It's Productivity Wednesday! Looking to boost your productivity? We've put together a list of Mac apps that assist in keeping you focused and on task such as tools that block time-wasting websites, modify the color of the screen depending on the time of day, access files in just a couple key presses, and more. Almost all of the applications included on the list are free, with the few paid applications priced at $5 or less. The apps in this list were chosen for their ease-of-use and intuitiveness. Combine these tools with a little efficiency training and you'll be a productivity pro in no time!
SelfControl is a powerful website-blocker for the procrastinator struggling to stay off the Internet. It allows users to set up a blacklist of sites they want to stay off of (such as Facebook or Twitter), as well as a set time period to stay off of the sites. Once enabled, it’s impossible to undo until the timer runs out. The app has no option to re-enable websites, quitting or deleting the application won’t help, and neither does restarting your computer. For those serious about keeping away distractions, this app is for you. Now if only it worked for the snacks in the fridge!
The winner of several App competitions in 2011, Alfred is an easy-to-use, hypercharged search tool that will change the way you use your Mac. Pressing a hotkey, such as Command+Space, brings up a search box which allows you to enter, in plain English, phrases Alfred will answer to. For example, typing in “Google OpenSesame” will open a Google search or typing "define synergy" will bring up the dictionary and so on. Alfred also has extremely flexible and customizable preferences, allowing you to create custom commands to ensure everything you need is just a few keystrokes away.
Price: Free; Be sure to download from Alfredapp.com, as the Mac App Store version is an old version.
Found is a similar, but complementary tool to Alfred, allowing users to quickly find and access files in the cloud and on your computer. Whereas Alfred is great for navigating your own computer, Found accesses Internet databases Alfred doesn’t have access to. Pressing a hotkey will open up a search box which allows you to look for files on Dropbox, SkyDrive, Evernote, Gmail and Google Drive accounts, as well as your Mac. It also offers a preview of the file before opening.
Isolator blurs background windows, allowing users to focus on the foremost screen. It’s a simple application that sits on your menubar and can be enabled and disabled by clicking on the icon or using a hotkey (Shift+Command+I). This application also has lots of preferences so users can customize the display settings for the background.
BetterSnapTool allows for easy window management, similar to what is available on Windows machines. The application is activated when users drag a window to a side of the screen. For example, dragging a window to the top of the screen will expand the window to fill the whole desktop. Dragging a window to the sides of the desktop will have the window take up that half of the screen, allowing for quick set-up of side-to-side windows. Moving the window from these positions restores the window to its previous size. BetterSnapTool also has extensive preference options, including custom window sizes and hotkeys.
Drawing inspiration from the copy and paste method in iOS, PopClip creates a small pop-up whenever text is highlighted that gives users quick access to several different kinds of actions. With PopClip, you can copy and paste without having to right click, define words in an instant, clip to Evernote, search online, translate and more. There are also many extensions available that can be downloaded from their website.
Unclutter is a multifaceted tool that makes use of a unused space on your computer. Activated by moving your mouse to the top of the screen and scrolling down, the normally-hidden Unclutter allows you to manage your clipboard, take notes, and store temporary files. In the clipboard module, Unclutter automatically stores the most recent item in your clipboard for viewing and editing. The file module allows you to drag files into a space to store temporarily for access and movement. This eliminates the need to drag files between windows. The file module is also a great place to put temporary files that often clutter our Desktops. Finally, UnClutter includes a simple note-taking app, which can be used to take short notes for anything you are working on. Any of the modules can be dragged out of Unclutter and displayed as a seperate window.
All of these applications are great for any Mac user who wants to improve the way they interact with their computer. Although they make a big difference to your computing experience, they are designed to be clean and out-of-the-way. Try them out and let us know what you think! Have a favorite tool of your own? Share with us in the comments!