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