If you’ve been accustomed to using Microsoft Word or a word program with all those menus and buttons, then you will love using distraction-free applications. It allows you to simply focus on what you’re writing minus the clutter.
I used FocusWriter (Mac/Windows) on my first book but when I upgraded to Snow Leopard on my Mac, it became a memory hog (eating 1GB of memory). If not for the memory issue, I would keep using this software because of the degree of customization it allows. Using the program, you know that it was built for writers by writers. I hope the developers update this great app.
After a couple of searches, I chanced upon Omniwriter (Mac, Windows, iPad). It is elegantly designed and has a free version for the Mac, PC and iPad. But then I stumbled upon a major pet peeve. Moving the cursor makes tool icons and the paragraph outline and scrollbars appear. If you tend to use the mouse a lot for moving the cursor or scrolling, the outline, the visual elements mentioned earlier can be really distracting—that is, if you prefer to work on a bare canvas. If not, Omniwriter will suffice.
Now I’ve been using iWork Pages (Mac only) in the past but recently discovered that using its full-screen mode gives you the best distraction-free experience of the bunch. I bet longtime Pages users didn’t really bother with this awesome view mode. Pages is like a hybrid of Microsoft Word and a basic layout editor for publishing. So if you’re doing more than just text-writing, this program more than fulfills your writing requirements. Now I’m back to my first love, as they say.
Here are my Raves and Rants for each application:
• Memory Hog
• Graphic User Interface (GUI) looks a bit dated
• Free version is more than sufficient for writing needs
• Preset fonts are well chosen and have good resolution
• Typing sounds are well designed—I just have to commend them for this! Makes typing fun.
• Moving the cursor makes tool icons, outline box and scrollbars appear (so much for distraction-free)
• Music presets are soothing but can lull you to sleep after a couple of minutes
• Only 3 font sizes are allowed on free version
• Thoughtfully designed to be completely distraction-free in full-screen mode
• Formatting menus, and other elements, can easily be accessed by moving the cursor to the screen edges
• Ability to zoom in document
• Functioning as a word processor and layout tool, it’s more than adequate for the average writer
• Paid version only
• Switching to another app, say a dictionary, makes the program go back to its regular mode (where the format windows and menus are present). Must toggle full-screen again.
• Backgrounds can not be changed but there is a workaround. Insert a background image and set it as a master so all pages will have it.
• No typing sounds included
I haven’t tried using FocusWriter on Windows Vista but it works well on XP. If you’re a Windows user, then I’d recommend this old but reliable program. If the re-appearing visual elements when you move the mouse doesn’t bother you, Omniwriter will inspire you because of its sleek interface and soothing music presets. And with cross-compatible versions including the iPad, this is one attractive app. Now if you’re using a Mac, chances are, you already have Pages so I’d pass on Omniwriter altogether. It’s features are way deep and since it’s directly made by Apple, the user experience is seamless and satisfying.