43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

5 apps to rescue the distracted

Has your Mac turned into a shooting gallery full of distractions? Do your eyes spin like pinballs every time you sit down to work? Try a few of these apps to help discourage attention-grabbers and force your sickeningly versatile computer (and yourself) into doing just one thing at a time.



Free - Designed as a way to create cleaner screengrabs, Backdrop simply throws up a fullscreen backdrop in the color of your choosing. Opening it and then switching to another app has the effect of "blacking out" everything on your screen but the foreground app. Practically the same as hitting "Hide Others" in most apps, but with the excellent added effect of also hiding that busy little Desktop of yours.



Free - Greatly dims the blaring whiteness of the Menu Bar at the top of your screen. Just mouse in to the menu anywhere and it brightens back up with a subtle "theater lighting" effect. Ostensibly there to prevent screen burn-in, I just love that it zaps out the clock and the million other widgets begging a mouse click when I'm at my most distractible.



$24.95 - MacJournal is an okay writing app; frankly it doesn't do anything for me that I'm not happier doing right in TextMate using Markdown. But it does succeed in the one way Allan's otherwise swell text editor cruelly refuses to help me: it has an excellent full-screen mode. This brilliantly, simply, effectively blots out everything in the world except for my own green letters on a plain black background. Exquisite. I bought it just for this feature and use it exclusively as a temporary typewriter, pasting into and copying back out into text files. Plenty of folks love this as their primary writing app, so you definitely don't need my byzantine workflow to simply use and enjoy it.



$12.00 - This wonderful Safari plug-in is just full of yummy features, but one of its coolest capabilties is a fantastic full-screen mode. With "Max Screen" (cmd-shift-m), I can maximize to the last available corner of my ~1.3 million pixels, showing nothing but chromeless web goodness. You might be amazed how much you can fit onto your screen when you really blow all the crap out of the way. And as distracting as the web can be when you're working on something else, it's really nice to just use a web browser if that's what your work calls for at the moment.



Free (part of OS X) - Hit "Turn Hiding On" to sweep the Dock out of constant view, appearing only on mouse entry. I find this decreases my distractibility by a factor of five. While the Dock can sure be handy for dragging stuff around and getting "at-a-glance" status updates, it's also the ultimate attractive nuisance -- a colorful candy store full of things you don't really need to be thinking about just now. Kill it the second you get busy. Then just bring it back later when you're done. Easiest thing in the world.

What's your favorite distraction killer for OS X?

Yes, Grasshopper, your second semester "zen" meta-observations about "shutting off the router" will be suffered with a game half-smile, but I'm really more interested in OS X software for this particular thread, so please do try to stay on topic. What are the Mac applications, control panels, haxies, and other downloadables that can help us regrettable louts who still wander in ignorance and distraction?

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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