6 Minimal, Full-Screen Writing Apps for Mac

There are so many buttons, windows, and gadgets that can distract you when working at a computer. Have you ever tried to sit down and write something while an icon bounces away in your dock? It’s a frustrating experience. Minimalist, full-screen writing apps are great for keeping these distractions out of the corner of your eye, providing a simple, clear environment where you can let your mind roam free.

Before highlighting our collection of these apps, I’d like to point out two things. First, choosing a new writing application won’t make you a better writer, nor will it magically motivate you to write. These two qualities need to come first.

Second, if you’re spending time researching new minimalist writing apps in the time you should actually be writing, some priority adjustment is in order. Send today’s article to Instapaper, and come back to it after you’ve met your writing target for the day!

With that out of the way, let’s move on to take a look at a few simple applications that might help to make writing a more distraction-free process…

Byword

Byword

Byword

Byword recently caught my eye after being featured on AppStorm last month. At $7.99, it is an excellent option and its price is easily justified once you start using it. The writing environent is super-simple. The background is a very light grey tone that is quite easy on the eye, and there are no buttons whatsoever (other than a small greyed out search and expand button). The ideal use for the app, just like with most of the apps in this category, is in full-screen mode.

There aren’t many features to explore, for the most part it’s very basic. There’s a focus setting that is supposed to bring attention to just a single part of the text, and there are also keyboard shortcuts for everything.

There’s even a small text-edit toolbar that you can bring up with a combination of keys, so that you don’t lose concentration by quitting full screen and going into menus. Byword is one of my favorite apps on the category on account of the subtle, beautiful interface design.

Writeroom

Writeroom

Writeroom

WriteRoom has been called the best app in this genre for quite a while now, and it surely deserves its fame. Think of it as Byword on steroids, with the same basic functionality, but also with many useful additions. These include autosave, font selection, background color settings, and word count. These are all small details, but they make quite a difference.

Even though WriteRoom has plenty more features than apps like Byword, it manages to keep the writing environment clean and tidy. Just don’t head into the settings too often – you might be a little overwhelmed!

It has a slightly beefier price tag of $24.99, but the extra features and long-standing reputation may make this worthwhile for you.

Clean Writer

Clean Writer

Clean Writer

Clean Writer is one of the cheapest options in the genre ($3.99), and while it’s not quite at the level of the past two apps, it does deliver on providing a simplistic and distraction-free writing environment. You can choose from a few options of font size, font type and theme (basically, the background), but that’s about all you can do with it.

It also works full-screen and it even has a spell checker. Clean Writer isn’t as pretty as Byword, and it doesn’t have as many options and features as WriteRoom does, but at its price, it’s the app that offers the most value for your money.

Writer

Writer

Writer

Writer is a super-basic text editor. Just like Clean Writer, it is very cheap ($2.99), and very, very bare-bones, much like Byword, except not quite as visually appealing. It has all the usual features – full screen, font selection and word count – but it also adds some useful additions like statistics (time worked, WPM, etc.) and a “pin” feature, where you can make the writer window float on top of any other window.

Grandview

Grandview

Grandview

Grandview takes a step away from the minimalist writing apps that we have seen so far. While not exactly a “text-editing” app, it does provide you with a “minimalist” writing experience. Basically, it is a hot-key activated app that allows you to watch full-screen, each word that you type as you are writing, one word at a time.

So, you write something in the full-screen view mode, and then when you are done, it will automatically be copied to your clipboard so that you can then put it in your text-editor of choice.

It isn’t exactly the most convenient app out there, but it is interesting to try out, at least for a little while to see if you like it. Apps don’t get any more minimalist than Grandview. You can try it out for free on the developer’s site, or buy it for $4.99 on the Mac App Store.

OmmWriter Dana

Ommwriter

Ommwriter

With a slogan like “welcome back to concentrating”, you can’t go wrong with OmmWriter. It seems like a clear winner in many aspects: it’s cheap in comparison to Byword and WriteRoom, it looks amazing, and it offers some unique characteristics.

