Lately though, I’ve become enamoured with the new batch of very light weight, word processing apps that let you focus on your work rather than on the formatting and layout of your document. Office style word processors of today are full of menus, options and toolbars, and crowd your screen in such a way that it starts to be a source of distraction.
Maybe for business environments all of that crud makes sense, but when you want to sit down and dump your ideas into a file, and not be distracted, all of that busy “User Interface” seems to get in the way.
These new apps, which I first discovered on the iPad, share a same philosophy: present the user with a blank sheet of paper. On most cases there are no menus nor toolbars at all just a blank sheet of paper and a cursor blinking, waiting for you to start typing. On the iPad, a gesture on the screen will usually result in getting a menu for the limited amount of things you can do with your text: save it, spell check it, do limited formatting on it, save it to a Dropbox account, etc.
On the PC counterparts, moving the mouse up to the top of the screen will pull down the menu bar with the before mentioned options. Some programs will give you a very unobtrusive counter for words, paragraphs, and or pages written so that you can keep an eye on your output.
The latest of these programs that I have tried is called: FocusWriter. It’s a beautiful, Free, light weight, cross-platform program that works on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It’s so tiny, in fact, that it will even run really well on the Raspberry Pi, which is where I’m writing this on today.
The program clears the screen, presents you with a blank page to start writing and then… just gets out of the way. Even the font is beautiful.
Right away I can think of this as a great tool for schools on a budget. Want to get kids interested in creative writing in your school, but don’t have a very large budget?
$35.00 Raspberry Pi,
$10.00 Keyboard and Mouse,
$10.00 Power Adapter,
$20.00 SD Card,
$10.00 for a really nice case,
$150.00 for a monitor
For $235.00 you can have a Raspberry Pi Workstation that you could not only use for teaching kids to write, but also to get them interested in learning to program. But that, of course, is topic for another post.
A few days ago I read an article about how George R. R. Martin writes his Game of Thrones books on and old PC with DOS and WordStar. He says he loves how the program just gets out of the way and lets him concentrate on his writing. So, maybe for real serious writers FocusWriter could also be a great option to leave DOS behind and move on up to a more modern, but always unobtrusive workspace.
I’m sad to report that there’s no version of FocusWriter for iOS yet. However there is no shortage of writing apps on that platform. The one I like to use (even though it’s not free) is called IA Writer. It changes your on-screen keyboard to something that is perfect for writing long-prose. Truly a well thought out app as well.