• Full-Screen and Distraction-Free

    Myriad full-screen writing programs and distraction-free text editors are available online. Each purports to be unique in its presentation despite often promising to deliver the same, basic thing: increased focus on the task at hand.

    Beyond the occasional rave review online, though, I haven’t come across much analysis or research about any one of these programs. So, I’m curious about them, their implications, and how they are pitched to users. Both the programs themselves and their descriptive pitches enable and frame the act, purpose, and value of writing in different ways. Some are very process-oriented; others are more expressive. Many exhibit a monochromatic visual style, hearkening back to simpler times.

    Certain programs invite certain kinds of writers. For instance, Writer for iPad implies concern about “destroying the voice and the organic structure of our original thought.” Meanwhile, Ommwriter “believes in making writing a pleasure once again, vindicating the close relationship between writer and paper.” Furthermore, WriteRoom “gets your computer out of the way so that you can focus on your work.” Such programs are pitched and presented more as environments than tools. They are more spaces for us to write from/within and less instruments facilitating the writing process, if it is a process at all.

    Many are available for free or at minimal cost. I encourage my fellow THATCampers to download a program or two and give ‘em a trial run prior to (or even during) our time together.

    selected directory
    FocusWriter (Linux/Mac/Windows)
    JDarkroom (Linux/Mac/Windows)
    Marave (Linux)
    Ommwriter (Mac/Windows)
    PyRoom (Linux/Mac)
    Q10 (Windows)
    WriteRoom (Mac/Windows)
    Writer (iPad)
    Writer (internet browser-based)

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2 Comments


  1. aristotlejulep says:

    This is a really interesting idea, James. I’m eager to talk about this at THATCamp.

    I’m researching materiality and delivery with regard to writing and reading technologies right now. Are you thinking of turning this into the basis of a research project?

  2. betajames says:

    I think it has the potential to become a research project, though I don’t know what form. Part of me just wants to analyze half a dozen of these full-screen/distraction-free tools in the way rhetors and compositionists have in the past with Microsoft Word and other programs. For me, there’s this weird allure about the lack of features, something almost zen-like. The absence of features is the main feature, right?

    But I’m also interested in how these tools relate to Ian Bogost’s “What is an App?” http://www.bogost.com/blog/what_is_an_app.shtml, i.e., if this parceling out of the act of writing from other aspects of the overall “process” is good or not. From my perspective, the opposite end of the spectrum isn’t Word but Scrivener, which is damn near impossible for me to use because I just can’t seem to tolerate having everything in one place (no matter how appealing that idea is).

    Another thing not mentioned above are examples of using these tools. For instance, I swear by Ommwriter now. It’s my first digital space for writing. I also know that Rob Dubbin, writer for the Colbert Report, used WriteRoom to compose “Just Let Me Check One Last Thing,” a Washington Post op-ed about going 24 hours without using Google.

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