Taking your pen to hand – or more often keyboard, in these times – is not always a simple undertaking. That’s not to say writing is bothersome. No, rather the opposite. Writing is wonderful, awesome, enchanting, and a hundred other things. The problem then is that there are too many distractions. Loud noises, flashing lights….not just outside of your window, but on your computer as well.
Perhaps you have better concentration than I do, but for me my best writing happens in a comfortable, reliable and distraction-free place. If you want to, as Neil Gaiman said, “Make Good Art“. Make yourself a beverage, find comfortable seating and open up a decent writing tool.
Maybe you’ve already encountered your own diamond in the desert. As we well know, there’s no shortage of great Mac apps. But if you’re using an office suite or notepad application to spin sentences (as opposed to writing reports), you’re definitely missing something out. Allow me to introduce you to Byword, a beautiful, simplistic writing tool.
The Byword writing app is a text editor available for Mac OS X and iOS. In this article, we’ll mostly be focusing on the desktop client. What you should know starting out is that Byword is no traditional office text editor or notepad application. Rather, it’s a very simplistic rich text and markdown editor, intended to be completely (or as much as possible) distraction-free.
It’s not just a prettier alternative to TextEdit, though. Byword is completed with a variety of features that assist you while you’re writing your next novel, article or literary doodle. It’s a simple package, all in all, but very rich in usability. Add in other techniques to help you focus and stay productive for a killer combination.
Rich Formatting Versus Markdown
By default, Byword will function as a markdown editor, similar to FountainPen which was previously reviewed on MakeUseOf. In case you’re wondering, Markdown is a way to impose styling (for example, bold text or headers) on a document in plain text, all without hindering reading the document in its current form.
If markdown editors are not your cup of tea, don’t worry. You’ll be able to switch to rich text formatting in the settings. These formatting options are a far cry from what you’d find in most rich text environments, but Byword hopes to offer what you really only need to structure your writing.
This covers three different text sizes, the usual bold, italic underlining, alignment, bullet lists and highlights. A nice finish is the formatting pop-over, which is activated by pressing command+T, and lets you stylize currently selected text.
One of the first things you do when you don’t want to be distracted is close your door. The analogous action on your computer is to put your application in full-screen. Byword can be put full screen by pressing the Command and Enter keys on your keyboard.
Your text is centered on the screen and Byword’s word and character counters are still visible on the bottom of your screen in a light grey. Apart from that, there’s absolutely nothing. It may sound strange to describe it so, but it’s a view that I absolutely love. Especially when you switch the color profile from white to black in the application settings, as you can see in the screenshot above.
Line & Paragraph Focus
Another two cool features that Byword adds to the mix are line and paragraph focus. The idea of paragraph focus is simple: the paragraph you’re working in looks normal while the rest of the document is greyed out. Not the best idea for documents where you need overview at all times, but good for almost any other scenario.
Line focus is similar, only the current line is spared instead of the entire paragraph.
Typewriter mode offers another novel way to keep your focus on the text you’re currently working on. Not through shading, though, but through placement. Like the typewriters of old, this mode puts the line you’re working on in the vertical center of your screen. Start typing somewhere else, and it readjusts. Not only is this a great way to keep focus, it also does a lot to prevent eye fatigue.
What text editor do you normally use, or do you use more than one? Let us know in the comments section below!