Being on the Internet is not just leisure, but more of necessity. However, when it comes to focusing, many of us tend to flounder – there are just way too many distractions. The ads that vie for your attention on every page clog the space. While we can enjoy most of the services on the Internet without having to shell out a single penny thanks to those ads, it doesn’t make their presence any less annoying. And it's creepy how targeted the ads can be—all thanks to data mining that makes it possible.
Typically, we spend more time on the Internet looking at things we need not have and which won’t help us to complete the task at hand in any way. If this wasn’t enough, the social networking sites are something that have got us totally hooked. Having firmly entrenched themselves in our daily routine, it’s hard to escape their lure. And not to mention the fact that the time spent on the social networks, unless you are paid for it, isn’t the best use of your time.
So, if you want to enjoy the web sans the distractions, then there are many online tools that will help you do just that. We have listed a few of them.
AdBlock Plus, a free tool to get rid of online ads
If you use Firefox, Chrome or Opera, then a simple yet effective tool to get rid of adverts is using the Adblock Plus add-on. Once installed, it works like a charm and blocks all the advertisements from the webpage you are browsing. Its default ‘EasyList’ filter is more than enough and includes the filters for almost all kinds of ads. In case you find elements on a page that you wish to block, you can easily do so by clicking on the small ‘block’ option that pops up. You can then add the said item in the list of things that Adblock Plus will filter. If for some reason you want the ads to be displayed, then you can easily do so by accessing the Adblock Plus add-on from ‘Tools’. It will provide you with options to either disable adblock for the current page or for the entire site or overall session. In Facebook, it even blocks the sponsored posts and ads in newsfeed, along with deleting those that are displayed on the sides. By default, it allows non-intrusive ads to be displayed, but you can change this and choose to block them by unchecking the option “Allow non-intrusive advertising” from “Filter Preferences”. Additionally, you can also add the “EasyPrivacy” blocker that will disable tracking of your data. The best part is that this is a free tool. You can also check Simple Adblock that is available for IE, Chrome and Firefox.
Allows you to have complete control of your online experience
Another popular and oldest tool around is Ad Muncher, which works for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, Safari and Mozilla Firefox. It goes beyond just blocking the ads, as you can even block links, images, remove music, background images, scroll bars, reloads and more. It will block all sorts of popups and you can see a notice in the status bar when a new popup has been blocked. You can view it and if you find it useful, then you can easily unblock it. It contains an extensive blocking list and you can also add your own filters. You can also replace sections of the webpage that you find annoying with your own text. It also helps protect your privacy by blocking tracking systems, as well as assures security as it blocks spyware, adware etc. It effectively blocks ads from any website on the Internet that includes social networking sites and provides for an unparalleled browsing experience that lets you have total control. But this isn’t a free tool and price starts from approximately Rs. 1,090 for the basic version.
Silence the noise on YouTube
If you don’t wish to get distracted by all the comments, suggestions and ads on YouTube, then you can use Quietube, which will allow you to enjoy your video free of all the clutter. You can add the bookmark to your browser and then use it to watch videos. If you use Chrome, then you can add the Quietube Chrome extension to your browser. Apart from getting rid of all the comments, the suggestions bar and all the other elements, it also provides you with the option to choose from either a white or black background. There is also an option to create a short URL of the video in Quietube to share with others. It currently supports YouTube, Viddler and Vimeo. It’s quite simple, straightforward and works quite effectively. However, it won’t get rid of the in-video ads. Another alternative you can look at is ViewPure, which works just like Quietube. Additionally, it has a download option that allows you to download full videos or only a part of the video by specifying the start and end time. However, it doesn’t have an extension and you will have to use it as a bookmark.
Useful tool to share YouTube videos without the ads and comments
If you want to share a YouTube video, but only part of it and without the clutter, then SafeShare will come to your rescue. You can copy the YouTube link of the video and then generate a SafeShare link that is devoid of all the clutter. There is no browser extension or bookmarking option and you will have to go through the site. SafeShare allows you to customise the video. The customisation options allow you to change the name, background theme, sharing option and even specify the length of the video. Selecting which part of the video you want to share is quite simple. When you click on the PlayLength, the video will start playing in a small screen, when you reach the point you want to start from, simply click on ‘Beginning’ and similarly, click on ‘End’ where you wish to stop. You can now share the link with others using the various options, right from social networking to email. SafeShare.TV is especially handy when you want to share a video on YouTube with underage audience.
Limit the time spent on social networking sites
When performing your tasks on a PC, if you find yourself getting distracted by the Internet, then you need a tool like Freedom. What it does is quite simply bars your connection to the Internet for the time you specify. So when you know you have an important assignment to complete and you need to focus, then simply switch on Freedom and it will help you resist the urge to while away time on the Internet. If in case you need to access the Internet during the said duration, then you will have to reboot your machine. This is done so to act as a deterrent. On the other hand, if you need a tool only to block the distracting sites like, say, social networking sites, then you can use the Anti-Social tool. It will block social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and others specified by you. Again, the only way to gain access before the time is up is by rebooting. Both these tools aren’t free and will cost you Rs. 550 and Rs. 826 respectively. You can try the trial version before buying it. While Freedom is available for PC and Mac, Anti-Social is restricted to Mac only.
Need help focusing? Use StayFocusd
If you don’t wish to pay money, then you can try the free alternative like StayFocused, a Chrome extension. It’s quite a handy tool and uses both approach of complete restriction and time-bound indulgence. When you start your day, you can set the time for certain websites that you tend to frequent. After the time is up, it will simply block access to those sites for the rest of the day. If you have set one hour for, say, social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook etc., then you can either choose to use up the time at one go or be wise and browse intermittently throughout the day. It’s also highly customisable as it allows you to even block specific pages, paths and even in-page content. It will no doubt be handy if you have been stalking your ex, as then you can specify the profile path and have it blocked! You can also use it to block the Internet entirely. And if you use Firefox, then a somewhat similar option is LeechBlock.
Clutter free Tweets
Fliter out the noise from your feed
On the other hand, if you are an ardent Twitter user, then you will be aware of the noise and the incessant tweeting by some you have to put up with. The easiest thing to do is to simply unfollow them, but if that’s not the option, then you can use tools to filter what tweets you want to see on your Twitter feed. Twitter client TweetDeck allows you to manage several Twitter accounts and offers a filtering tool too. You can select the pre-set filter or create your own. You can filter tweets based on keywords, phrases, users and even sources. But the only glitch is that these filtering settings will apply to all your Twitter accounts that you have configured in TweetDeck. There is no option to have filtering settings for individual accounts.
On the other hand, if you do not have multiple Twitter accounts, then you can use the add-ons that provide you with the option to filter Twitter. One such option is the Open Tweet Filter extension that is available for Chrome. You can filter tweets based on username, keyword or even hashtag. Another useful tool is Slipstream extension for Chrome that allows you to add filters or simply click on the tweets and choose to hide them. One of its useful features is that it allows you to filter a tweet from a user about a particular topic. Like, if you follow someone who constantly tweets about their pet dog, then you can choose to ignore those tweets only.
Are you aware of any more tools that allow you to fliter the web? If so, let us know in the comments section below.
Cover image: Getty Images