the distraction free mac

November 7, 2008

Mac users rave about the clean and streamlined user interface that a Mac offers compared to Windows; I am of the same mind. But, if you want a simple interface, why not go all the way? When I really need to engage on a project, I trim my screen down so that all I can see is that single app I am working on.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about how to simplify your screen, but I thought it might be helpful to offer a summary of all of those, along with a few extra tips. As I mentioned last week, Merlin Mann inspired my clean screen frenzy on this episode of MacBreak a few years ago. But some of his suggestions no longer work in Leopard, so here’s my take on the distraction free Mac:

  • Simple background
    You might choose to use an inspiring photo, but I like to keep it simple. I have a subtle pattern, and sometimes even black. Here’s a tile image you can use which is nothing but black.
  • No drive icons
    Get rid of those drive and disk image icons on the desktop. You don’t need them and they only clutter your view. You can remove them by opening the Preferences in the Finder.
  • No desktop files
    Don’t use your desktop to store files that build up there. I use Hazel to automatically sweep anything from my desktop into my Documents folder. (See this post for how I keep my Documents folder in order.) If only Hazel would take care of my real desktop too…
  • Current documents
    If you can’t imagine moving files off your desktop because it is so convenient, see this post about how to make a smart folder for the documents in your active projects.
  • Spaces is your friend
    You probably can’t just have one app running, but you can use Spaces to have at least one workspace to focus on a single app that youa re working in.
  • Experience dock freedom
    Clean out your dock so that it only shows the programs you are running. And while you are at it, hide it from view. It will always be there when you need it, so don’t panic.

  • No menubar!
    My menubar is full of handy little utilities I couldn’t live without, but they are also visual clutter. Not to mention the distraction from the clock taunting me. Unlike the Dock, it won’t hide itself, but you can with a little help.
  • A second computer
    If you have an old laptop available, turn it into a distraction free computer. Or, you could create a distraction free user account on your main machine.
  • Distraction stifling programs
    If all this seems like too much for you, some programs like Scrivener have built in features to let you work in full screen mode. Or, you can use a program like Think to isolate any program on your screen.

When all is said and done, you’ll have something that looks like the picture below….aaahhhhh:

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