The Pomodoro technique is a time management methodology based on the idea that using a timer to break work down into 25-minute segments with breaks in between enhances alertness and focus. Focus Booster is a free tool for implementing the Pomodoro technique. (OK, we know you're wondering: "Pomodoro" is Italian for tomato, a legacy of the tomato-shaped kitchen timer the technique's creator used as a student.)
Focus Booster automatically installs Adobe AIR, which basically lets you run Web apps on your desktop without a browser. Focus Booster is a very simple tool, more like a widget than an app. Its main interface is a narrow black rectangle with a green Play icon and a counter set to 25:00. Clicking a small "i" on the interface toggled open a panel that let us set the session and break length, activate sounds, and select an always-on-top feature. We set our session and break lengths to 1 minute each for testing purposes; however, it seems that 5 minutes is the shortest break interval allowed. We think breaks should be at least this long, but the tool would be more useful, or at least more flexible, if it allowed shorter intervals. Nevertheless, we clicked the Play button, which triggered the countdown with a brief stopwatch sound and displayed a semi-opaque Session 01 message. During our session, a green progress bar slowly filled the interface, changing to warmer colors as it neared completion. When our session ended, Focus Booster rang an alarm bell and immediately started our break period. When that was done, Session 02 started. Stopping and restarting a session early also advanced this counter.
We could minimize the program's interface and drag it around the desktop; it even becomes semitransparent while being dragged, which helps you see where you're sticking it. However, there seem to be no options for changing the interface colors or skin. Still, the color-changing bar shows where you are in your session at a glance, even peripherally, and the black offers high contrast. We can't say much about the Pomodoro technique itself, other than to note that it's an interesting concept. Focus Booster seems the ideal tool for implementing it.