Get back to work! Great software for reducing distractions

Your PC is a productivity tool—and a portal for infinite distraction. Whether you’re catching up on the latest cat videos, replying to every Facebook notification, or tweeting your lunch, you aren’t getting any work done.

It’s time to get some help. Check out these free distraction decimators: stand-alone programs, as well as Chrome extensions and Firefox add-ons, that are designed to help you hunker down, keep your eyes on your work, and focus on what’s important. Take a few minutes—just a few—to find the best one for you, then amaze your boss with how efficient you’ve become.

Note: You can click any of the images below to enlarge it.

Desktop programs

Dark Room

No, you haven't entered the Matrix, and you haven’t gone back to the Zork days. Dark Room loads up a full-screened text editor that lacks any polish—on purpose. Even the most basic menus are hidden by default (you can access them by pressing F11 and exiting full-screen mode). Stay away from minimizing the full-screen view, and you will get your work done.

It's not the Matrix—it's Dark Room!

For a program that serves such a simple purpose, it offers a ton of customizable options. You can customize the font color, background color, font type, and page size via the "Preferences" menu. Other options let you convert tabs to spaces, auto-indent, and change the program’s opacity so you can reveal your desktop.

Dark Room can open text files, but stay away from Microsoft Word .doc files unless you’re fine with translating code. Even if you are fine with that, don’t do it. You’re just feeding your distraction problem.

Dark Room is free and doesn’t require you to install anything. Just run the executable.

CreaWriter

In the same vein as Dark Room, CreaWriter also removes the distractions of a busy screen and gives you a simple, minimalistic interface to type on. The difference? Ambiance.

CreaWriter oozes ambiance with pretty backgrounds and soothing sounds.

Set your own serene background image, load up a soothing sound or song, and enjoy the bliss of the full-screen text editor. CreaWriter has a few default options, including a sunset on a beach and the sounds of a crackling fire. The program’s opacity can be adjusted so you can keep an eye on something important in the background (but that's cheating!).

CreaWriter has both a free version and one for “donors” who may choose what to pay for the program via its website. Small features differentiate the two, including a word counter, the ability to add boldface, italic, and underline effects to text, a nice clicking sound when you use your keys (which you get anyway if you own a mechanical keyboard), and a break timer.

Q10

Like the others, Q10 is a text editor that covers your screen with a minimalist interface so you can focus on your work. Q10 has some nice options to keep tabs on your progress as you type away.

Q10 has a ton of features and options—you just have to memorize the hotkeys!

Pressing F1 brings up a list of hotkeys that you can waste time committing to memory, though I don’t recommend it. The usual options are available, such as changing the background and text color, the margin size, and some autocorrect options.

Q10 also sports some nifty settings, such as an alarm for structured writing periods, and a target counter where you can set how many words, pages, lines, paragraphs, or characters you must complete to consider yourself done. The info bar displays everything in real time, along with the completed percentage toward your goal. Finally, you can insert a note line (which refers to the document but isn’t part of the document’s content) by typing two periods at the beginning of a line. These are easily searchable with a hotkey and work well for coders.

A nice little touch is the soothing typewriter sound that audibly tells you how well you’re progressing. Of course, you can disable once it becomes annoying. Or just continue to write away, old-school style.

Focus Booster

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s as a way to accomplish any time-sensitive task. The theory is that frequent breaks can greatly boost your productivity. The technique breaks up the work into 25-minute intervals (each called a “pomodoro”) followed by a short, 5-to-15-minute break.

It's amazing what you can get done in a focused 25-minute period.

Focus Booster puts the technique to work in an easy-to-use way. The downloadable app counts down the 25-minute increment and the 5-minute break time to keep you on track. You can toggle the ticking noise it makes while running, the alarm that sounds at the end of a session, and whether to keep the window in front of everything else.

If you’re away from your computer, Focus Booster has a webpage with a timer and most of the options, no installation needed. Just remember, if you’re working for 5 minutes and taking 25-minute breaks, you're doing it wrong!

Read on for browser extensions and add-ons, including one that will nuke your greatest time-wasters.

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