3 pieces of software that I use that I am sure a lot of people haven't heard of, but should start using. If you have heard of them, do you use any (all) of them and how do you use them?
Oh and this isn't a tutorial post on how to use them, just what they are and how they benefit me.
1. Cold Turkey.
It blocks stuff. But not just websites, it blocks everything.
But it does it on a schedule (so you can set block times for certain apps at one time, other apps at another time etc. and still enjoy the odd YouTube rabbit hole or 4 hours reading DEV articles in designated down time!)
It will block websites, applications...and your computer...seriously!
I use it to block certain sites during the day that I know will distract me...boring, loads of people do that!
I also use it to block Outlook. Yes I only check my emails 3 times a day.
No pinging every 5 minutes distracting me, just 3 times where I tackle stuff that needs doing.
I know you are thinking this isn't possible due to X, Y and Z...trust me you can persuade people that email is not live chat!
It has not caused me any issues in the 3 years I have done it. Cold Turkey stops me going back to the ping ping ping days!
The best bit
But best of all, I use Cold Turkey to block my computer.
It has a mode called "Frozen Turkey" that lets you lock yourself out of your computer at certain times of the day.
Fair warning, if you get this wrong it can really cause headaches! However when you get it right it can be so good for sticking to a routine.
For example, I wanted to make sure I eat at certain times of the day. So I just lock my computer for 15 minutes each time.
Obviously I have to be careful that I don't schedule meetings that might run into these times (as you can imagine that would be unprofessional) but I have also become very good at saying no to meetings that don't fit my diary.
Managing work life balance
I also lock my PC at night when I need to. Sometimes I get into bad habits where I am working at 1am due to deadlines.
It doesn't work as you then end up producing less the next day anyway (meaning you have to work to 1am again and the cycle continues...).
When this happens I set a block up for the week, computer off at 10pm, can't access it until 530am. That way I ensure I have at least 7 hours where I CANNOT work...so I might as well sleep!
It is a feature to be used with caution...I did once lock the computer for a day by mistake and had to spend an hour fiddling to undo the lock so I could work.
But bar that one slip up (which you learn from!) it has been fine.
Anyway - you should check it out https://getcoldturkey.com/
Price: £29.00 (GBP) now (lifetime usage), not sure whether that price changes based on Country but that is about $40 (USD). Worth every penny! (Mac and Windows)
They also offer "micro manager" - which does the same except you whitelist applications for a while and everything else gets blocked - so you can have focus sprints.
They also offer "Writer" which blocks everything on your computer, blacks out all the screens (if you have more than one) and provides you with a very simple screen to write on. Oh and this one blocks you for an amount of time or an amount of words.
I don't tend to use the micro manager as I have my block list set pretty well but the writer occasionally gets used if I want to just free-write to clear my head / work on an idea.
Yet again, if I need to focus on writing something I have a different block list for Cold Turkey so I don't need the writer very often.
2. Rescue Time
There are loads of time tracking applications, this one works best for me.
Why? Because it tracks things automatically and with a little bit of work it can provide some really interesting insights.
They have a free version...don't bother there are better alternatives. The paid version...that is where the magic is.
The difference is subtle, the free version tracks what applications you are using and when, the paid version tracks the applications and which document you are working on / using!
With a little bit of manipulation and effort you can use it to tell you exactly how long you have spent on each project each day (they also have project tracking built in but it was a bit simplistic for my liking, it might work for you though!).
It also lets you categorise time with fine detail. For example visiting dev.to and any page is considered leisure time (the way I have it set up). But if I am on dev.to/new or the URL ends in /edit I mark it as writing time (productive).
They also added slack integration so you can update your status to show what you are working on automatically (don't worry it wont tell people when you are procrastinating and looking at non work stuff!).
It is $78 (USD) for a year or $12 (USD) a month...save up and buy the year as it costs almost half as much that way!
Go check it out as well - https://www.rescuetime.com/why_premium
(works on everything, Linux, Mac, Windows, Android, iOS!)
