Write Without Distractions
Modern computers are chock full of features and widgets and icons and gizmos, but when you’re trying to focus, it is all just noise. There is something to be said for an old green or amber monitor, showing nothing but your immediate task.
Update: Distraction-free text editing has a new contender. Check out my review of WriteMonkey.
Dark Room for Windows
Over a year ago I was impressed with Dark Room, a simple, full-screen text editor for Windows. It is a full-screen text editor with no distractions. However, though it serves its purpose and is nice in some respects, using it is a chore. The biggest problem is that it feels slow. Wait, the biggest problem has to be that it lacks find-and-replace functionality. Seriously, though Dark Room works, it feels like it’s an unfinished project.
Dark Room Editing
Dark Room Preferences
Distraction-Free Text Editors
So Dark Room is a decent choice for Windows users looking for a simple, full-screen text editor, but it has some problems.
So, are there any other options? Yes, there are.
jDarkRoom is a Java-based alternative. Since it’s Java-based, it will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Its feature set is limited. Also, at least on my Windows XP system, there was a serious problem with distracting graphical artifacts, which kind of defeats the purpose of distraction-free writing.
WestEdit is a Windows application. It works, but to me it feels too lacking in features to use or recommend.
Q10, a Windows application, has built-in spell checking, font selection, find-replace, a note feature, configurable document statistics, a writing alarm, adjustable typing sounds, auto-correct and “quick text” word expansion, and several other nice features. Very nice.
Writeroom, from Hog Bay Software, is the original distraction-free editor for the Mac. It costs about $25, though you can dig around and find an older version for free. (Oh, well, I did the digging for you. See the Writeroom Releases page for old versions.)
Since I don’t have a Mac handy, here is a wee screen shot from the Writeroom website. As you can see, it features a hip, shiny look. So it is a superb choice for shiny Apple customers.
Writer is web-based, and for what it is, not too bad. However, there are a few problems with this concept. First, web-based storage: I know it’s hip but letting someone else store my documents seems foolish. Second, it is not full-screen, so you’re left with the browser and anything around it to distract you. (However, you can get around a lot of this with a full-full-screen mode on your browser. A Firefox Addon called Fuller Screen works well, removing all browser chrome and making the website truly full-screen.) Writer does, on the other hand, have some handy features; send to email or a content management system (here again, you give them your userid and password—yikes!), download as text or PDF, and print. Interesting, but not compelling for any but the most trivial writing.
DarkCopy is another web-based text editor with a full-screen mode and the ability to save as a text file. There’s not much more to this editor, so it might suffice for the odd job, but unless you can’t use anything else, I don’t see a compelling reason to use this one. The full-screen mode doesn’t work so well for me, but nothing about DarkCopy makes me want to figure out what the problem is. Not bad, but no big deal.
Which distraction-free text editor is the best choice?
For Windows users, Q10 is the way to go. It’s fast and feels solid. The other choices work but are outshined by Q10.
For Mac users with cash left over after buying their overpriced systems, Writeroom is the standard-bearer; for those left indigent by Apple, the free JDarkRoom should work okay.
Linux users can use JDarkRoom or one of the web-based alternatives like Writer or DarkCopy.