Neat Mac apps that help you concentrate


I’ve found a couple apps recently that help you focus by removing your desktop clutter using various techniques. I’ve used Backdrop forever (and also for my screenshots) but there are some newcomers.

One is $15 Zazen, which sits in the menubar and helps you to “concentrate” on the foremost app by dimming the others. Doodim does pretty much the same thing, albeit less elegantly but for free.

WriteRoom offers “distraction free writing” and comes pretty close — closing off all other distractions and situating you in a black room where you can write Matrix letters to yourself. The autosave and autosession-restore really do make this one feel well thought out and don’t forget to participate in their user-powered software development methodology.

In the neat category is Italian-born Afloat — similar to Doodim in a sense, but in reverse. Rather than dimming everything else, Afloat lets you dim the current foremost window or set it to always be on top. Looks like the developer is looking for localization help, so if you’re game, drop him a note.

Finally, if you’re looking to take a power nap when your fingers are tired and your head ist kaput, check out the pricey (but worth it) Pzizz. They’ve added iPod integration lately, but the idea is simple: create an audio track to accompany you on your naps. Sounds fluffy but it’s not. I downloaded the demo, tried their 20 minute power-nap and literally was out for 20 solid minutes — resuscitated when the announcer dude mystically awoke me from me sleep. It was actually a little freaky. But it worked.

Oh, and the image for this post really has nothing to do with concentrating, but it was a great distraction earlier this week. Using the application Todos, I took a screenshot of my apps, uploaded it and something like 6 hours later there were already 200+ notes on the thing. How’s that for community collaboration? Anyway, I created a group for folks to do the same thing and to share the apps they use.

I’m sure there are more and I’ve barely begun to fill out my I Use This profile, so let me know — which ones do you use that I missed? Linux/Windows folks? Got suggestions?


  1. luxuryluke said
    at 7am on Jul 26th # |

    Cool apps! I’m lately finding a lot of “top 10 apps” type posts, which i relish, and this one is another for discovering helpful and cool apps for OSX. Thanks!
    That was one seriously long chat, too.

  2. Fernando said
    at 6pm on Jul 26th # |

    They don’t really help you to “concentrate” on your work/tasks, they just keep the mess you made away from you. They’re really apps to improve your productivity. A nice list, anyway.

  3. Joe said
    at 8pm on Jul 26th # |

    None of those apps sounds appealing. Thanks for wasting my time. But the icons image was kinda cool.

  4. Alex said
    at 8pm on Jul 26th # |

    Joe, thanks for the obnoxious sarcasm.

  5. Ed said
    at 8pm on Jul 26th # |

    Some of does apps some pretty cool.

  6. Trevor said
    at 8pm on Jul 26th # |

    My experiences with QuickSilver have left me feeling I could not use a mac without it. It’s a must-have.

  7. aDub said
    at 9pm on Jul 26th # |

    Thanks for the article. I was already using Todos, great program. I just tried out WriteRoom and love it, distraction free word processing is awesome. Thanks for sharing these wonderful apps.

  8. at 12am on Jul 27th # |

    Hi there

    Really glad you enjoyed using pzizz – sorry you thought it was a bit expensive – perhaps I can help?

    Your readers can now get the sleep module for FREE when buying the software by entering the promotional code:


    This is effectively a $20 discount on the $60 package… Hope this helps? ;-)

    Best wishes, and happy pzizzing!


  9. James P said
    at 1am on Jul 27th # |

    Cool! I hadn’t actually heard of quite a few of those before! Thanks for the links and the rundown.

  10. anonymous co-ward said
    at 4am on Jul 27th # |

    I can’t find the Pzizz Demo anywhere on their site, only the option to pay. Am I to understand they want 65$ for a product I can’t even test? Really? It’s nice of Edward to offer that promotional code to your readers, but I see the same offer is being given on the website. Also – their forum is literally 100% full of spam. I could not find a single post from an actual bona fide user. It’s all a little fishy.

  11. al said
    at 5am on Jul 27th # |

    Virtual desktops… its the only way to truely concentrate. Oh and no internet connection.

  12. anonymous co-ward said
    at 5am on Jul 27th # |

    I meant to add – “WriteRoom” is very cool. :)

  13. James T said
    at 5am on Jul 27th # |


    There is a input box at the bottom which requires you to enter your name and e-mail. Once you do that, they’ll send you a link to where you can download the demos for Pzizz.

  14. at 6am on Jul 27th # |

    @ anonymous co-ward…

    Not sure what you mean about not being able to demo the software – it’s available via the software tab…

    Also not sure what you mean about the spam on our forum – we don’t HAVE a forum!

    pzizz IS bona fide – check out the reviews!

    If anyone wants to talk to me, you can contact me at edward



  15. assaf said
    at 8am on Jul 27th # |

    Hmm … Linux … neat apps …

    Can’t think of many.

    One thing Linux does really well is Ctrl+Shift+F5 (KDE), expanding the app to full screen view, for distraction free anything. Once you do full screen view, it’s hard to switch back.

    I use it for editing text in plain vanilla editor, and writing documents (when I need style, not just words), in the terminal, for checking e-mails and reading feeds (F11 in Firefox).

    And although I was forced to switch, I ended up liking Amarok much better than iTunes. Once I figured out how to use it. And Konqueror does more than Explorer or Finder.

    And that pretty much sums up my list. There’s Kompose (poor man’s Expose) and Katapult (dead man’s QuickSilver), but Linux has a long long way before it can actually impress. And nothing like TextMate or VoodooPad.

  16. at 4pm on Jul 27th # |

    Looks like a few good lifehack apps i have to catch up w/, thanks for tips.

