Write In Peace With These Distraction-Free Editors

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distraction free writingHave you taken a look at a plain and simple white sheet of paper recently? If you haven’t, you really need to get away from your computer. There’s nothing more clutter-less than a clean sheet of paper. Perhaps that’s why many do their best work on it. There’s nothing wrong with fancy text editors like Microsoft Word and Google Docs of course. But isn’t there something about all that visual clutter which gets in the way of your writing?

I have felt it. Visual clutter – thanks to menus and other markup features – have often cemented my writer’s block. So, I have tried out quite a few distraction-free text editors in a grand attempt to chip away. And yes, I have won a few battles with the minimalist text editors by my side.

So, here am I rounding up the Effective Eight. Take your pick from the gang of distraction-free editors:

Q10

distraction free writing

Q10 is a free minimalistic text editor that comes in two flavors – with and without a spell checker. You can write in a full black screen that keeps you focused on just the writing. The extra features are specifically designed for writers so that they can write comfortably. The developer himself is a fiction writer, so he does know what’s required.

Features you might like:

  • The Q10 layout is completely customizable.
  • You can install Q10 or alternatively use it as a portable app in your pen drive.
  • Q10 gives you character, word, and page counts. You can also specify your own setting for page counts.
  • A timer alarm feature helps you create timed writing sessions.
  • With a “..” at the start of a paragraph, you can create notes to annotate your writings.
  • Q10 has a spell-checker, auto-corrections as you type, and quick text for frequently used words or phrases.
  • Q10 has a very nice typing sound effect that recreates the feel of a typewriter.

Operating system: Windows only.

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Ommwriter

distraction free text editor

Ommwriter is simple minimalistic word processor that is usable on the Mac, Windows, and iPad. There are two versions – Dana 1 and Dana 2 (with more audio and visual features). Dana 1 is free while Dana 2 is the paid version.

Features you might like:

  • Ommwriter gives you a full-screen canvas with a nice serene background.
  • The coolest feature on Ommwriter is probably the ambient sound effects in the background.
  • Choose between four fonts, four font sizes, three background images, three music loops, three typing sounds.
  • You can also export the finished text to PDF.

Operating system: Mac, PC, and iPad.

Read: Meet Your Writing Deadlines In A Distraction-Free Writing Environment With OmmWriter

WriteMonkey

distraction free text editor

WriteMonkey is as simple as they come when it comes to lightweight minimalist text editors. But under the simple interface, there are useful bells and whistles to give every aspiring writer some joy. Against the approximately 50 MB download of Ommwriter, WriteMonkey clocks in at just about 1.4 MB. Start out with the black background and green text for distraction free writing.

Features you might like:

  • You do not need to install WriteMonkey. Start it straight off or use it on your portable drive.
  • WriteMonkey is fully customizable with layout options. You can also create different profiles.
  • WriteMonkey has advanced statistics that tell you aspects of your writing like – word frequencies, lexical density, and approximate reading time.
  • WriteMonkey has separate downloads for language packs, dictionaries, typing sound schemes, and white noise loops.
  • WriteMonkey gives you markup support for formatting your text.

Operating system: Windows only.

Read: WriteMonkey – A Simple Text Editor For The Easily Distracted

JDarkRoom

distraction free text editor

Here is another simple full-screen text file editor without the usual trappings of a full-blown editor. It is a cross-platform text editor that needs Java 1.5 or greater to run. The Mac OS X comes pre-loaded with Java.

Features you might like:

  • At 283 KB, it is one of the more lightweight minimalistic editors around.
  • JDarkRoom remembers the last file that you were working on before closing the program.
  • JDarkRoom autosaves your work so you don’t have to remember to save it every time.
  • You can set writing goals and use JDarkRoom to track your work.

Operating system: Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Read: Eliminate Writing Distractions with JDarkRoom

TextRoom

distraction free word processor

Minimalistic, all-black full screen editors are often compared to dark rooms, as the purpose is the same. TextRoom lives up to the definition and also gives you a rich set of tools. One key difference from other editors so far in the list – you can insert images into your documents. Use it as a portable application.

Features you might like:

  • You can export your documents to Google Docs.
  • There’s a music player for playing back your own background music while working.
  • You can insert images and configure the writer with a background image.
  • The editor is completely configurable with an option to change colors and insert a background image.
  • A calendar feature allows you to set writing deadlines. You can also writing targets.
  • Brainstorming tools like a scratchpad and mindmap tool to beat writer’s block.

Operating system: Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Fedora and other Linux distributions.

Read: Two Minimalist Linux Text Editors That Make Writing Easy

Typewriter

distraction free word processor

The download bundle of Typewriter is only 146 KB and it runs on any machine which has Java installed. It is an extremely minimal writing program with features that just might make you write and not do anything else…because you can’t!

