If you work from a home computer, you probably know just how difficult it can be to stay on task and maintain your focus. The Internet is the busiest place on the planet. Every second, something is happening. It’s tough to pull yourself away from all of that and stay focused. I’ve personally experienced this same problem, and still today I struggle with finding the perfect solution.
We all know to shut down our IM clients and get off of the social networks and other online communities, but there’s more you can do for yourself. One tip that I’ve used for months now is to use an application that actually forces me to focus on the task at hand. In this article, I’d like to show you how you can do the same.
Clutter Cloak is an application designed for users running Windows XP that will let you dim your screen in multiple different ways so that you can remain focused and get work done. I’m currently running Clutter Cloak on Windows 8 Pro, which comes with a few difficulties. I’d highly recommend using Clutter Cloak only on XP or other versions of Windows without obscuring visual effects (such as Aero).
Downloading and installing Clutter Cloak will immediately dock the application’s icon to your system tray. From here, the application is already fully functional.
The default hotkeys, which can be changed in the settings, are as follows:
- Normal: Ctrl + F11
- Photo: Ctrl + Alt + F11
- Blind: Ctrl + Shift + F11
The Normal hotkey will dim to the focused window. The Photo hotkey will dim to a selection. The Blind hotkey will dim the entire screen.
Overall, Clutter Cloak does what it’s supposed to and offers some interesting features.
Le Dimmer is definitely my favorite software of this kind (and it’s not because of its Reddit-born name).
Le Dimmer is incredibly easy to use and works on any version of Windows. There is no configuration and no confusion. You launch the application, which is completely portable, and Le Dimmer will dim everything on the screen other than your active window (or object, like your taskbar). There’s really nothing else to it.
Dropcloth takes a pretty interesting approach to this problem. Coded by Lifehacker author Adam Pash after seeing the Mac-only Backdrop, Dropcloth acts as just that – a backdrop. Where other applications of this kind take the approach of dynamically dimming your screen, Dropcloth puts you in more control and requires more manual user interaction.
Like every other application here, you can see it achieves the dimming effect quite nicely. One major difference is, by default, Dropcloth docks to both your system tray and taskbar. This means you can manually trigger your backdrop.
You’re also able to change the color at which it dims and the opacity. If you’re constantly dimming windows in different ways and want certain functionality that is difficult to find in other common alternatives, Dropcloth is a very interesting option.
Ghoster is a classic, long-time solution to screen dimming and I’ve covered it a bit in a previous article here on MUO. It’s a portable application made by Skrommel over at DonationCoder.com, which is easily one of my favorite places on the web to find gems such as this one.
The above screenshot shows both the dimming in effect and the application’s settings. Ghoster is portable and the settings are stored in an INI file. To modify them, you need to open the file in a text editor and change them manually.
You’re able to do things such as change the background color, make the background an image, change the transparency, apply dimming to multiple monitors, and much more. The only issue I’ve ever really had with using Ghoster is that it often leaves the taskbar undimmed when it isn’t focused. Some of you may even see this “bug” as an ideal feature, so that it’s easier to see what windows you have minimized. Either way, Ghoster gets the job done.
You’ve got four different ways to dim your screen and achieve the same thing. Now it’s on you to determine which is the most convenient and compatible for your system.
Which of these applications is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!