Yes I know...it sounds like a website for industrial strength vibrators (just me? 🤣).
But despite the unfortunate name it is a great piece of kit (for Windows).
It is a set of utilities that Windows should really just ship with.
You get a few features but the ones I use are:
- Colour picker - Windows + Shift + C - A colour picker that works across everything and copies the result to the keyboard. It also shows you the current colour under the cursor as you move around as hex and RGB values.
- Power Toys Run - kind of like Mac Spotlight but worse, it lets you quickly access applications, documents etc. with Alt + Space. I use it occasionally but I find it too slow, your mileage may vary.
- Improved file explorer previews - preview SVGs and markdown - handy!
- Fancy Zones - ✔ This is why this is worth downloading. I have 6 screens and 2 of them are massive (not flexing, just to show how hard it is to manage monitors).
I like to arrange my Windows in certain ways that you just can't do without patience on Windows (such as add 3 applications split horizontally one on top of the other on the right hand screen for monitoring applications etc.)!
Fancy zones lets you add zones to your screens where you can drag and drop a window and they will fill that zone.
Technically you can make a window fit into two zones or even 4 zones that are next to each other if you set the zones up correctly.
The joy of just pressing Shift when dragging a window and having it take up exactly a third of the screen vertically, or a third horizontally etc. cannot be over stated.
This one is free so even if you can't afford the other two right now you should definitely get this one if you have more than one screen or like to set your application layout a certain way (and use Windows)!
Get it here -> https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/powertoys/
I just wanted to share 3 applications I thought were useful you may not have heard of.
Let me know if you end up using any of them (or already use them and how they help you) in the comments.
Little note to people who read my stuff
If you are wondering why I would follow up on my 16,500 word monster post with something so simple and "low effort"...it is a little experiment...more on that in a bit 🤐!
In case you missed that one and have an hour to kill:
Top comments (25)
Now I'm curious about the little experiment.... (Still need to read the whole other article 😳)
So I wanted to see if a "crap" post (30 minutes to write, low effort...crap is probably a little strong...an average not great post) in a more popular tag can outperform a decent post, even if the "crap" post was released at a terrible time.
If views is the metric then yes (probably obviously) is the answer.
It is part of a bigger experiment to see what sort of promotion posts on accessibility will need, how "clickbaity" titles need to be etc. in order to get a decent reach. (I am about to start writing "for profit"...i.e. to promote something (subtly!) I am going to launch next year so I am trying to be a bit more methodical!)
I do have an advantage that I downloaded every single live post on DEV about 3 months back (10.6GB - and that is without images) so I can do some interesting analysis on best posting times etc. there.
The bottom chart on that page is reasonably accurate as I excluded the top and bottom 5% of posts that skewed things. Needs better analysis, hence why not released a post yet, but I thought I would let you have a look!
Anyway I will post properly on that but I thought you might like a rough idea of what I am up to 😋
It mAde it into the Facebook feed - that probably screws any analysis
It made it onto Twitter as well, but the idea was also to see if whoever runs the DEV social stuff looked at the quality of articles across the whole site or just picked things out of certain categories (or if it is random what they pick...who knows?!).
They kind of fell right into the trap as a post designed to be promoted and get views with little effort got promoted! 😋🤣
My mega article with one of the highest reactions to view count ratios I have ever had - not a peep of promotion on that one!
It is interesting but more experiments are needed now as you are right, I can't do a direct comparison now 😥
Wait... I thought the promoted articles thing was a bot. Is it not a bot? What have I missed? What year is it?
I have no idea. I would love to know what the criteria is for that, and how on earth you get on the "top 5 comments" list etc. Maybe it is a bot that just randomly picks stuff? Who knows!
I think the top 5 comments is by amount of likes (don't know if the likes of the responses count or not). The top 7 posts is probably a combination of both votes and a human picking, because they often are not the ones with the most votes.
