The one Mac app that lets me enjoy more of the Olympic games

Using Afloat while watching the Olympics while writing a post about using Afloat while watching the Olympics!

Let me start by saying I know multitasking is bad. It can have adverse effects on your memory and make you overall less productive.

But it’s that time every two years where we have the Olympic games: a series of international sporting events spread over two weeks.

The one thing I’ve always liked about the Olympics is that so much of the experience is casually following along with the games. I usually don’t give any event my full attention, but it’s nice to have an event on in the background. With NBC streaming most of the games live through the Internet, we have a perfect way to fully participate in the magnitude of the games.

But how do you keep an eye on the games while doing other stuff (e.g. at work?)

I use a little app called Afloat” (link) which allows you to have specified windows stay at the front of your screen as well as choosing their transparency level.

I use the app frequently at work when I need to follow something on CSPAN and want to use the computer for other things. I find it easier to follow along this way than having just the audio playing in the background.

Screenshot 2014-02-09 14.08.47

After downloading and installing the program, a list of simple commands are added to the window” section of the menu bar. You choose to keep the window in the front no matter the application. Where it’s a real winner to me is that you can also choose to make that window translucent. Transparency can be toggled with a keyboard shortcut or through the menu. There is also a more detailed menu page to get the settings just right.

My main browser is Safari and I use Google Chrome for most video and streaming needs. So having Google Chrome up for this works well.

I have to position the windows just right to have enough space to do other work. It often feels cramped on my 15 inch MacBook Pro screen, especially as I am used to having my applications run full screen.

I’ve had issues, though, setting one window as transparent and in front for an application I am also using for another purpose. It can be confusing when you are switching back to that program and not know if you are in the window you want to type in or the translucent one.

But these small trade offs are worth it to monitor something while going through e-mail or doing research for another article; wether that is floor remarks from a certain member of Congress or, this time of year, watch a biathlon or luge.


February 9, 2014