Features you might like (or dislike):

  • You can only write in one direction.
  • You cannot delete what you have written. You also cannot copy and paste. Though, you can save and print.
  • Typewriter allows you to switch between black text on white and green on black; full screen and window.

Operating system: Windows and Mac OS X.

FocusWriter

distraction free word processor

FocusWriter is an Open Source portable text editor with a nice ‘hide-away’ feature that allows you to hide the program menu and again bring it back by moving your mouse to the top edge of the screen. Otherwise the full screen interface gives you a distraction free platform for working on your writing.

Features you might like:

  • FocusWriter has theme support which let you customize its appearance. You can include your own images as background.
  • It supports multiple document formats like RTF and ODT (Open Document Format), and TXT.
  • You can open and manage multiple sessions if you are multi-tasking with different documents.
  • Timers and alarms enable you to set deadlines.

Operating system: Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Read: FocusWriter – Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor

DarkCopy

distraction free writing

DarkCopy is the only online text editor in the list. There are others of course, but let this be representative of the online tools. It is actually a web-based clone of the Mac specific WriteRoom. The feature set is absolutely bare-bones. Just open DarkCopy in your browser window and start typing. No fancy stuff here, and the only option is between a full-screen window and without.

We have covered eight minimalistic text editors here, each with their own unique appealing proposition. Some of them are sans frills, while some of them come with extras. But each text editor has one aim – to make your writing as distraction free as possible. Which one achieves this goal for you? Any of the eight on this list, or do you have your own recommendation? Put the name in the comments. Let’s see if we can grow clutter up the list with a few more worthy ones!

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39 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Joel Lee

I’ve been using WriteMonkey and Q10 (alternating when I get bored) for about a year or so. I know that some distraction-free editors can be laggy on devices without much RAM or CPU (e.g., netbooks) and that’s a big no-no for me.

Are any of the editors in this list laggy and resource-hoggy? I’d like to give some of them a try but I want to avoid the slow ones.

Saikat Basu

Hey fellow author :)

My system resources are on the lower end (1 GB RAM,1.73GHz), I found Ommwriter to be slightly laggy. The other’s were fine. I liked Q10 myself.

Joel Lee

Very cool! I’ll give all of them a try except Ommwriter, then. :D

Aaron Couch

Joel, I actually haven’t had too bad of luck with Ommwriter, although I haven’t used it extensively so I don’t know how valid my opinion is haha.

By the way Saikat, this was a great article!

Reply

Max Li

You forgot vim! Its the crown jewel of minimal editing!

Saikat Basu

VIM is more of a programmer’s editor and not what I would call a barebones writing tool. Only in that sense I didn’t include it.Otherwise it’s a pretty good editor.

Josh Muller

ViM is technically a coding editor at it’s finest. However, because of the fact it’s designed to be run on a command line, and because it has so many tools available in the background (that don’t actually show up unless you call them with their keyboard command), it is actually amazing for writing without distraction. I used Vim and LaTeX almost exclusively last year at school (with no math, science, or computer classes… all normal papers), and it was great because I never had to worry about MS Word or OO Writer doing stuff I didn’t want it to, and didn’t have to deal with formatting until I was done. Just got to focus on what I was writing.

Also, because Vi comes installed on most Macs already, and because there is an “Easy Mode” available, it makes for a great tool wherever you need it (and can be used by more than just nerds who have taken the time to learn the program)

Paul Stewart

I agree.

Reply

Dave Parrack

I love FocusWriter. Will have to check the others out now as well :)

Saikat Basu

Give Q10 a run :)

Reply

Nathan Howe

I know this dates me, but many of these writers remind me of the old OLD WordPerfect I used on my dad’s 286. When I was a kid, I could write anything with no distraction from other programs because we COULDN’T run more than one program at a time. We didn’t even have a mouse back then.

I miss that black screen with grey letters. It was such a great blank slate.

Reply

Rigoberto Garcia

Thanks Saikat. I am reviewing each of the options you propose to select the one that suits me.

Reply

VP

I’d try WriteMonkey, if only for the ability to check word frequencies and lexical density. But no Windows in our house! Do you know of any for Mac with these features? Thanks.

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Ashutosh Dave

This is really a great list of distraction free editors!! It would be better to include Sublime Text.

Saikat Basu

It is a good code editor and unfortunately not free!

Ashutosh Dave

But it can be evaluated for free with all the features!! So it is free!!

Reply

Alex Shen

I use Byword (Mac)- I like the ‘typewriter’ feature, which means that the text moves up from the central line not down from the top, so I only have to concentrate on the one line- plus the blank space below the line helps keep me motivated to keep writing, as if its saying ‘you’re not done yet’ or something. I do like Ommwriter from the few times I’ve used it though.
Thanks for the other suggestions though :)

Reply

Robert

I’ve previously tried three of the programs listed in the article, and I’ve settled on FocusWriter as my current distraction-free editor. I tried both WriteMonkey and Ommwriter in the past, but for some reason settled on FocusWriter.

