(2009 June: added two no delete editors)
A working list of tools to reduce writers’ distraction. I’ve been using some of them for a while; I was inspired by Cory Doctorow’s latest post on the matter to collect what I could together. All are free unless otherwise stated.
No backspace/delete editors
Typewriter “All you can do is type in one direction. You can’t delete, you can’t copy, you can’t paste. You can save and print. And you can switch between black text on white and green on black; full screen and window.” Freeware, all OS.
Momentum Writer Same idea, really. “Momentum Writer is the ultimate tool for distraction-free writing. Like a mechanical typewriter, users are prevented from editing previously written text. There are no specific formatting options, no scrolling, deleting, or revisions. Momentum Writer doesn’t even allow you to use the backspace key. Momentum Writer forces you to write, to move forward, to add new words. It halts the temptation to linger, revise, and correct. Momentum Writer is a typewriter for your PC.” Freeware, for Windows.
JDarkroom (works on Windows, Macs and Linux, thanks. Tris): “simple full-screen text file editor with none of the usual bells and whistles that might distract you from the job in hand.”
TextEdit (there seems to be a Mac product of the same name. The Windows website is under reconstruction so I can’t grab a description, but downloads are available.)
NotePad ++ “a generic source code editor (it tries to be anyway) and Notepad replacement written in c++ with win32 API. The aim of Notepad++ is to offer a slim and efficient binary with a totally customizable GUI.”
EditPad “a general-purpose text editor, designed to be small and compact, yet offer all the functionality you expect from a basic text editor. EditPad Lite works with Windows NT4, 98, 2000, ME, XP and Vista.” Lite is free; Pro is $50
PSPad code editor
And some so-called ‘dark room apps’ which blank out the outside world:
WestEdit “a full screen, old-school text editor and typewriter. No fuss, no distractions – just you and your text.”
Dark Room: “full screen, distraction free, writing environment. Unlike standard word processors that focus on features, Dark Room is just about you and your text.”
Q10: “a simple but powerful text editor designed and built with writers in mind.”
TextMate: “TextMate brings Apple’s approach to operating systems into the world of text editors. By bridging UNIX underpinnings and GUI, TextMate cherry-picks the best of both worlds to the benefit of expert scripters and novice users alike.” ($54)
The Mac dark room is WriteRoom “a full-screen writing environment. Unlike the cluttered word processors you’re used to, WriteRoom is just about you and your text.” ($25)
Write or Die: “web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.”
I’ve been writing in Notepad++ lately and formatting the finished work in Word or Windows Live Writer before posting. I can see a noticeable reduction in time-to-done.
Plus Notepad++ is great for so many other things.
Thanks Jeremy for this post. I write quite a bit and I have suspected that it is MS Word that has been slowing me down and making me feel like a lousy writer with all the word and grammar check!! I hate them but cant bring myself to switch them off. I know the best way to write it to trash it out and edit later.
I found JDarkroom http://www.codealchemists.com/jdarkroom/ which is a free Java ver like Darkroom. Works very well for quick edits.
Take a look at http://www.creawriter.com. It is a free distraction, full screen and configurable application.
Shameless plug, but I’ve just released my own distraction free text editor with RTF support (I need that, and I couldn’t find it elsewhere).
Notepad is good to write in for quick notes
a new distraction-free writer still in alpha stage of development http://conscience.netsons.org