Writing isn’t easy, even if you’re a professional writer. Distractions are part of the problem. Computers make the task of writing much easier, but they also can delay you or frustrate you. Facebook isn’t but a click away, and Word’s mess of buttons and formatting options sometimes hinders as much as it helps.
That’s where a simple writing utility for Mac can be helpful. FountainPen is one such utility. It aims to eliminate distractions and provide a simple, no-fuss interface with minimal formatting. Does it offer value, or is it just a fancy version of Notepad? Let’s find out.
When you open FountainPen you are presented with a thin, simple window. On my MacBook it takes up about a third of the display. Instead of using a black-on-white color scheme, the default configuration uses a beige background. The idea is that this better approximates the color of high-quality writing paper.
Perhaps that seems silly to you, and if so, this might not be the software for you. The simplicity of FountainPen isn’t looking to enhance functionality. Instead, looks to make the writer’s experience better. The black-on-beige color scheme adds ambiance. It’s also customizable, so if you don’t like it, you can change it to whatever you want.
There are only a handful of features included in this editor, which I’ll talk about in just a moment. This means there isn’t much of an interface. Speed and intuitiveness are improved as a result. I like Microsoft Word for Mac and I usually use it as my primary text editor, but I must admit that it can feel slow on my older MacBook. It drags when I try to save files and sometimes lags when I move between different documents. FountainPen has no such issues.
A Focus On Writing
You’ll find a few features on this app that reinforce its focus on helping writers write.
One is the Goal button at the top of the app’s window. Clicking on this lets you specify a word count goal and lets you set a time limit for you goal.
Once you’ve set a goal, the progress you’ve made towards it will appear as a percentage at the bottom of the app window. You’ll also see a countdown towards your time limit.
Another useful feature is the dictionary. Opening it gives you information as provided by the New Oxford American Dictionary. The search function is super-quick, so using the built-in dictionary is much easier than trying to search for the same information via your web browser.
Don’t let the stripped-down appearance fool you. While there are only a few options in the main app window, going to the Composition and Edit menus will reveal some extra functionality. There’s a spell check, some formatting options and even a text-to-speech option.
Up On Markdown
FountainPen uses Markdown, a simple text markup language that allows for the conversion of simple text documents into basic HTML. Its primary focus is on blogging. Text written in a Markdown compatible editor can easily be exported into a blog-friendly format.
I could go on about how it works, but one of its creators, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, has already made an excellent tutorial available on his site.
FountainPen makes this simple language even easier to learn by offering built-in output rendering. Clicking the Output button at any time will offer a nearly instant example of what your Markdown compatible text will look like when it’s used on a web page.
For some people, this will prove to be the make-or-break feature of the software. I’m happy to report that it works smoothly and appears to render accurately.
Writers who don’t need the advanced formatting features found in an office suite will probably enjoy FountainPen. It’s particularly good for bloggers who find themselves distracted by the Internet. Though it has no built-in export feature for any blogging platform, the use of Markdown makes it easy to post content written with this software to any blog that allows direct entry of HTML.
You can download FountainPen for free from the app’s website on SourceForge.
What do you think? Is FountainPen a nice tool, or does other software eclipse it? Let us know in the comments.