I have been playing around with two products, WriteRoom and Dark Room, which allow users the ability to edit text in a completely isolated environment. Essentially, these editors give users the ability to focus on the text, and only the text. For the professional blogger/writer, one of these text editors might become invaluable to your writing process.
Some of you will find either of these applications to be worthy as your new primary text editor, but the rest of you will think they are far to primitive, but if you are the former, like one of my followers on Twitter, you will absolutely love the concept of being able to write without distraction.
Another user on Twitter messaged me stating that text editing tools were the last things that distracted him while writing. I find that the text editor I utilize happens to have a dramatic impact on how productive I am when writing. For example, I have a difficult time using web-based text editors (like the built-in WordPress editor), but I absolutely enjoy using an application like Windows Live Writer and ecto to write my articles.
These applications will probably generate no interest for quite a few of you, but I have already decided to incorporate WriteRoom into my workflow. It is a throwback that I absolutely love, and I am usually the one that loves the fancy interfaces.
WriteRoom is the first product that was created (as Dark Room is simply a clone of WriteRoom). Built for the Mac operating system (now supporting OS X 10.4 or later), WriteRoom was designed to eliminate the common distractions that are apparent with most text editing environments today. The application eliminates formatting, graphs, spacing, pictures, and more by focusing on only the most important aspect of a writing—the words.
A few features highlighted from the WriteRoom website:
- Full-screen editing Get free from your computer and its distractions. WriteRoom’s full-screen mode hides it all away leaving just you and your text behind.
- Document based auto-save Your documents are stored in standard text file formats and autosaved in the background to help protect your work in case the power goes out.
- Distraction free features The menu bar, scroll bar, and word count appear when you move your mouse to the edge of the screen.
- ‘Retro’-fit your cursor Prefer block cursors to bars? Hate blinking cursors? WriteRoom has every combination you’d want.
- Standalone or Edit-In Use WriteRoom on its own for all your text editing needs, or let WriteRoom be your ticket to full-screen editing for text in any compatible program.
WriteRoom is not without a price—$25 might be out of bounds for some, but I would urge everyone with a recent Mac based computer to at least give WriteRoom a try. There is a free 30 day trial, and that should be plenty of time to try the application out. However, the price is warranted because WriteRoom is continually upgraded—unfortunately, its Windows counterpart, Dark Room, does not receive the same benefit.
Dark Room, as mentioned before, is simply a clone of WriteRoom for the Windows platform. It is very similar in functionality, and it delivers as promised. As a matter of fact, there is almost little point in having a section for Dark Room, but there are some critical differences outside of the application itself that I must point out.
Dark Room is free, but that is also as a result of there not being as many upgrades or support. Also, and unfortunately, there is no support for Vista (yet), and this might be a turn off if you happen to use Dark Room and wish to switch to Vista in the future. Perhaps everyone should e-mail the author and ask for an upgrade. Regardless, if you are on a Windows XP machine, I think you should give it a shot—after all, it is free!
Virginia Huffernan of The New York Times put it better than I ever could have:
But if, when it comes right down to it, full screen is your holy grail, and the ultimate antidote to the bric-a-brac of Word, then you must enter the WriteRoom, the ultimate spartan writing utopia. Where Scrivener calls itself a “writer’s shed,” which suggests implements like duct tape and hoes, WriteRoom pitches itself as the way to “distraction-free writing” for “people who enjoy the simplicity of a typewriter, but live in the digital world.” With WriteRoom, you don’t compose on anything so confining as paper or its facsimile. Instead, you rocket out into the unknown, into profound solitude, and every word of yours becomes the kind of outer-space skywriting that opens “Star Wars.” What I mean is this: Black screen. Green letters. Or another color combination of your discerning choice. But nothing else.
*Emphasis added in bold type.
Oh, and did I mention that there is actually a free web-based clone of WriteRoom as well? Try DarkCopy (select full screen mode) if you want to try it out without downloading anything. I actually wrote part of this post on DarkCopy, and I really enjoy it, but you would really want to download WriteRoom or Dark Room if you wanted to work in a production environment.
Does the minimalistic full-screen view make you happy or afraid? Do you think that we have become too focused on fancy markup and formatting, that the words themselves are sometimes an after-thought?
Give WriteRoom, Dark Room, and/or DarkCopy a try and let me know what you think. It is a twist on text editing for sure, but I have already begun to believe that my productivity has improved by simply becoming less distracted.