When it comes to using a simple text editor, Apple’s TextEdit application feels outdated for me. It seems like Apple has forgotten about it while other third-party developers (e.g., Dragon Dictate, TextWrangler, and these free editors) have gone on to produce more advanced text editors that work seamlessly across Mac and mobile platforms.
One such example is the distraction free writing program, WriteRoom ($9.99), developed by HogBaySoftware. While this application is not free, we have added it to our Best Mac Apps page because of its ease of use and handy features that don’t exist in Apple’s nearly out-of-date default text editor. WriteRoom is also certainly a great alternative to Microsoft Word and Pages when you simply need to write without all the bells and whistles for page layouts and advanced formatting. You can purchase WriteRoom in the Mac App Store, or download a trial copy from the developers’ site.
WriteRoom is ready for typing right after you launch it. It contains the basic features found in TextEdit, including format menu items (e.g., font size, color, underline, italics), standard editing tools for checking and highlighting spelling errors and grammar as you type, (including automatic spelling correction), and the ability to write in Rich or Plain Text documents.
In case you don’t know, Rich Text documents (which end in .rtf), save edits you make directly into your documents; whereas in Plain text documents the formatting is not retained when the document is opened in say TextEdit or Word. Unlike TextEdit, WriteRoom allows you to select which type of document you want to create right from the menu bar (see screenshot above).
A few other unique menu bar items you might find useful in WriteRoom are keyboard shortcuts for selecting the last word, sentence, or paragraph you type. This feature saves you the trouble of using your mouse or trackpad to make selections for deleting, copying, or formatting selected text.
Another menu bar item is a collection of statistical information for getting word, character, page, and line counts. You can also have WriteRoom automatically start tracking word count and the time you spend on writing when you start a new document. You can also select to have WriteRoom calculate a rough estimate of the time it will take for readers to read your document. All this selected statistical information is displayed on the top of the document window.
Like TextEdit, WriteRoom also saves previous versions of a document which you can browse and re-open. You can also scale the viewing size of documents in WriteRoom instead of having to increase the font size to better view text as you type. This feature exists in TextEdit as well, but WriteRoom includes presets for viewing text at different percentage increments.
A couple of advance features in WriteRoom include Typewriter Scrolling, which when enabled keeps the last typed line of text and the cursor in the middle of the document so you don’t have to look at the bottom of the screen as you type. WriteRoom contains Full Screen and Full Screen Single viewing that allow for distraction free writing. Both features work the same way, but if you’re using two or more monitors you can select Full Screen Single, which will only be applied to the monitor the document is on, while allowing you to view documents and other opened windows on the other monitor.
When you seriously want to get writing done this feature is highly recommended, because it puts the document you’re working on, front and center, and hides all other applications, including the desktop. You can also select to have WriteRoom highlight the current line you’re typing on which might useful for when working on a smaller laptop Mac.
You can even customize or select a different theme for documents that includes your own font styles, line spacing, as well as adding a background color or image to documents and windows. In other words, you can customize WriteRoom to make it more appealing and attractive for you as a writer. The application includes a few built-in themes (found under the Windows menu) that formats and displays your document in Print Manuscript, Terminal, or TextEdit style and orientation.
Another unique and handy feature about WriteRoom is that it integrates with HogBaySoftware’s QuickCursor (Free). Say you want to type and edit text in WriteRoom while using another application like Mail or Safari. With QuickCursor you can open WriteRoom from within any text application, type and edit what you want to write, and then when you hit the assigned keyboard shortcuts, QuickCursor will copy and paste what you type back into the application you started off typing in.
Likewise, if you start typing text in say a Mail document, you can use a keyboard shortcut to activate QuickCursor, and it will copy your existing text and paste it in a new WriteRoom document where you can continue to write and edit. In other words WriteRoom can become the main text editor you use in almost any writing situation on your Mac.
There is also an iOS version of WriteRoom which works only in Plain Text, and syncs with Dropbox so that documents can be shared between the OS X and iOS versions of WriteRoom.
WriteRoom’s clean and minimal user interface may seem too simplistic upon first view, but it is packed with advance features for heavy duty writers and power Mac users.
Let us know what you think of WriteRoom. Do you already use it? How is it working for you?