    And someone already mentioned Quicksilver but I have to give another shout for it. I can’t live without Quicksilver.

    It’s sort of the opposite of Todos- w/ quicksilver you basically NEVER look at the menubar or its icons

  17. anonymous co-ward said
    at 7pm on Jul 27th # |

    Maybe I need a nap. :) I couldn’t find the forum this time. I swear there was one before. :P As for the download, I say again it takes you directly to a page that asks you to pay AU$64.95 for the software, no demo download link. If you could make that a little clearer on your homepage, you might get more sales. I simply will not pay that much for a piece of software I cannot try out first.

  18. Hmbug said
    at 10pm on Jul 27th # |

    Am an avid mac user and found that the expose features coupled with Insanity’s Windowshade do nicely. Am posting mostly though because I agree with the concept behind Pzizz…but am a little frightened of the algorithm. Not normally an alarmist but honestly, doesn’t it seem to be the perfect tool for mass subliminal messaging?!! Eep!!!!

  19. assaf said
    at 10pm on Jul 27th # |

    Another nifty app, Menufela, gives you a hotkey to hide the menu bar for a bit more screen space and much less distraction.

    Found via LifeHacker.

  20. anonymous co-ward said
    at 11pm on Jul 27th # |

    See.. Told you I saw a forum.

  21. CubFan said
    at 2am on Jul 28th # |

    Try Megazoomer. After installing, press command-enter to quickly and elegantly zoom any cocoa app to fit your screen.

  22. Joshwa said
    at 5am on Jul 28th # |

    Can’t leave out SpiritedAway (sadly, their website is down, working d/l link here). SpiritedAway automatically hides any application you haven’t touched for 60 seconds (or any other interval you specify). *very* useful! I couldn’t live without it!

  23. at 5am on Jul 28th # |

    @anonymous coward

    My mistake – I didn’t realise you were in Australia / New Zealand…

    The pzizz distributors do things differently over there!

    Contact me if you want help!


    All the best


  24. jakedahn said
    at 10pm on Jul 28th # |

    You mention pzizz, It’s nice but I really don’t think it’s worth the price. It’s just a basic binaural beats generator, with a creepy guy on it. I think ya’ll should save some money and check out

    Sbagen or

    Same idea, basic stuff, but free and open source. Oh and it doesn’t have that creepy guy.

  25. happy napper said
    at 11am on Jul 30th # |

    Pzizz was definitely worth the price for me…. i’d often take medication for sleeping, but didn’t like to do that, and those other applications simply just didn’t work. If those other apps work for you, you probably don’t need any app… but if you genuinely need help sleeping, pzizz is truly worth the price.

  26. Frank said
    at 1pm on Aug 14th # |

    Wawie… pzizz.
    I checked that out about a year ago, and forgot all about it…
    Definitely something I should be reviewing at the NLMA podcast.

  27. DocDre said
    at 5pm on Sep 6th # |

    Try Freedom – for those times when the internet is too easy to get to.

    Love this program.

14 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Todos has really taken off, and I’d just like to thank all the help from the bloggers (TUAW,TAB, Paul Stamatiou (1st time, 2nd time), Chris Messina, The Uber Geeks and more). Plus thanks to Apple for featured download on the productvity page. Thanks to digg for the release of Todos (Frontpage), and Paul’s Exclusive (Soon to be frontpage). Also, I want to give a shout out to the help from flickr including Chris’s pic that started it all as well as the newly created flickr group: All your apps. [...]

  2. [...] Neat Mac apps that help you concentrate at FactoryCity (tags: mac productivity software) [...]

  3. [...] A roundup of apps that help you focus by removing your desktop clutter using various techniques. read more | digg story [...]

  4. Hermes on Jul 27th at 9pm

    links for 2006-07-28…

    The MBA Route to Google (tags: Google MBA) The Omni Group – Applications – OmniPlan Would be great if it wiped out the need for MS Project–looking forward to playing with this more (tags: mac projectmanagement) Neat Mac apps……

  5. [...] Neat Mac apps that help you concentrate (tags: osx productivity toread) [...]

  6. [...] A roundup of apps that help you focus by removing your desktop clutter using various techniques. read more | digg story [...]

  7. [...] Factory City: Neat Mac apps that help you concentrate (WriteRoom, Pzizz, Backdrop, Safari Enhancer, Slim Battery Monitor, Handbrake, etc…) [...]

  8. [...] Neat Mac apps that help you concentrateTodos. I ve found a couple apps recently that help you focus by removing your desktop clutter using various techniques. I ve used Backdrop forever (and also for my screenshots) but there are some newcomers. … [...]

  9. [...] A roundup of apps that help you focus by removing your desktop clutter using various techniques. read more | digg story [...]

  10. [...] Neat Mac apps that help you concentrate at FactoryCity Cool list of apps to helo out. Write Room rocks! (tags: mac software lifehacks list productivity concentrate backdrop writeroom cool helpful osx great factoryjoe) [...]

  11. [...] Normally I wouldn’t throw something like this out there, but I happen to know Edward, the guy behind Pzizz, and have been chatting with him ever since he showed up on my blog (thanks Digg!), and know that he’s a great guy. [...]

  12. [...] Essential Edition Student Edition Freeware Editions Haxie Edition Mental Acuity Edition [...]

  13. [...] I first heard of Pzizz back in July 2006, from Joe Messina’s blog. The thought of software that helps you nap, relax or sleep sounded rather dubious to me. So I downloaded a demo to see what it was all about, and my, was I pleasantly surprised. [...]

  14. [...] you might know, I’m a fan of Edward Laing’s Pzizz nap [...]