Tag Archives: writing technology

Distraction-Free Writing Programs

As mentioned in a previous post, I partook in NaNoWriMo 2011, and rather than use my beloved WriteMonkey like I did for NaNoWriMo 2009, I used yWriter 5. Recently, I’ve tried a few other distraction-free writing programs that are currently out there, and I’ll give you a quick review of those I tried.

* Just as a side not, I tried Scrivener again for the second time in as many years, and I still don’t like it. While certain areas are customizable, its layout and format just rub me the wrong way. While some areas in it are customizable, its layout and format just rub me the wrong way. I’m sure it’s fine for what it is, some people even claim to “live” in Scrivener, but I just can’t. A pen and notebook are more organized. I find Scrivener messy and aesthetically very unpleasing. That’s all I’ll say about that!

CreaWriter

Creawriter was the first distraction-free writing program I tried. It’s easy on my memory, which is important because I use a laptop that likes to overheat a lot. There are two versions, a free and donor version (any donation over 5€ accepted) . In the free version, the background, background transparency, and background sound file is customizable, and typing sounds are donor-only. Fonts are limited to three basic fonts (mono, serif, and sans serif), and font sizes come in only three options (small, medium, large).

I give it a 5 out of 10. Visual customization is good, though the white “wings” where the buttons are on are a little distracting (they disappear when you start typing). I feel that the buttons on the right could be designed better. Personally, I prefer something more customizable, and while typing sounds are a little perk in these sorts of programs, I find it a little strange that they’d leave it out even in a free version. See their website (towards the bottom of their site) to see what more you get with the donor version. Or click the thumbnails below to see if you like it!

  

OmmWriter

OmmWriter: I really like it, but it eats at my memory. If I turned its preset background music off, I may far better with it (for I hate typing on a laptop whose internal CPU temperature is 174C … you do the math), but otherwise, it does tend to eat my RAM and CPU.

It has a very Apple feel, and it figures because OmmWriter was originally for Mac. I’m happy to see it available for Microsoft because I really like it. Font is limited to three typefaces, four different font sizes, it does keep a word count at the bottom of your writing area, and the writing area is fully movable and resizable. This program is very visually appealing. The only downside is that it becomes just another full-screen writing program if all those nice typing sounds and background music is turned off. Background, background music, and typing sounds are not customizable, though the donor version ($4.11+, the amount is up to you) gives you quite a few more backgrounds, music, and typing sounds to enjoy.

Easy on the eyes, and recommended if you’re into a very clean and simple program. I give it a 8 out of 10 for the minimalism and aesthetic softness of it. The music gets a little loud (earphones recommended) and I didn’t find an option to turn it down other than turning down my volume, which is a little unfortunate. I like those ambient typing sounds!

Focus Writer

Focus Writer reminds me of a basic text editor (like WordPad) with the functionality and snazziness of Write Monkey. With background pictures, and the option to not be in full screen mode. You can create entire savable themes, choosing any background picture (with the option to tile, stretch, or center), any font and color in your computer to switch to any mood you’re in with a few clicks. There’s a timer that comes with the program (set for word count or time) and did I mention you don’t have to keep it full-screen? I know, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of “distraction-free” writing, but sometimes alt-tabbing for whatever reason out of a full-screen program gets a little … tedious. It also has a built-in spellcheck (it can be turned off).

The only so-called problem I had with FW was that the typing sounds had to be manually changed, as in, you have to go to the folder you installed it into and replace the typing sound file with something else (I would presume you need to keep the same file name, so back up the old one if you want it back!). But that’s negligible. No background music, but I think it helps with how much memory it eats, because FW doesn’t eat too much of my memory. I give FW a 9.9 out of 10. I’m sure there has to be something wrong with it, I just haven’t found it yet. Of all the three programs I tried here, FW comes out on top. Tips are welcome for the programmer!

  

I’ll save my review of yWriter 5 for another post. I enjoyed it, but well, call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer keeping all my notes and timelines and character sketches hand-written in a notebook in front of me. I will say, that out of all those writing programs like Scrivener, yWriter (free!), Liquid Story Binder, WriteItNow, CeltX (free!), RoughDraft, PageFour, the list goes on, yWriter is my writing program of choice. Next to MS Word, of course. Questions and comments are welcome!

