A guide to distraction free writing applications

Technology has provided us with the capacity to greatly improve our productivity, but has it also somehow impaired our ability to concentrate? This has been the subject of some controversy of late, and it’s no wonder that a niche market of word processing applications has sprouted up claiming to remove distractions so you can better focus on your writing.

Now if I can concentrate long enough to finish this article, I’ve got a rundown of several of these applications.

Ommwriter (Mac OS X)

Compared to the cold techno-minimalism of some of the other programs in this space, Ommwriter has a beautifully designed interface with some new-agey flourishes. There are a handful of backgrounds to choose from, all of which are subtle and oddly calming. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Floridian, but I’m oddly drawn to the idea of having a desolate winter landscape as my writing space. The floating text box (that disappears after you begin typing) makes you feel like you’re writing in the sky. Additionally, there’s some ambient new-agey music and different audio samples that make tikky-tappy sounds as you type. At first I found these to be quite handy in helping me focus, but their repetitiveness started to grate on me after a few minutes (thankfully, you can turn these sounds off).

The recently released Ommwriter Dana I is free, while Ommwriter Dana II is available for a suggested price of $4.11 (yes, that’s not a typo). Both offer the same functionality, but the Dana II offers more background and audio selections.

WriteRoom (Mac OS X)

For those with decidedly more old-school tastes, WriteRoom offers you the chance to go back to the days of writing in green monospaced font on a black background. If that’s not quite your style, you can change font sizes, colors, and margins to your liking. By far the nicest feature of WriteRoom is a typewriter style view, where line of input stays vertically centered, so your eyes can stay in the same position as you unleash pages and pages of text.

WriteRoom is incredibly minimal, but the price shockingly isn’t. The Mac OS X version runs $24.99 (though there is a 30 day free trial version), while the iPhone version goes for $4.99.

Bean (Mac OS X)

Unlike the other applications in this article, Bean is actually a fully-featured word processing program, that brings in many of the same features that you might expect from something like OpenOffice. What sets Bean apart is the option to view full screen, which gives you the same blank writing space that the other programs offer (though the default blue takes me back to my middle school days when I wrote papers in Wordperfect). Much like WriteRoom, you can customize fonts and colors, and the typewriter style view keeps your insertion point vertically centered.

Bean is open source and available for free.

DarkRoom & WriteMonkey (Windows)

DarkRoom & WriteMonkey both provide distraction free writing spaces for Windows users. While DarkRoom copies WriteRoom’s minimal interface, WriteMonkey offers significantly more options to customize editing views and formatting.

Both applications are the product of individual developers, and are available for free.

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