The Best Mac App to Block Distracting Websites and Apps
Utilities • Updated on Aug 7, 2019
Multitasking is great, you know. You spend less time and you get the feel of finishing multiple things on time!
That doesn’t work when you are trying to multitask a serious project and something like Facebook or Reddit.
That’s why some people tend to call these sites ‘distractions’. Do you know the solution? Don’t get distracted at all. It means you have to block all distractions from bothering you.
It’s an overkill to train yourself not to use Facebook, Reddit, Quora or Gmail, you know. As it happens, it will be better if you can block all these services.
So, even if you want to get distracted and try to access these platforms, YOU CAN’T. And, distraction blocker apps are there to help you.
Why use distraction blocker apps?
Several studies have proven that you need 23+ minutes to get back to the workflow once you’re distracted. It also proves that multitasking is less productive than most people think it is.
This Research from American Psychological Association shows that multitasking can undermine efficiency. It also impacts overall productivity. The result? You would actually spend more time on both projects.
These are the reasons why you should start blocking distractions instead of getting distracted.
That is not really easy, you know. Our brains have grown accustomed to services like Facebook and Reddit. You may have an incontrollable tendency to check your News Feed or check answers on Quora. Dopamine is quite powerful; you know 😉
This is exactly where distraction blocker apps enter the stage. Such apps can help you stay focused without being distracted. But, it basically comes down to the distraction blocker app you are using. If you don’t use an effective pick, there isn’t much of use.
Before we move onto the list of best distraction blocker apps for Mac, we’ve some questions to answer.
What about macOS built-in Parental Controls?
As the name suggests, the Parental Controls feature was built-in macOS to help you prevent your children from using adult websites, addictive game sites, online video stream sites, etc.
To access particular websites, go over to the Web tab and choose ‘Try to limit access to adult websites.’ Click Customize to enter websites you want your kids to visit at any time or never go to at all. Similarly, if you don’t want your employees wasting time on social media or news site, you can include any those websites here too.
The truth is Parental Controls cannot be enabled for administrator accounts and the settings are somewhat complicated. It it takes a while to get all the settings just right. And every time you catch your kids coming up with a new workaround, you have to devise a way to solve that too.
And what if you share the same computer with your children? Then you need to log out and log in every time you pass the laptop to each other. Some of us just don’t need those complications and wish there was an easier way. Luckily, there is.
A full-featured, third-party distraction blocker app or service will give you a lot of control over your Mac device.
Which 3rd party app should I choose?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, there is a huge number of distraction apps for Mac. But, you may not have an actual idea about how they work or how to use these apps.
Distraction Blocker Apps for Mac are pretty easy to use. Basically, you have to set a list of to-be-blocked websites and enable the app. Rest is history: you won’t be able to access those websites for a certain amount of time.
Most of these distracting apps don’t tamper with VPN or Proxy either. The reason is simple: these apps actually block a website when it’s loaded on the browser. So, the functioning of VPN or Proxy is not going to affect the distraction blocker apps.
Are they safe to use? Definitely. All of the apps come from trustworthy developers. You don’t have to worry about privacy issues or data theft. More importantly, all of them work seamlessly with macOS and its build. As said earlier, these apps aren’t rocket science either.
While choosing the apps, we’ve considered a bunch of aspects: ease of use, performance, customization as well as availability.
We believe we have created the perfect list of the best apps. Shall we check that out, then?
Our top pick – Focus
Focus is undoubtedly the best Mac app and website blocker — for all the good reasons. It packs a number of awesome features inside, despite having a lower footprint. As the developer says, Focus lets you ‘reclaim’ your productivity in some time. You are going to love Focus if you want to not only get rid of distractions but also get some motivation.
It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to install Focus on any Mac. Despite the awesome performance, it won’t take more than a few MBs of storage either. Lower footprint is one of the many reasons why we loved using Focus. In case you didn’t know, Focus lets you block websites as well as apps. If you tend to play some games or use some apps while working, you can block them via Focus.
Focus is the epitome of simplicity when it comes to the User Interface. It does not have a full-sized window. Instead, most of the controls are available from the Mac menu bar. There will be a Focus icon on the menu bar and it shows a drop-down menu with options. Nevertheless, Focus app comes with a fully-fledged section of Preferences.