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Articles of the Week July 24-30


Articles of the Week May 22-28

I was a little MIA this week, but I hope these links make up for my absence!

 


Write Monkey

Like many geeks, I enjoy trying new programs, new platforms, new games, new everything–as long as I can afford it. So last time I could afford anything, I got myself Word 2003, as well as downloading the Word 2010 Starter version. Now that’s all I use for editing and formatting my manuscripts as it has some pretty snazzy features and is capable of doing most everything you’d like to do with your document. As far as document processors go, anyway.

But when you write, do you find yourself constantly distracted by finding a better “synonym,” finding out you spent fifteen minutes trying to find a nice font to write in (I’m a font fiend), going back to fix that red squiggly line under that word you could have sworn you spelled correctly, hitting ignore on that green squiggly line claiming you wrote a Sentence Fragment (I know you can turn off the latter two but the “but-but” prevents me), or anything else that almighty MS Word / OpenOffice / etc. has to offer?

Well, I’ll let you, dear reader, in on a little secret of mine: I didn’t write my last completed story in MS Word. All 130,000+ words of my story was written in this free writing program called Write Monkey. I had a dictionary on my desk, and that was it. Misspells never haunted me. Sentence fragments, run-ons, and every other grammar issue didn’t glow on the screen. Wanted to use another word? I put it in parentheses and left it for editing time–which I didn’t do until I wrote “The End.”

Another nifty feature of Write Monkey also allowed me to use another technique: whenever I opened Write Monkey, it opened to the last document I was working on from the last paragraph. So the first (atrocious) paragraph of my book never stared at me from the get-go.  Heck, I didn’t even know what I wrote in the previous page.

Now let me show you this amazing distraction-free program, which is probably one of the most excellent writing experiences I’ve ever had.

The main perk: Your entire focus is upon the words on the screen. Nothing else. It’s just you, the keyboard, and your writing project.

When you open Write Monkey, it has a small starter bubble thingy (what are they officially called?) with a different quote on it, while the program quickly opens in the background, as shown here:

That was the quote I got when I took these screenshots. Oh my, you also get a preview of the first few paragraphs of my latest story. But notice the layout: you can adjust where the text will type (as indicated by those line markers–I like to have some space at the bottom of the page, hence, why I raised the bottom border). Time is on the top right, word count in the center, and you also have an option of a word count goal (or a timing goal; i.e., write for 1 hour and 2 minutes) and it will keep progress of that goal. You can turn all those off too, if you want. You can also change the entire color scheme as well as save profiles of that scheme and everything else, as I will show you in a little bit. Me? I can’t get enough of black and hot pink. I wrote in black and green for my last novel. Getting that nostalgic Apple computer feeling back.

Note that the program takes up the entire screen–covers your taskbar, everything. 100% distraction-free.

Now here’s what happens when you right-click on any area of the screen:

Lots of options! Note that Write Monkey also has a similar “synonym” option, but I don’t use it because it will open up an external dictionary/encyclopedia/thesaurus (whatever you want to add to the program) in your internet browser (I have a fondness for Free Dictionary since a comprehensive list of synonyms and antonyms are displayed after the definition).

Now here’s what happens when I select “Preferences” which is your control panel for how you want the program to run. “Progress” selection above “Preferences” lets you set up your progress bar. “Layout” tab lets you customize your writing pane, etc.

Another tab:

Pretty self-explanatory.

Another perk of this program is that you can select typing sounds! I’ve got the ole’ Daisy wheel turned on. Clicks and clacks as you type (because the sounds your keyboard makes are totally lame), dings when you hit “enter” and everything else. The site also provides other typing sounds that you can download.

No ads, no popups bothering you to do anything. This is a 100% free program through and through. When you download the zip file from the site, you won’t even have to go through an installation procedure–that’s how simple this program is! Just unzip the folder in the zip to wherever you want, link it to wherever and copy the program exe file to the Desktop, or wherever you want it (I have it in my ObjectDock for uber fast access.

And that is what program I use to write. Here’s the link to download Write Monkey, if you don’t feel like scrolling all the way to the top to find it.