I’ve noticed a big push lately toward writing free of distractions. I would guess that any writers out there reading this already know what I’m talking about, but for everyone else, let me clarify…I don’t actually mean turning off your cell phone, logging out of facebook and twitter and locking yourself in a writing dungeon. I’m actually referring to software, word processors specifically, that base themselves on the concept that less is more. There is a veritable cornucopia of tools at a writer’s disposal that strip out most of the bells and whistles from word processors. What they leave for you is basically just the writing pane.
I am a long time user of Microsoft Word. Most people on the planet are aware of it and all of it’s plentiful features. Some of those features are tremendously useful. However, a growing number of people seem to have very short attention spans these days (must be the video games, eh?) and feel distracted by all the options, toolbars, and tabs. While there are options to turn off much of that in Word, some users find it confusing or just too much work to customize it to their liking.
Since I enjoy trying new things, I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and test out some of these distraction-free writing programs. What I discovered is, it doesn’t really matter to me, either way. I have never once felt distracted by Microsoft Word. The real distraction for me has always been everyday life. Being a stay at home dad and an author is a unique challenge. Most of my distractions come in the form of housework, preparing dinner and helping with homework; things I can’t turn off in an options menu.
But I do get the point; too many features can be distracting for a lot of people. For me, personally, I found that nearly ever program I tried out, including a couple of the most popular ones, were too stripped down. They were too void of features for me. I’m not going to point any of these programs out that I didn’t find useful, but if I can’t do simple tasks such as indent the first line of a paragraph or put things in italics, then it’s not for me. Sometimes less is just what it sounds like…less.
I did, however, find a few distraction-free word processors that were stripped down enough, but still offered some useful, refreshing features. Here’s a quick list of my favorite distraction-free word processors:
Writing without distraction
- WriteMonkey – With WriteMonkey, you get the best of both worlds. Well, maybe not the best, but you at least get the really good of both worlds. WriteMonkey is lightweight and easy to use. It provides the writer with a completely distraction free writing environment, but it does come with a plethora of features, as well. While working in the writing pane, simply right click anywhere and a menu style list opens, displaying all the options available. WriteMonkey is a tremendously useful and innovative mix of distraction free and fully featured.
- Noisli – Noisli is one of my favorite distraction-free word processors. It is minimalist online writing software that provides background noises to help you relax, stay productive and/or drown out the rest of the world. While it is missing some of the things I want in a word processor, it does have some interesting features I really enjoy; and it does allow formatting with markdown.
- yWriter – yWriter is a word processor that is distraction free and free of charge. It’s main focus is helping an author organize thoughts and ideas into a useful medium, minus all the glitz and polish of a program like Scrivener. It is especially useful for novels or screenplays, but it is flexible enough to stretch with your creativity.
- OmmWriter – OmmWrier is a writing application built for calm, relaxing, disturbance-free writing. It offers a full-screen writing environment, tranquil background images, ambient music, and a variety of typing sounds to soothe and relax you as you work. OmmWriter is available for PC, Mac, and even iPad, so you can focus on writing no matter where you are. “Best experienced with headphones.”
Draft – I actually mentioned this online writing software recently in my list of essential writing tools. It is a sleek tool for easy to use, distraction-free writing. Draft also puts many, many excellent features at the writer’s disposal, without them being plastered all over the page. And for those writers craving even less distractions, Draft has what they awesomely call Hemingway Mode. Hemingway Mode removes the writer’s ability to edit or change anything in their document. The idea being that the urge to edit when you should be creating can be a monumental distraction. This mode takes that away. All the features, including limited formatting, are conveniently available through small menus that expand when moused over. Draft also allows markdown. The feature list can be viewed at the link above.
Have you tried any of these? What software do you use when writing?