This Preferences pane, however, offers almost complete control and customization options. From distraction blocking to quote selection, you have complete control over how this distraction blocker works. There is an option to access statistics from the menu bar. Altogether, Focus has succeeded in ensuring the best usability with an intuitive UI.
How it works
Focus lets you focus for a certain amount of time. By default, the time is set to 25 minutes. When you click a button, the focus period would start. This would automatically block all the websites and apps you have selected. However, you can start a custom Focus period if you want. In that case, you can set minutes or a few hours as the time-period.
Altogether, Focus is very easy to operate. Even if you haven’t used any distraction blocker apps before, you will find it as a piece of cake. So far, we have talked about only the basics. But, as we said earlier, the Focus app offers a variety of customization options, which we’ll cover next.
As we said, Focus App for Mac lets you customize almost everything. As far as the basics are concerned, you can easily change the Focus timer length, websites/apps to be blocked and the Quotes that appear. There is also an option to start a Pomodoro timer in case you don’t prefer working for a long time. Just so you know, you can allow a number of websites only — say, your work website.
Next, you can go ahead and change aspects like protection. There is an option to set a password to preferences so that the user wouldn’t change that. In another scenario, if you want to let your friend keep all the distractions away, you can set the timer and password-protect Preferences. Altogether, the Focus app is offering ample amount of customization options.
Of course, advanced options are what make Focus app something unique and worth going for. First of all, it lets you schedule distraction blocking process. For instance, you can set up Focus to start working when you get into office. This option can be found in the Preferences section as well. Focus lets you create a number of schedules based on days and timings.
As we said earlier, Focus doesn’t simply show you a random blocked scene while enabled. Instead, it shows a bunch of motivational quotes. By default, Focus has a collection of quotes, but you can add yours too. It’s pretty helpful when you want to work a lot of time. On a personal note, try combining it with Pomodoro set of timers.
Pomodoro Timer, as we said, is a great feature from Focus app for Mac. Instead of working for hours on one single stretch, Pomodoro technique lets you take breaks. You will get a few minutes’ breaks after you have worked for some time. It’s a wonderful feature for those who have multiple projects to complete on shorter time-period.
If you are looking for fully-fledged customization, you should check out the Scripting options of Focus. Focus offers support for BASH Scripting, which lets you use a set of commands for automating the functioning. You will be able to change these things from the Scripting tab of Preferences pane. In addition to these, there is also a Hardcore Mode, in which Pomodoro timer gets active and blocking/unblocking becomes inactive.
All these advanced features of Focus for Mac are designed to offer you the best distraction blocking tool. It needs to be noted that Focus doesn’t take up much energy or resources no matter how many options you’ve enabled.
Availability and pricing
Focus is available for Mac only. If you have a device running macOS 10.10 or later, you can use Focus as the distraction blocker tool for your Mac. If you ask us, Focus shows all the perks of being a Mac-exclusive tool, you know. It works seamlessly and you don’t have to worry about glitches.
Coming to pricing, Focus costs $9.99/month on the official website and is also one of the app in the Setapp service which costs $9.99/month as well.
At the end of the day, we’d recommend Focus app for every professional who values their time. It’s not just a time-saver but a life-saver. As you just saw, Focus is the ultimate choice for performance and ease of use. So, what are you waiting for?
Upgrade pick — Freedom
If you are someone who uses multiple devices and want distraction blocker on all these devices, Freedom is the best choice out there. It lets you block websites and apps on a variety of devices like PC, Mac, iPad and iPhone. According to the company, Freedom apps are being used by people at Google, Microsoft, Apple and Harvard University.
Being our upgrade pick, you can expect some more features in Freedom. However, let’s focus on what the Mac version has in store. Freedom for Mac checks all the basic requirements, you know. You can block apps, websites and even Internet. Well, the third one is kind of overkill, but useful sometimes. You also have access to most of the advanced features, but what matters is Multi-device sync.
When you set up distractions, they are synced with other devices like PC and iPhone. During the work, you’d not be able to access any of those websites (or apps). This can be a little problem if you want to set up various to-be-blocked sites in different devices. In fact, multi-device sync is one of the reasons why many people use Freedom.
It also checks the boxes when it comes to features like advanced scheduling and locked modes. However, a few of the essential features are still not available. For instance, unlike Focus, Freedom doesn’t let you make a whitelist. It means you won’t be able to allow only one website and block all the rest. Also, the service is not offering in-depth statistics or quote support.
