Some apps just don’t make sense at first. Grandview was definitely one of those for me. I love writing apps, and own almost every one available for the Mac. Yet, I could never wrap my head around the reason for Grandview.
Until I tried it out today, since its free right now in the App Store. To my amazement, it clicked for me. I’d still say it’s not for everyone, but here’s what I like about Grandview, and why I just wrote this article in it.
It’s all about focus
Grandview is perhaps the simplest app in the world, at least at first glance. You launch it, press CMD+Shift+A to start using it, and your whole screen goes white. No cursor, no menus, nothing. All you can do is start typing. As you do so, you’ll start off with a large font that shrinks to fit your whole word on the screen. Yes, word. Hit space or return, and your screen goes back to plain white.
There’s a bit more going on behind the scenes, though, which is why Grandview is useful for more than just showing off that your Mac’s keyboard works. Just keep typing, then add punctuation at the end of your sentence, and you’ll see a preview of your whole sentence come on the screen. Press return or space again, though, and you’re back to blank whiteness. Your arrow keys won’t work, but you can hit delete and go back on what you’ve already typed.
Then, if you really need the whole view, to see everything you’ve written down, just tap CMD+=. This will open the whole document you’ve typed up, looking much like OmmWriter with a white background, or perhaps a less strongly designed iA Writer. Here, you’ll still have no curser, but you can select text with your mouse or with Shift+arrow keys.
And that’s it?
If that was all there was to Grandview, it’d be a slightly eccentric simple writing app, one that bordered on unusuabality. There’s no spell check, no simple ways to edit your text, no Markdown support, no iCloud sync. But that’s not what it’s designed for.
Grandview is designed to give you a simple way to write your thoughts down without being distracted by anything else, even what you’ve already written. Stanley Fish says to be a good writer, you have to love sentences. Grandview gives you the chance to savor each word and sentence you write, and not worry about anything else. Perhaps it’s minimalism taken to the extreme, but as a writer, I was surprised myself to find how much I enjoyed writing in Grandview. It’s perhaps the easiest way to type up something quick, and with a quick keyboard shortcut, it almost feels more like it’s built into your Mac than a separate app.
Then, Grandview makes itself very useful by working both with text files and your clipboard. When you close Grandview by pressing CMD+Shift+A again, everything you’ve typed will be copied to your clipboard, ready to be pasted into another app. That way, instead of using an app like QuickCursor to edit text from, say, a web form in another app, you can just use Grandview to do it all. Tap the shortcut, write, then tap the shortcut again and hit CMD-V in your other app’s text box.
If that’s not enough, you can tap CMD+s at any time while you’re writing, and save your text as a .txt file on your Mac. Or, you can go back and find anything you’ve typed in Grandview recently from its menubar, or even open a txt file you’ve created in Grandview. That way, you can be sure the words you typed out will not be wasted.
And then there’s a few more features…
Turns out, there’s a bit more you can do with Grandview to make it your own personal writing space. From its preferences, you can change the keyboard shortcuts to launch Grandview. You can also tweak the font, standard font size, and colors in the app, more in the spirit of WriteRoom than iA Writer or Byword. You can even tweak the app’s minimalist behavior, turning on a blinking cursor or turning off reverse mode that lets you delete words you’ve already typed. It’s not much, and I’d recommend leaving most of the settings alone, but for an app that feels like so much of an extension of your writing mind, it’s nice to be able to tweak it to a certain degree.
Writing apps need to be perfect, or nearly so, or you’ll never really switch to using them by default. I tested out Launch Write, and was initially excited by its potential to make quick, focused writing simpler. Then, I managed to lose what I was writing with it, and honestly never gave it another try. I’ve had similar experiences with online and native note apps through the years, and all it takes is one lost note, and I’m seriously wary of relying on the app. Perhaps it’s too harsh a perspective, but words are important, and I can’t afford to lose what I write.
Thankfully, Grandview passed this test with flying colors. Its clipboard integration and file open/save process worked great for me, and with recent snippets saved in the menubar, I never lost anything. I’ve tried out almost every writing app out there, and for ones that do anything non-traditional, that’s not something I can always say. The only real problem I had with Grandview was a funny one: its startup screen says that you’re to press Option+shift+A to launch Grandview, when its screenshot shows pressing CMD+shift+A. The screenshot is right for the default shortcut.
Wrapping it up
So here I just finished writing a full article, complete with Markdown formatting I’ll convert with Marked, right inside Grandview. The real test of any app is whether I’ll continue using it after testing, or if I’ll post my article and move on to my next app for testing without ever touching the app again. I’m happy to report that Grandview has earned a place in my writing workflow. There’s no other writing app that’s clicked for me as much as Grandview has, other than my beloved iA Writer. That’s about the highest praise I can give a writing app.
I know it sounds silly, and everyone knows that you should be able to see what you’re writing. Surely seeing only one word at a time is crazy.
Perhaps it is. But if so, I’m proud to be one of the crazy ones.