What you’ll first notice about it is that it doesn’t give you any plain or black backgrounds. No, it actually gives you dynamic backgrounds that are “specifically designed for your concentration and creativity”. To some, this will be an immediate turn-off. Fiddling with backgrounds and sounds is clearly a huge distraction from just getting down to writing. To others, this environment might be very beneficial when set up. I’ll leave that for you to decide…

Dana is the only app that is available free. Well, sort of… Dana I is free, which gives you a few backgrounds and sounds. Dana II has a greater selection, but it goes for $4.99 on the Mac App Store.

Conclusion

There are plenty of apps to choose from in this genre. There are free apps like OmmWriter that give you pretty much all the functionality you may need, but there are also more intricate apps such as WriteRoom that go for quite a hefty price. Personally, I really like Byword for its thoughtfully designed interface.

Have you tried any of these? Do you use a different one that we didn’t get to cover? I’d be interested to hear whether you find them particularly useful.

Now get back to writing!


  • Joseph

    What about bean? That too offers full screen editing, and I have found it to have good features. It’s free too.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Bean isn’t exactly a minimalistic writing app. It’s more of a simpler version of Word/Pages. I would classify it as a rich-text editor. Still, good app.

    • http://blog.themacinstructor.com Rick

      I was thinking Bean too. Great free alternative, and you can tweak the UI to make it insanely minimal.

    • Robwiz

      Bean for me. It does everything I need when writing and the full screen mode works great. The absence of bells and whistles is actually a benefit and its compatibility with Word file formats has never let me or my clients down. Best of all it’s absolutely free.

  • dev

    what about reviewing REAL software and not full screen notepads?

    • http://kwerfeldein.de Martin Gommel

      @Dev: I see. Well, how about this: You just send them a thoughtful and intelligent review of “REAL software” and so be part of the solution. :-)

      @Jorge Rodriguez: Yeah! Thanks for the review! I am a regular writer an editor of a photography magazine. I am switching betweeen some of ‘em and writenroom is still my fav, because it really was the first that came to me and with the plugin called “quickcurser” I can edit every single text I have (email, blogpost) right in WR and save back to the document.

      I have tried ommwriter but that had way too many nice-to-have things like sounds and stuff that in the first place were nice, but I didn’t really need em at all.

      I will now check the other writing apps. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • http://digitalformula.net Chris

      -1

      As Martin Gommel indicated, you’re welcome to provide reviews of “REAL” software yourself. Perhaps you should do that rather than taking a hack at an article someone else has written.

  • http://thefreelancepinoy.com/ Stephanie

    I first used Ommwriter because it was the first minimalist writing app that I encountered for the Mac. I was mesmerized by the colorful backgrounds and the sounds that I thought I’d stick to this forever.

    But that was until I tried Byword. For some reason, the choice of font, the gray background, and the lack of sounds makes it more appealing to write with. In the end, I decided to stick with the latter.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      I agree. I don’t know what it is about Byword, but for some reason I really find it inspiring. Perhaps it’s the focus thing.

  • http://bywordapp.com Byword

    We are honored with such nice overview.

    Allow us to add that Byword also includes autosave and document recovery. Font selection is also available in Preferences (⌘,) and the word/character counters can be enabled on the Window menu or with the ⇧⌘K shortcut.

    We are super excited to show everyone what’s coming in the next update in the next couple weeks. See http://drbl.in/bkcL for a sneak peek.

    • http://digitalformula.net Chris

      Considering the absolute minimalism of these apps, I did a surprising amount of testing before I decided that Byword suited my needs better than any other package in this genre.

      It’s absolutely minimal and that, in my opinion, is the whole point of software like this. The paragraph highlight option is invaluable and is enabled at all times for me.

      Since buying Byword I’ve used it for every article I’ve written, even if it’s churning out inline-HTML for use in one of my blog posts.

