The moment you boot up your Mac, a variety of things pry for your attention. Email, social networks, reminders, and all sorts of distractions eventually trap you in the middle of a tug-of-war, making it almost impossible to focus on a single activity.
As a result, you lose track of what you’re supposed to do. You might just find yourself looking up, wondering where the sun went all of the sudden.
Here’s the good news though: there are apps that can help you solve this productivity problem. In this round-up, I’ll share 15 Mac apps that help you focus, whether it’s dimming the screen, blocking social networking sites, closing inactive applications, or working in time bursts. You can use one or mix a couple of these apps to fit the way you work.
How do you make teamwork on large projects easier and simpler? Slack is a productivity tool aimed at answering this question, by making collaboration simpler and more productive. Slack is all about increasing transparency and streamlining workflows on everything from small assignments to giant projects with multiple participants.
The Slack Mac app works by dividing projects into ‘Channels’. Each channel has it’s own searchable history, messages, comments, images, videos and rich link summaries. Channels can be integrated with activity on Twitter, Dropbox, and Google Drive all of which you can hook-up to Slack.
We’re apt to think that just another app will solve all of our problems. Apple’s “There’s an App for That” campaign sounds all too perfect: we’ve got problems in life, and there’s an app out there that can solve it.
That’s quite the tantalizing solution, but there’s one problem: it won’t work.
When in the flow, concentrating hard and making progress (or not), I, for one, find it difficult to quantify the passing of time. When I’m messing about, tweeting and generally procrastinating, it’s even harder. And that can be frustrating; for the freelancer or pro rata worker, the slipperiness of the seconds, minutes and hours can be very costly.
As always, technology is ready and waiting to help. But time-keeping apps so often fall by the wayside because we just can’t be bothered to use them. And even if you can be bothered, remembering to start and stop the digital timer at the precise moment you begin work, or put down your tools, is a task of nagging tedium.
Maybe that is why nulldesign (aka Lars Gercken), the developer of freshly hatched time-keeping app Tyme (retailing at $4.99), feels the need to entertain users with snazzy graphics and in-depth analytics. But are a few pretty bar charts really enough to keep you focused on your time management?
At the end of the week, creative people often wonder how much they actually accomplished. They tell their friends they only spent 40–50 hours on the computer working when, in reality, it’s more like 60–70 hours. Staring at a screen most of the day isn’t great for your eyes, so why not lessen the amount of time you spend using a computer? That’s not as easy as it sounds, because you first have to find out how much you are spending on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube each day.
There’s now a different type of time tracker available. It’s called RescueTime. Rather than requiring that you manually clock in and out, it monitors everything you do and sends you a report at an interval you choose. When I first heard about the service, I was cautious about the privacy implications and whether it even did a good job. After using it for nearly two months, I have a bit more to say about it. (more…)
Some keys get used more just because they’re more common, but for keyboard fiends, there’s a whole different set of keys that get worn out. If you’ve ever worn out the ⌘, Ctrl, or alt keys on your keyboard, chances are you couldn’t get by with just a mouse.
If anything, keyboard shortcuts are one of the best things in OS X. There’s the usual suspects, like ⌘+C and ⌘+V for copy and paste, or ⌘+tab for switching between apps, but you get those everywhere. Then there’s the ones that make OS X especially nice for writing: Alt+left/right to jump between words and ⌘+left/right to jump to the beginning/end of a line, with the addition of holding shift down to select text. There’s even more obscure text editing shortcuts, like Ctrl+T to swap the two letters your curser’s currently between.
Then, there’s the even more powerful keyboard shortcuts: those like ⌘+space to open Spotlight search or the default Alt+space to start Alfred. Those — combined with app specific shortcuts, and those you can setup yourself from your Keyboard’s system preferences — are the most powerful tools to keep you from having to revert to your mouse or touchpad all day. They’ll get so ingrained in your muscle memory, a computer without them feels broken.
For me, Alt+space is that killer shortcut that I invoke over a hundred times a day to use Alfred. What’s your favorite keyboard shortcut?
I don’t spend much time in coffee shops when at home, probably because until recently there really wasn’t a good coffee shop near my home. Whenever I’m away from home whether for the day or on a longer trip, however, I find a coffee shop a nice place to catch up on the world and get some work done between more enjoyable activities. I can work in a quiet hotel room for a while, but I often find a little time in the lobby a more productive environment than the traditional quiet hotel room or office.
I’ve always found working in complete silence to be more distracting than having sound in the background. Even just a television or radio turned on in the background can give me enough noise to feel more comfortable. Research also supports a moderate level of background noise prompts more creative thought. The problem with these is the chance of a movie, show, or song pulling you in and distracting you from what you’re working on. Luckily I’m not the only person that prefers something in the background at work and there are plenty of apps and websites built to provide nice background sound. Let’s look at a few.
When the word “email” springs to mind, most people think of those Monday mornings spent gazing at an endless list of messages inside Microsoft Outlook, sifting through and sorting out the useful stuff from the spam, newsletters and other promotions that somehow always end up in our inboxes. Yep, it’s true — email really is an unnecessary evil.
We think we can live without it, yet we still check our inboxes several times a day, no matter where we are — and I’m no exception. I’m pretty much married to my iPhone — as we spend almost every second of the day together — and I feel lost and disconnected when I get that dreaded “circle of death”, the GPRS indicator, meaning I can hardly access anything online.
Yet I’m always a little sceptical when developers claim that they can reinvent email. Allow me to explain why.
In my constant search for new apps that are worthy of a review, I stumbled across a pretty minimalistic to-do app called Done in the Mac App Store. After a few weeks of trying it out, I’ve found myself using it almost everyday and preferring it over my usual to-do app, Wunderlist.
This got me thinking about similar minimal to-do apps like Clear, and where they might fit in a workflow. Are they really necessary? Are they just surrounded by hype? Why would you pay for a premium for an app like this?
Here at Mac.Appstorm, we love finding apps that can simplify our work — especially when it comes to Markdown writing apps that make it easier to craft our articles. We’ve looked at 35 unique Markdown apps for the Mac — a series of editors, previewers, and other categories where Markdown can be applied. Adding to the list is 9Muses’ Erato ($5.99). It’s a simple and minimalistic app designed for editing and viewing your Markdown documents side-by-side, following the split-screen concept adopted by apps like Mou and Markdown Pro.
Besides its beautiful and simple design, what sets Erato apart is how it offers additional support for Github-flavoured Markdown syntax and YAML front matter. But while these may be its unique selling points, Erato as a Markdown editor isn’t as powerful as Mou or other more robust editors. And after testing the app, I realised that it still has to iron out a few bugs, particularly with how it converts Markdown to HTML.
Let me walk you through the app to show you what I mean. (more…)