Maybe it is just something I should be asking with the #meta tag - it would be interesting to know. See if I can game that system too once I know the rules! 😋
But number of likes has very little to do with it from what I can tell...in fact I got "sniped" twice on the a11y tag where I had top post and some random post got promoted...once when I had positions 1, 2 and 3 all at the same time!
Didn't think too much of it until just now, now I am really intrigued at how this actually works? Now I am actually a little annoyed by it now that I am thinking about it...lol!
Maybe part of the algorithm is "do not select any person that was promoted in the past x days/weeks"?
You don't think I get promoted often enough for that to be the case do you? 🤣
I am in the middle of writing a post to ask the question so it will be intriguing to see the answer!
Could do with your opinion actually - is it balanced? I am aware at the moment I am a little annoyed that my crap post got the promotion and I don't want it to look like a "boo hoo" post!
It looks fine. I kind of hope they reply with something like "we vote for them during our weekly demo/retrospective."
I hadn't heard of any of these tools before 😳 but may need to try some (the time tracker seems interesting)
A tool that was really useful while using windows was screen2gif that allows to create animated gifs from screen captures. Super useful to add in bug tickets.
Got that one, for some reason never used it for bug tickets despite that being an obviously great idea 🤦♂️
My repeating logo GIF is in part thanks to S2G to create the perfect loop.
All my bug reports will now be awesome...the simplest tips give those “of course, that’s genius” moments! ❤️
Oh and if you have some software that you use that you fancy raving about, put it in a comment and let me know!
I use ColorZilla, the extension which allows you to pick colors (and other stuff)
Forest app to block my mobile apps and websites. (Just use gatekeeper to block apps on laptop)
I got beta access to Github Copilot so I use that too
I could go on forever...
So ColorZilla is awesome, I use that too! But the PowerToys thing is handy when you are outside the browser. Also having a keyboard shortcut is is super handy.
Never heard of forest app - will look at that, didn't realise they had a phone blocker now!
How do you use GateKeeper to temporarily block apps being launched? (perhaps I should have made that clear!) I haven't had a Mac for a couple of years now but if they added that feature that is awesome!
Let me know how you get on with CoPilot - I have been enjoying the varying pro-con arguments going around at the moment!
Edit - added a sentence to explain Cold Turkey blocks on a schedule rather than permanently!
Well, I don't set a schedule yet for GateKeeper. I just start it when I need, and end it when I need. I have enough willpower to stop me from abusing it!
If you have low willpower, you can use the terminal commands
sudo spctl --disable --label "BlockedApps"and
sudo spctl --enable --label "BlockedApps"and maybe setup a cron job for these to run to make a schedule...
If you have even less willpower, and wanna stop installs of apps, you could
sudo spctl --disable --label "Mac App Store"
And if you have even less willpower, you could make sudo not work temporarily, by putting this in your sudoers file:
which would prevent you from using sudo.
And if you have even...
I'll stop here :D.
No need to stop, they are great tips on how to do it!
Why have I heard of all these but don't use any?
Interesting tools, but it's that beautiful workstation screenshot that earned you the heart-click this time. Great work as always!
hehe thanks Jay, took a while to build up to it!
The best bit is that desk...the whole thing is sit-stand (6ft by 6ft / 2m x 2m) - watching the thing rise up still makes me smile!
Is Rescuetime the one that is a bit dubious through data use? I think I read something years ago
I haven't seen anything about that?
But if you are cautious about that it might not be the best idea to let a piece of software view every single application, document title etc. you are viewing and send it to a remote server.
I realised a long time ago that I am not interesting enough to care if someone is spying on my usage data etc. But it is a valid concern for most and perhaps something for people to look into if they are considering using Rescue Time. I would imagine they are no worse than Google etc. otherwise they wouldn't have many customers!
A great point for people to consider!
p.s. I love your profile pic!
I love Cold Turkey. It changed my life for the better. I’m going to talk about it in my RustConf talk this year 😄