I think “distraction-free” writing software is bound to be a finicky choice for most users, because what one finds distracting is bound to be different for each user. For example, I found “Ommwriter” to be fairly distracting with its “soothing” ambiance, but I’m sure that many others would find its environment to be perfect for setting the mood to write!

I don’t remember what it was that made me switch from WriteMonkey to FocusWriter, but I’m certainly open to checking out some of the others in the list. Q10 and TextRoom have piqued my interest, so I’m downloading them now!

Thanks for the informative article!

Saikat Basu

What you say is correct. As my friend Joel finds out, writing on one gets boring after a while. With these options you cans switch and try them all. In fact, you can even use MS Word as a distraction free tool. I wrote about it quite a few months back –
How To Turn MS Word 2007 Into A Minimalist Text Editor
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-turn-ms-word-2007-into-a-minimalist-text-editor/

Reply

shitotaku

is still use Zenwriter

Saikat Basu

Very nice. I missed this one. The 60 MB download is a bit on the weighty side, but downloading and trying it out now. Hope it does not lag.
http://www.beenokle.com/zenwriter.html

Reply

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Great alternative if you get bored with word.

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R. Adam Quigley

You missed Storybook http://www.novelist.ch/joomla/index.php/en/about-storybook
Best one I have used to date.

Saikat Basu

I focused on the simpler tools here – writing tools for the minimalist. Storybook though nice, is a full-featured book writing application. Thanks for the link though.

Reply

VP

If anyone else is looking for word frequency stats for Mac like I was, I found Word Counter, offered free by supermagnus.com. I also like its Progress Tracker feature, in which you can set a goal for a total number of words you want to write. A yellow icon will let you know you’re 90 percent there and a red icon means you’ve met or exceeded your goal.

Still, it would be better to have the word frequency stat inside a text editor, as with WriteMonkey, so if anyone knows of one that works with Mac …

Saikat Basu

Thanks for the recommendation. I am sure lots of people on a Mac can use this.

Reply

Wanda Ammon

thanks for providing the list. A while back I was looking these type of text editors; will try some of your suggestions, just in time ..

Reply

Tom

Interesting set of recommendations. From some of your comments (black backgrounds) I think my personal style is quite different from the author’s. And some of the suggestions in the comments I would certainly disagree with. But then I always say that best word processor is the one you KNOW. I know folks who absolutely swear by VI, but there are too many arcane key combinations that I had to look up so I couldn’t just do the writing (same went for Word Start, Word Perfect, emacs, etc). But if you know the tool, and it works for your style, that’s the best one to use. When the tool does not get in the way, then its working!

Saikat Basu

I agree with you there completely. But one good thing about these minimalistic editors is that the learning curve isn’t steep at all. It’s just fire them up and write.

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Greg Laden

Well, the simplest, cleanest editing screen possible is the one that comes with emacs so configured.

Yeah, sure, I know it is also an operating system, but that comes in handy sometimes. Like, if you have to sort some text in your document, select the text, alt-shift-| and now you can enter a bash command on that text (sort to sort it, wc to count the words, whatever). Meanwhile, when you are typing you’ve just got this screen and a minimal one line menu bar which you can turn off.

emacs. the one true editor.

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Aaron Couch

These are excellent recommendations! I’ve found them to be very useful for writing that I can just dive into, which is typically creative writing for me. But for writing where I am referring to references on the internet such as blog posts, articles or research papers (when I was in college), I found programs such as these hard to use because I typically have two windows side by side – one with my writing, the other with my resource(s).

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Luke Brannon

I’ve never tried any of these as whenever I write I tend to use Office, however, these do seem great alternatives for those creative writers who can get distracted easily (myself included) as well as some of them being able to work on really old machines which again helps in the battle to upcycle old computers into making them working machines. imagine you had an old cheap netbook, Office may run slow but one of these variants or one of my favourites Notepad ++ (due to it’s programming abilities) on the netbook will work perfectly as a portable writers journal.

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Steven Kim

Just might jump into this :)

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luccava

Great, I’ll take a look on these. Thank you!

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Paul Stewart

What about vi or VIM? I use it in the command line, and it’s the (IMHO) the easist and fastest way to write.

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Jo Brenden

What is the best distraction free ONLINE text editor? I loved mytextfile.com, but it appers it has gone dead.
I am looking for a online text editor with black backgrund, small font and wide space for writing.

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Anonymous

I’ve been using WriteMonkey and like it so far. But a further look on some tools mention here makes me want to give them a try and TextRoom really grabs my attention. Thanks

Reply

Nikhil Chandak

Q10 seems to be cool !

Reply

Brenden Barlow

while i dont write enough for this to be of much use right now, i feel in the future it will be very helpful.

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