Get Rid of Distractions with Concentrate

How often have you sat down at the computer with the best of intentions to complete a job, assignment, or task only to be distracted by incoming emails or instant messages etc. It happens all too often to me. Concentrate, by roobasoft, aims to solve this problem by allowing you to create ‘activities’ which can boost your performance by eliminating all of the unwanted distractions.

This review will cover what Concentrate has to offer, any problems, and a couple of alternative applications.

Interface

Activities Window

Concentrate has been designed superbly, with great attention to detail. The main Activities window is very simple and smart, with custom icons next to each of your assigned activities. It is from here that you can create new activities, edit old ones, or begin concentrating on whichever task you need to. 

The Interface

The Interface

Edit Window

Editing a task is as simple as double clicking. From here, you can name your activity, and give it a small picture to associate with it. Concentrate comes with a neat collection of graphics to choose from, but also allows you to choose your own if you wish. 

Editing

Editing

Adding actions is done by an intuitive drag and drop. Just grab one from the list on the left and drop in into the actions window on the right. From there, you can completely customize each action. For example in the ‘Launch Applications’ action, you can additionally choose to ‘hide all other applications’ from view. You can change your messaging status, even with Adium or Skype, and block out those rather distracting websites the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. One option I particularly like is the ‘Change Wallpaper’ action. This, whilst seemingly gimmicky, is a strong visual reminder of what you should be doin

If you happen to ever feel limited by the default actions available, you can always drag in the ‘Run a Script’ action. This gives you complete customization, letting you type in your command in AppleScript or UNIX. For example, I find that the dock can be rather distracting, and so I scripted for Hiding/Showing the dock. Here is the very short script if anyone else would like to use it:

--hide/show dock
tell application "System Events"
keystroke "d" using [command down, option down]
end tell

This window also lets you control how long you should normally be concentrating on this activity for. By placing the slider at the start, it is set for infinity, or until you manually stop it.

Concentrating Window

Once all of your activities are set up and its time to get working, hit the ‘Concentrate’ button. This will smoothly slide the view across to a timer, and at the same time activate all the actions you set up for that task. So for my ‘Write’ activity, Concentrate launches Pages and hides all other applications, including email, changes the wallpaper to something more relaxing, sets my iChat away status to ‘Writing’, blocks off all social networking sites and hides the dock. Phew.

The timer is quite useful too. It clearly displays how long you have been concentrating for, or if the activity has a default time, it will display how long you’ve got to go until you can stop concentrating. You can drag the ‘Concentrate for’ slider around as you go to fit to your schedule. One quite cool feature is that as the time passes by, the slider will get closer and closer to zero. 

Timer

Timer

Menu Bar

Concentrate also places a small icon in your menu bar, with a miniature timer and a few options 

The Menu Bar

The Menu Bar

Limitations

The app still seem to have the odd hiccup. For example, the website blocking feature is a brilliant idea, but seems a little erratic sometimes. If I’ve set up a group of websites to be blocked, and then I try to access them, I can still get in. If I try later, some will be blocked, but others seem to have taken no notice. Facebook seems to keep evading this firewall somehow. I’m not sure why this is, but hopefully this is just one small crease to be ironed out before long.

Other Applications

There exists a number of applications out there for the Mac that all aim to keep you concentrated on the task at hand. None of them do quite the same thing as Concentrate, but heres some that you may be interested in:

  • Think – A great application which allows you to focus on only one thing at a time, by dimming all of the applications in the background and making them unresponsive.
  • Isolator – Amazing application similar to Think, but gives you much more customization and allows you to blur all windows in the background, but still click on them when you need to. Also works well with Spaces.
  • Backdrop – This is a very simple application which simply cloaks your desktop with a color of your choice, hiding all that mess on the desktop. Also great for taking screenshots.
  • Spirited Away – After a period of inactivity, this background application will simply hide any windows that aren’t being used, tidying the screen up as you go.

Conclusion

Concentrate is a fantastic application, and helps you get the job done efficiently. It truly does help you to concentrate on the task at hand, and I see myself using this regularly in the future… Once set up, it is just so quick and easy to use. Let us know what you think of it, or if you use any other applications to help channel your thoughts into work, rather than play.


  • http://www.nouveller.com/ Benjamin Reid

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, I’ve never heard of it before but it looks pretty useful. Even categorising applications together, ‘Web’ for an example could launch Photoshop, Coda, MAMP & few browsers to test on then launching them all in one go would be helpful.

    Whether It warrants $19, I’m not to sure at the moment. Really nice review though.

  • Michele

    Finally I’ll be able to do my homework without slipping back into forums every 10 minutes! :D

  • Chris

    Seems to be very useful, but I think it costs $29 and not $19 as mentioned in the summary.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Correct. Unfortunately, our caching system is making it difficult to update the price to $29.

