Focus: find your flow with Ocean Waves

Writers do a lot of getting ready to think about focusing on things. Anything that can help firewall our attention is appealing, and there are many concentration-enhancement apps. I'll be reviewing several for Mac and iOS in future posts. They're always fun to play with, but I'd like to share one that works for me: Ocean Waves, from Katsura Shareware.

The idea behind these tools is to block out the cluttery noise around you, so you can focus. They use either nature/environmental sounds, or white/pink/brown noise. Ocean Waves blends these, to simulate the sound of... well, ocean waves.


The drawback of using sampled recordings, like thunderstorms or other other environmental sounds, is that the sample will play on a loop. If it's not a long sample, and especially if there are particular sounds in it (like a unique thunderclap, or a tweeting bird), your brain will quickly pick up on the pattern. And then, instead of focusing, your brain is distracted and marking time between the sounds and TWEET OMG TWEET JUST TURN IT OFF AAAGHHHHH

Ocean Waves generates its sound randomly. No repetition, thus less distraction. There are also no seagulls, dolphins, whales in heat, buoy bells, boat toots, or anything else. Just the sound of the waves.

Click. Ahhhh.

Here's all you need to know to get started with Ocean Waves.


There are, of course, other settings you can adjust to fine-tune one of nature's most powerful forces.

Controlling the seas

You can control the mix of large and small waves, their durations, and the interval between waves. It's just enough tweakability to tinker, but not so much that you get obsessed with it. (There's no slider for Ocean Depth, or Water Temperature, or Salinity.)


The result is surprisingly effective. I find that within a few minutes, I'm concentrating without thinking about it. To me, that is the mark of a successful tool -- when you realize that it's been working without you realizing it. I start up Ocean Waves, and by the time I get my apps launched and my windows arranged, I'm in Pacific Zen.

Environmental sound isn't effective when your mind can pinpoint where it's coming from. (For example, a sound generator with a cheap speaker sitting on your desk. *cough*Homedics*cough*) But Ocean Waves works well even through my Mactop speakers. You'll get best results with headphones, of course.

Help, I'm syncing

Other cool features: you can save an audio "wave mix" up to 400 minutes long, and sync to your iPod or iPhone. There are also Wake and Sleep timers, if you're into waking and sleeping.

My wish list of 1 thing

I have only one nitpick with OW. The heavier waves alternate between left and right, and when using headphones, I occasionally find myself noticing as the sound swings from one ear to the other. I wish there was a Balance setting, to center waves in the sound field.

Final thoughts

Ocean Waves 2 is only $1.99 on the Mac App Store. I've used it since version 1 in its shareware days -- back then it was $10, and worth it. You can download a 3-minute sample from Katsura's website to sea if you like it. (Rimshot. More dead ahead.)

At just two clams, Ocean Waves is a real treasure, and I think yachtta try it. It's been a real lifesaver, if you get my drift, and has netted a place in my dock. So water you waiting for? Seas the moment! Surf over and get the current version, then wave bon voyage to distraction. I bet you'll think it's swell. I shore do.

(FYI: discarded puns include hooked, plumb, fathom, sail, and others. The seacret is in knowing when to bail. I didn't want to go overboard.)

Focus is a very personal thing. But I encourage you to give Ocean Waves a try, and see if it helps you find your flow.

Ocean Waves website
Ocean Waves on the Mac App Store

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