      @Jorge: The light gray background can be switched to a ‘dark’ theme, too. :)

  • http://pinoyteens.net Kevin Paquet

    I’m using ByWord for quick blog posts, or those who need not to be THAT long… I’m using Ommwriter for the more lengthier posts.

    Both are good Minimalist writing apps, both serve a different kind of people in my opinion.

    • wvit

      @Kevin Can’t agree more with you when you say “bothe serve a different kind of people”. Currently, I use (try to) Ommwriter (the free one, very difficult to get one) for writing a daily journal. However for a more official work related, I use pages in full screen mode.

      Haven’t try by word yet.

  • http://www.darkheartfelt.com Dark Heartfelt (Grandview)

    @jorge Does anyone ever use MacJournal anymore? They have a decent full screen interface and the way they organize entries is totally straight-forward. I think it’s even on sale right now.

    Here’s an article about Grandview that actually mentions some of the features:

    http://bit.ly/l856R3

    • http://www.freemacgamer.com Free Mac Games

      I use it :)

  • Joe Johaneman

    I’m quite fond of Focuswriter which works on Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s free and open source.

    http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/

  • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

    I currently use OmmWriter on Windows, and love it. Then, on iPad, iA Writer is where most of my writing gets done … and then instantly copied over to Simplenote for safe-keeping. That said, I definitely intend to give Byword a try as soon as I get a Mac; It really looks great!

  • Teun

    Has anyone tried fullscreen view in MS Word 2011? I love it!

  • Adrian

    I use TextMate for anything that has to do with writing, whether it’s writing code, writing a blog post or writing a homework assignment. Here’s a screenshot of a document explaining how and why: http://www.imgjoe.com/x/screenshotof.png

  • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    If al you want is a minimalist text writer, TextEdit is already on the Mac for free, can be full screen or any size you like. It has search and replace, can use any font on your system as bold, italic underline, etc. Does basic formatting, and works every time, no problem.

    • http://www.sebastianrumberg.de Sebastian

      True. I used to write with WriteRoom but then switched to TextEdit. I use it with QuickFiles (http://mac.softpedia.com/get/Utilities/QuickFiles.shtml) to create pre-formatted Texts (1.5 line-height, Helvetica, borders etc.) and then just start writing in it. The best thing: Both programs are free.

  • nomad

    why do you use affiliate links? is this advertising? those linksynergy.com-links don’t work on my machine, i just get an error message

  • Xander

    Is it crickets I hear?

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  • http://www.byhayley.com Hayley

    I’ve been using WriteRoom for years and love it but I think I might give Byword a try, it looks like it’s got some of the features I’ve occasionally wished for when using WriteRoom.

  • http://fnurl.se/ fnurl

    I started using Writeroom back in the day when it was the new kid on the block. Recently, I bought both Byword and iA Writer. Contrary to the blog post author, I prefer iA Writer over Byword and Writeroom. I do most of my writing in fullscreen mode in Markdown and for this context, iA Writer is in my opinion much better suited.

    I did a comparison by feature of Byword, iA Writer and Writeroom here: http://fnurl.se/the-battle-of-the-markdown-enabled-typographi

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  • graham

    Q10 is easily the best minimalist writing application. Unfortunately it is built for PCs, not Macs. The creator of Q10 disappeared off the face of the earth and the app will eventually die. Shame the creator wasn’t of Mac persuasion…it really is a fab interface and writing app.

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  • mike

    FountainPen (http://fountainpen.sourceforge.net/) is a nice open source version of these kinds of apps, worth a spot on any minimal writing list especially for the price.

  • Raj

    hw Writer (http://www.hwwriter.com) is also a minimal, clean writer with its own focus mode.
    It has more markdown syntax than iA or Byword, better focus mode and lots of export function.
    And best of all its only $2.99.

  • Raphael Fu

    I´ve tested all of them, i really recommend ByWord, nice features and very pleasing to the eye.

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