogger function recorded everything, including conversations on Skype and other third-party chatting programs.
One nice feature that Gecko offers is the ability to create “Ignore Lists” of websites that you deem safe. The sites on this list won’t show up on the website history logs, which cuts down on the clutter and makes it easier to go through the web history list and see what other sites your children have been visiting.
After only a short time with Gecko, it became obvious that a lot of work went into providing parents with a monitoring solution that’s easy to use, while at the same time comprehensive and effective. The attention to detail, for example, can be seen in the layout of the program. Every feature that Gecko offers can be accessed from the tabs found at the top of the window – they’re all clearly labeled making navigation a breeze.
Gecko also offers little extras that their competitors don’t. For example, the screenshot function is capable of taking screenshots of computer activity on dual monitors, granted your home computer is set up that way. Gecko even goes as far to label the screenshots with the names of programs that were open at the time that the screenshot was taken. Needless to say, this helps tremendously when you want to review computer activity.
A word of advice: change the screenshot interval to work best with your children’s computer time. We set it at 60 seconds during our testing, but that left us with a ton of screenshots to sort through. We found that 120 second intervals worked a little better, but it really depends on how often your children use the computer and how much time you have to review at the end of the day.
Gecko also gives parents the option to monitor the things that are printed on their home computer. This feature simply copies the file names of all printed pages and the times they were printed and then logs all of that information on the system’s dashboard. It’s not foolproof, though, since users can rename files to hide their content. But if that were to happen, Gecko’s keylogger and/or screenshot features would bring it to light.
Though this print feature is really neat, we couldn’t help but wonder how much value it actually adds to the software. After all, children don’t really print anything outside of school since they tend to share information digitally. In the end, this feature seemed to fulfill more of a curiosity, but kudos to Gecko for providing parents with more tools to monitor their children.
If there is any feature that we wish Gecko Monitor made available, it would be remote access. But at the same time, the web-based monitoring programs that we’ve reviewed in the past don’t offer nearly as much as Gecko does, nor do they perform as well. That being said, parents can still take advantage of email notifications from Gecko, which have proven time and time again to be very handy regardless of which monitoring system you use at home.
Right out of the box, Gecko was very intuitive, and as a result we were able to familiarize ourselves with its features and configure things the way we wanted within minutes. All in all Gecko is a great monitoring solution if you’re in the market for one and don’t mind shelling out a few bucks. If you want to try before you buy, Gecko offers a free two-hour trial here. That said, though, you get what you pay for, and Gecko is worth every penny.