Working with SharePoint, particularly within VPN environments, can be a focus-challenging task. Write new master page, compile new web part, wait for SharePoint to recompile (okay, more specifically ASP.NET), lose focus, fire up FireFox, browse net for 15 minutes, forget what you were working on, remember, and continue work. Now I am a BIG fan of multi-monitor setups, I feel it generally improves productivity. However, when I find myself staring at IE while waiting on SharePoint, I will often glance at my other monitor and see all those pretty desktop icons, or a tempting FireFox browser session, and I'll fill time while waiting on SharePoint.
The thought occurred to me earlier this week -- what if I could black out the rest of my screen and see ONLY the window that am currently working on? Sure, in full-screen scenarios that may be simple, but when you regularly work within VPC's and have a multi-monitor setup with different screen resolutions, the solution is not as simple. So I did a google search for this very creation and alas, I am not alone! Over at www.lifehack.org I was able to find a fantastic utility application to achieve exactly what I want, and it is called Dropcloth written by Adam Pash.
Once you launch Dropcloth it will take up residence in your systray. The "Settings" menu provides the ability to change the screen overlay, whether Dropcloth appears in the taskbar, whether Dropcloth should keep the active application above the Dropcloth, the transparency level of the overlay, and a hotkey.
When you want to stay focused on a given task and see only that window, simply press the hotkey combination, in my case Ctrl-Shift-C. The rest of your screen will black out (or whatever color you have chosen). In order to remove the dropcloth you can press the hotkey combination again and your screen will be restored.
As an added bonus, this utility is great for taking screenshots. In that instance it may be best to set the background color to #ffffff (white).