The day to day use of a computer always involves some form of writing. Whilst this may often be a short, snappy task (drafting an email, blog comment or twitter post), there are often times when you find yourself writing a longer piece of work. Plenty of software exists for assisting with word processing, but often creates more distraction than simplicity in its approach.
WriteRoom is an application which takes a completely different approach to writing, stripping away all the distractions you commonly find yourself faced with when using a Mac. It achieves this goal in a bold and novel way – by removing everything else on your screen. When activated, WriteRoom creates a full screen “writing environment”, a concept which has proven to be very well received by many writers:
“Unlike practically everything else in our digital lives, WriteRoom’s minimalist interface implies a truly flattering proposition: It’s you, not the software, that matters.” — Jeffrey MacIntyre, Slate
This review will outline the features and functionality of WriteRoom, explain how it integrates with your Mac, and fill you in on the accompanying iPhone application.
Features & Functionality
By default, WriteRoom’s interface recreates that of classic word processing software – green text on a white background:
Personally, I prefer a setup which has a little more finesse and simplicity. I use WriteRoom with a completely white background and an 18pt Times font. It really does feel like a huge blank canvas on which to start typing away. With the rest of the page completely clear of distraction, it can make writing a great deal more enjoyable.
There are a few preferences which can customize and enhance the software further. An auto-save facility takes care of the need to regularly hit Command-S, automatically saving your document every 5 seconds (or another pre-defined interval).
WriteRoom also keeps track of current word count in the lower left hand corner – great for ensuring you keep within a limit if necessary. This can obviously be turned off if not required, or expanded to show character count, line number and page number. A scroll bar becomes visible as needed, and moving your mouse to the top of the page will show the OS X menu bar.
By default WriteRoom documents are plain text, but choose the menu item Format > Make Rich Text and then you’ll be able to apply bold, italic, etc to parts of your text.
Integrating With Your Mac
One of the great selling points of WriteRoom is the ability to have it integrate with all other applications on your Mac. Whether writing an email, blog post or office document, you’re able to enter a distraction free space.
In the preferences window, turning on the “Edit in WriteRoom” plugin will add a menu option to all other applications. Clicking Edit > Edit in WriteRoom will open the current text, then pressing the key combinations of Command-S and Command-W will save the text and return it to the original application when you’re done editing.
What WriteRoom Isn’t
Whilst WriteRoom has a number of different benefits, it isn’t suitable for many tasks. Page layout and presentation options are generally non existent. It isn’t able to highlight code, support columns or display images. In fact, it probably takes the crown for the most expensive application with the simplest feature set available on OS X.
The appeal of WriteRoom lies in what it elects not to do – whether that is a selling point depends very much on personal opinion.
Related Plugins & Applications
The appeal of WriteRoom has spawned the development of numerous companion plugins and applications. A few of these include:
- QuickCursor — An experimental plugin by WriteRoom’s developer to add a right-click connection to WriteRoom in every application.
- DarkCopy — A WriteRoom inspired web application.
- DarkRoom — WriteRoom inspired application for Windows.
WriteRoom for iPhone/iPod Touch
Interestingly, an accompanying application has recently appeared on the App Store, aiming to offer a similar experience on your mobile device. Whilst not really creating the same distraction-free environment, it does provide a decent alternative to the default Notes application. It’s able to store and manage very long text documents, supports landscape mode, and can share files with your Mac via a built in web server.
Pricing & Requirements
We’ve managed to bag a copy of WriteRoom to give away to our loyal readers next week, so keep your eyes peeled for a Twitter competition!
Do you have any experience with WriteRoom? I’d be interested to hear your opinions on software that aims to “do less”, offering a simplified interface and the minimum functionality required to achieve a task.