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5 Mac apps for coffee-shop computing

Stay safe out there. And productive.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

As a freelance writer, I split my time between my home office, my kitchen table and coffee shops. When I'm working in a coffee shop, I need help staying focused and productive. I also want to keep my MacBook safe and its contents private during the occasional bathroom break or trip to the counter for a refill.

With that preamble out of the way, I present five Mac apps for coffee-shop computing.

1. Laptop Security Alarm

We've all faced this quandary when working in a public space: do I need to pack up my laptop and take it with me to the bathroom and potentially lose my table, or do I leave it on the table while I'm indisposed and potentially lose my laptop?

The Laptop Security Alarm app ($0.99, £0.79, AU$1.49 in the Mac App Store) doesn't guarantee that your MacBook will be there when you return from the loo, but it does increase your chances. With the app running (and your laptop plugged in), your MacBook will emit a loud siren sound if the power cord is removed from your laptop or wall outlet. It would take a bold thief to walk out of a coffee shop with a laptop sounding a piercing alarm.

2. LockItUp

If you do leave your MacBook unattended for any stretch of time in a public place, it's a good idea to log out of your account to protect your data. If you forget to do so, the LockItUp app lets you lock your MacBook remotely.

LockItUp is easy to set up and use. Install the free Mac app and also the $1.99 / £1.49 / AU$2.99 iOS app. A quick scan of a QR code pairs your two devices, after which you can use your iPhone to lock your Mac. You will then need to enter your password per usual on your MacBook to log back in and resume working.

I use LockItUp because my ancient MacBook Pro from 2011 just misses the cutoff for Bluetooth Low Energy. If you have a newer MacBook with Bluetooth LE, then you might try a proximity app such as MacID, Near Lock or Tether. With such an app, your Mac locks when you and your iPhone wander out of range and then unlocks automatically upon you return.

3. Caffeine

When I'm working on my Mac, I am constantly using my iPhone to test apps or just check Instagram. With Caffeine, my MacBook stays awake during its idle times, never dimming the screen, starting the screensaver or going to sleep. (The app is also useful when watching movies or long videos or giving presentations, though you should probably engage in both activities somewhere other than a coffee shop.)

4. Quitter

Just like your Mac, it's time to be productive when fully caffeinated. Quitter is a free Mac app that quits apps that may keep you from maximum production. Set it to hide or quit Tweetbot, Civilization and other distractions after a certain periods of inactivity.

5. Noizio

Sometimes music is too distracting as background noise to get work done. If you really want to get in the zone, try an ambient noise app like Noizio and work to the sound of rain, wind, waves or even a coffee house that doesn't include people conversing loudly and at length on their phones.