[Mac OS X] Reduce your digital distractions with Obtract, a part productivity, part game app

mzl.bmzkvvzv.800x500-75There are all kinds of apps the aim to reduce distraction. Lots of writers gravitate towards these apps, where a word processor will take up the entirety of your screen to keep you focused. But what do you do if you do most of your work in a browser window, or in some sort of software or program? The only option for staying focused under those circumstances is simple: tracking your time at your computer with as much vigilance as possible. One Mac app that will help reduce digital distractions and track how you spend your time at your computer is Obtract, developed by Signifier Studio.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

Obtract is a Mac app that reduces your digital distractions. In addition to keeping you focused, the app offers a detailed breakdown of which programs, applications, and websites are dominating your time at your computer.


  • You teach the app what behavior is good or bad by marking certain activities as being either “productive” or “distracting”
  • Mark your progress throughout the day by creating milestones
  • Generates data visualizations to better understand and investigate where your time is going
  • When you try to access a “distracting site,” the app presents you with a maze or puzzle you need to solve: this helps to curb “procrasti-surfing”
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly view for Trends
  • Easy to search for certain activities


  • It’s too easy to dismiss the mazes: if you really want to procrastinate, this app can’t stop you
  • Mazes started off as very complex, rather than getting gradually more complex
  • Mazes were buggy and non-functional at times
  • No way to re-order your “Top Activities” from their default “most used” listing orientation: if you want to list your activities alphabetically, it doesn’t seem to be possible in this version of the app


mzl.wqqfkkxl.800x500-75Obtract is a simple little app that runs in the background while you work. The app tracks what sites, programs, and apps you have in the foreground in active use. The app itself is very simple to use and navigate, and you can see plenty of helpful visualizations that make you accountable for how you spend your time.

It is up to the user to mark a site or application as “productive” or “distracting.” If you haven’t specified this ruling for a site, one of those tricky green mazes will pop up: the app has a tendency to assume that most sites are distracting until you tell it otherwise.

I like the idea of the maze: solve the maze, and you earn 5 minutes of time on a “distracting” site as a reward. However, it is arguably too easy for users to get around these mazes: you can mark a site as “productive” when it’s not, or dismiss the maze window by opening another active window or app. I also encountered a few mazes that couldn’t be solved, simply because the maze controls weren’t functional.

Conclusion and download link

Despite a few minor annoyances, Obtract really is a useful app if you want to become more self-aware about your computer habits. This app helped to curb my own “procrasti-surfing” tendencies, and it is a helpful way to track how much of your work day you spending actually working.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 1.0.1

Requires OS X 10.6 or later

Download size: 0.6 MB

Obtract on Mac App Store

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