Concentrate 1.2.2 full review

Reviews of distraction reduction software like Concentrate usually begin with a list of all the things that stop us from getting on with our work. We were putting such a list together, when an alert popped up to say that someone had mentioned our name on Twitter and we followed a link to a quiz that estimates how middle class you are. Of course, we had to post the results on Facebook and that started to get lots of comments. And as we were flicking through the news feed, an adorable video of a dog cuddling a teddy bear appeared...?

What were we supposed to be doing?

Oh, yes. Reviewing Concentrate. We probably should have installed it before making our list because once it’s running, that’s it. No more Twitter alerts. No more Facebook or YouTube. As for all those quizzes - you can configure Concentrate to block any site you like, so those stop being a problem too.

Recently released for free after a five year life as a paid app, Concentration isn’t all block here and stop there. You can configure it to automatically launch apps that you use for work - or a set of apps, websites and documents for a specific task. If you need a bit of motivation to keep you on track you can even record some encouraging words to keep you going.

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All these features - and a few more - can be configured on an “Activity” basis, then saved for later. For example, you could set up an Activity for doing the accounts that blocks all internet access and launches a spreadsheet program. You could create an Activity for writing essays that launches Google Docs, but blocks social media and sets your messaging apps to “Busy”.
The Activity metaphor is easy enough to grasp and Concentrate’s UI is straightforward too. After creating and naming an Activity you’ll see a list of options from launching applications to setting up Growl alerts. You choose an Action and drag it to the Activity window for configuration.

You can even set Concentrate to run AppleScripts or Terminal commands, which makes it usable as a rudimentary scheduling tool - and also pretty powerful. Combined with Automator, Apple’s built in macro maker, you could use Concentrate to not only block distractions, open relevant apps and motivate you - but also complete parts of those tasks for you.

This level of configuration does come at a price. Developing an Activity for the first time is a time-consuming as you drill through Actions and customise each component. But this is a fairly minor moan because, once created, Activities can be reused. And, as a bonus, lots of common social media, video and distracting URLs are prepackaged so that you don’t have to enter them manually.

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