Freedom is available for Mac, PC and iOS. Because of this, Freedom is offering a subscription package that costs $6.99/month if you pay monthly and $2.42/month if you pay annually. There is also an option to get the Forever package for $129. Freedom also offers a free trial for 7 days. As far as the pricing is concerned, however, we think Focus is the better choice.
Despite the minor shortcomings, Freedom for Mac is a wonderful option when you need support for multi-device distraction blocking.
Other apps we considered
Now, let’s have a look at some of the major contenders we had in distraction blocker apps for Mac. None of these apps made it to the top position, but they are good-enough. If you think you cannot afford to use two of our picks, you can try the ones given below.
Mac App Blocker
In case you didn’t understand anything from the name, Mac App Blocker is a dedicated mac app for blocking other apps. If you think some apps or games are your biggest distraction, you should test this distraction blocker app. Of course, there are some serious limitations. First and foremost, you cannot use this app for blocking websites of web services.
That having said, Mac App Blocker does a pretty awesome job when it comes to blocking apps. You will be asked to set a password when you launch Mac App Blocker for the first time. This password is your key for opening all the blocked apps. It leads us to another limitation: you cannot set the password. You would need the help of a friend or the employer.
Summing up, Mac App Blocker isn’t that customizable. Of course, you can add the apps and remove them from a list. You cannot access these apps as long as Mac App Blocker is running. Other features include time scheduling and history. Coming to pricing, Mac App Blocker is priced at a one-time fee of $4.99. However, it offers a free trial for 15 days.
Focusme is another multi-platform distraction blocker app, which is also available for Mac. Compared to the tools, there are some lofty features inside this package. The best thing about Focusme is that many things do come pre-installed. It has a bunch of Plans for distraction blocking. For instance, you can enable the Social Media plan to block websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.
Focusme also lets you customize these plans according to your needs. The best part is that you can set up a whole set of instructions for a scenario. There are also options for breaks, in case you are interested. More importantly, Focusme shows you a fully-fledged set of statistics as well. However, it would have been great if Focusme had a better UI.
While Focusme is the best choice for pro users, we won’t recommend it for everyone. Coming to availability, you can find Focusme apps for Android, Windows and Mac. You can either pay $2.50 as the monthly fee or $99 and get it for lifetime. Focusme offers two-weeks full free trial and educational discounts, in case you’re interested.
SelfControl is a free distraction blocker app for Mac. You can use this simple app to block all the distracting websites that keep you un-productive. However, compared to any of the apps we’ve discussed, SelfControl has the most minimal approach. It does not offer many features, but has made everything as simple as it can be.
If you are looking for a distraction blocker without bells and whistles, SelfControl is the best choice. When it opens, you can see a slider to set the time-period for the distraction blocking. You can choose a time-period between 15 minutes to 1 day. There is also an option to edit the Blacklist. You can either enter the websites manually or import them easily.
Did we love SelfControl? We certainly did. I mean, we are talking about a completely free app for distraction blocker, you know. There are no payments, nothing else. You just download SelfControl and start using it. It makes sense as a free alternative to any of the above-mentioned tools. One more thing: once you enable its timer, there’s no turning back. No, even if you restart your Mac.
HazeOver is a different type of tool but it definitely deserves a mention. While it’s not a way to block websites on Mac, it’s the perfect solution for your scattered focus. The app automatically highlights the currently active window and dimming the rest of the screen, including notifications and other apps.
The tool is especially useful in managing windows because you can forget about minimizing, closing, or hiding elements that are in your way when everything fades into the background. If you have an exceptionally large screen, a full-screen view may not be practical for you. In this case, HazeOver will help you concentrate on your main task.
HazeOver is a menu bar app that automatically dims inactive windows. It is a paid app, available for $4.99 one-time purchase through the Mac App Store. It’s also available through the Setapp Store.
The Bottom Line
It does not matter which distraction blocker app you use, you can regain your productivity. However, there are times when you need specific features like scheduling, motivational quotes and even smooth interfaces. That is why we recommend our top pick, Focus, which is reasonably priced as well. While the other apps can shine at different areas, not many of them offer a comprehensive distraction blocking experience. So, make sure you get rid of your distractions and start working on things that matter.