  • http://simplyblog.net Miguel Wickert

    Good writeup, I’m a fan of Isolator. Thanks for sharing! :) Cheers!

  • http://www.zingerding.com Steve

    This seems quite useful but at $29, it’s more than I’d pay to experiment with my workflow.

  • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

    This app is pretty good. I bought it a little while back and the developers are great too. I really recommend this app if you are willing to think about what you are doing. So you can click one button and BLAM! Everything you need is there and what you don’t has gone. Nice simple and effective.

  • LeMerlot

    Due to this review I discovered Isolator – which is a great help. Thanks a lot, guys!

  • LeMerlot

    Due to this review I discovered Isolator, which is a major finding for me after using Think for years – Thanks a lot!

  • http://ivorpadilla.net iPad

    There is no free app to make this?

  • LockWesMonster

    I’m using this to run sprints during work. For example, I set an activity titled “sprint” to run for 55 minutes with no social media, favorite sites, etc. At the end of my “sprint” activity, I have an applescript telling Concentrate to launch my “play” activity which is for 5 minutes. In my “play” activity, all of my recreational sites are unblocked. At the end of the 5 minute “play” activity, an applescript tells Concentrate to launch the “sprint” activity again.

    Using iCal, I set an event to for 8:00 am every weekday. I then set an applescript telling Concentrate to launch when the 8:00 am event is reached. I also set an event for 5:30 pm that will close Concentrate.

    This is a really stringent schedule, but for a freelancer who is trying to become more disciplined and working regular hours, I think this is a good first step.

    • http://www.cuby.co.nr Henry Bennett

      That sounds like a really great idea! Thanks for sharing.

    • Burnso

      I have to ask, as a non-programmer: what exactly is that script? I would like to do the exact same thing so much but don’t know how. Please reply!

  • abramelin

    Jesus people, just apple-H and hide your god-dam windows and get on with some work!

    • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

      It’s not about that. It’s about setting timers and clicking one button to open and close as many apps and documents as you want, setting your messenger status’ starting apple scripts, hiding your dock, whatever. It’s brilliant.

      I click one button, make some coffee, come back and my whole work environment is set to go. Sweet!

      • ok

        …and you can’t do that with aliases, applescript and an automator workflow?

  • http://www.iynque.com iynque

    I used Think in my classes. I like it because it blocks out everything, and unlike Concentrate, you don’t have to add extra tasks and distractions in order to avoid extra tasks and distractions…

    I’m kind of addicted to trying out new software, so I plan to try all the apps mentioned here…. YAY.

    As for “…hide your god-dam windows and get on with some work,” there are always distractions and it’s easy enough to say that discipline is the answer, but why not have a little help when you aren’t feeling your most efficient and focused? Why be critical of getting work done, whether by discipline or with help?

    • ok

      Why be critical? On a review? Are you serious? Because $29 is a lot to some people and in order to justify the cost, the app needs to be scrutinized. Is it worth the cost? No, it’s not. Even the typo’d $19 is too much for this. OS X ships with applescript, automator and the ability to use file aliases – that’s everything Concentrate adds to the mix (which is nothing new) and costs $29. give me a break already. Or just pay the cash and stay stupid.

      • Burnso

        You miss the point. Half of the whole thing is the mental aspect. And making it this easy and simple is what makes it fun and motivating to actually “concentrate”.

        Also, chill out, let’s keep the discussions at a civil level…

  • http://www.pixmac.com Vitezslav Valka

    Many times I was thinking about this while working. Now it is here :-)

  • http://admittedlydutch.com Andrew

    I work in marketing using Facebook and Twitter, so I am ALWAYS getting distracted by one or the other, or something else on the web. Concentrate would be a great way to keep me on track when I need to get a project done in Creative Suite, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Thanks for the review!

  • http://www.dualbrain.nl Benny

    I just started to use Concentrate a few days ago – also having problems with concentrating from time to time – and I love this app! It really helps. Not only can it block sites like Facebook for me during designing, it also motivates me if I’m on ‘concentration’ mode.

    An idea that would make this app even better >>
    Logging.
    Also logging when and how many times, and after what time, you prematurely stop an activity. If you stop too often the program will try to encourage you… Logging can also be used to tracking working hours.

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  • http://blog.nits.in/ Nitin K

    Or you could just turn on the single user mode from DragThing, it works perfectly for me, and helps cut on desktop clutter.

  • Sally

    I blocked some sites with Concentrate and pressed “Done”, but they’re still blocked and I can’t access them. I even deleted the program and tried turning off and restarting my computer. It’s been a day. How do I get around this block and why is it still in place???

    • ok

      You have any recent backups? Douche.

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