Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Writeroom: minimalism at its best

Posted on 24 October 2007 11 comments

Article illustration for Writeroom

I’m doing more and more writing these days, mainly in terms of blogging but also due to my regular gig with .Net magazine. With this increased literary workload, I find myself less than inspired when faced with the duller-than-dull interface of Microsoft Word. Because of this – and because Word’s auto-formatting of punctuation causes havoc when pasted into any other program – my preferred text editor became OSX’s humble TextEdit.

But although neater, more minimal, and devoid of an animated paper clip whose sole purpose in life is to drain my will to live, TextEdit is still a bloody boring app. All that whitespace and clumsy wrapping just scares the hell out off me.

So when Khoi Vihn published his list of unsung Mac apps and the ensuing comment responses revealed some true gems unto the world, it was Writeroom (praised first in Barney’s comment) that came to my rescue.

Let me tell you about this app in three words: Almost. No. Interface. More reminiscent of a command line editor than a word processor, the interface is almost unbelievably simple: it’s just text on a plain black background… and nothing else. Check out a screenshot if you don’t believe me.

Moving your cursor to the screen corners will invoke interface extras (a word count, a scrollbar, and the default OSX top menu bar), but the core of the experience lies solely with nothing else but a block of text and a black background. All of this is customisable, of course, but right from first launch, WriteRoom achieves its greatest feat: the removal of all distractions. It’s also clear that this has been crafted with regular writers in mind from its typewriter-like scrolling mechanism. Although it sounds rather dull to describe it, the simple fact of having the document’s last line constantly in the middle of the screen is a godsend. It works for any currently selected line, which means your focus is always in the right place.

Is it suitable for all occasions? Certainly not. But if you’re after an environment in which it’s more comfortable to write, I couldn’t recommend Writeroom enough.

Is anyone else using it? Or perhaps you’ve got your own list of unsung apps?

11 comments

  1. Sean Kennedy

    Sean Kennedy

    24 October 2007 @ 12:39AM #

    Elliot!!!

    I’m disgusted that you’d jump on the “oh-so-Mac_tard” bandwagon by commenting on how bloody annoying that animated paper clip is. You do know you can turn that off right? (just kidding) And aside from anything else, some idiots actually like that damn thing.

    Anyway, WhiteRoom certainly sounds interesting, it takes me back to the days when apps were simple affairs with little more than a blinking cursor on a black screen…..ah, my old glorious BBC.

  2. Josh Stodola

    Josh Stodola

    24 October 2007 @ 01:37AM #

    an animated paper clip whose sole purpose in life is to drain my will to live

    LMAO you literally had me laughing out loud on this one!!

    Can’t believe you are not a fan of Word though. I’ve been using Word for over ten years and I have no problems with it. It indeed takes a loooong time to master the ins and outs of the Microsoft Office suite. But once you do get it all figured out, there is no program even worth comparing. That’s the way I see it anyways.

    Regards…

  3. Kyle Meyer

    Kyle Meyer

    24 October 2007 @ 03:02AM #

    Personally I’ve ditched Microsoft’s Office suite in the last year or so, I’m enjoying iWork as my primary writing space, although I tend to write blog posts in Wordpress’ textarea (well, more or less jot notes). Though I do take that post into a formal editor such as Pages for revisions and editing before I hit the magical publish button.

    I’ll have to give Writeroom a shot though, as my main complaint with Pages are some of the palettes.

  4. Dominik Lenk

    Dominik Lenk

    24 October 2007 @ 04:09AM #

    WriteRoom is the best app ever. In fact it comes second after the invention of the wheel, well not quite but you get the idea…
    I have used it for almost a year now (I think – time flies when you are enjoying yourself).
    One thing that it doesn’t do yet is block out network traffic, but then again you should be able to resist some temptations…
    Oh, and I love the fact that they implemented the word-count (which I suggested to them;-); it is all you need…

  5. Rodrigo

    Rodrigo

    24 October 2007 @ 06:28AM #

    It’s funny you should post this today. I had a hand-to-hand battle with Word myself!

    The person that writes Tech Briefs for the products at work refuses to use a layout tool like InDesign or Quark; and everytime there’s a damn change, guess who has to go in and re-arrange the layout?

    A layout! In Word for Christ’s sake!

    They wanted me to adjust 20 5-page documents like that. I somehow convinced them to divide the work among other people! :)

  6. Jon Tan

    Jon Tan

    24 October 2007 @ 04:33PM #

    Hi Elliot, I couldn’t agree more. Writeroom is a work of simple genius. It’s like the eye in an information storm. Just me, the type appearing on the screen and the soft tap of the keys. +1 for your recommendation.

  7. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    24 October 2007 @ 06:21PM #

    Wow, thanks for all the comments, guys! I’m so pleased to hear how many of you are enjoying this great little app.

    @ Josh: Word is good at what it does, but I just find it to be a completely uninspiring environment in which to write (as do several other designers-turned writers that I’ve spoken to). As <a href=“a href=”http://elliotjaystocks.com/blog/archive/2007/writeroom-minimalism-at-its-best/#comment-520" rel="nofollow">Jon said, the beauty of Writeroom is that it’s “just me, the type appearing on the screen and the soft tap of the keys.”

    I find it extremely interesting – and refreshing – that in this age of feature-packed software, an app’s lack of features can actually be the most appealing thing about it. In fact, in the case of Writeroom, its lack of features is actually a feature in itself! Wow. I’m going to stop there before my never-ending loop tears a hole in the space-time continuum.

  8. Zinni

    Zinni

    25 October 2007 @ 06:40AM #

    I must say that the death of clippy was one of the better parts of the extremely horrible office 2007. Which by the way takes up even more screen real estate and is more annoying and obtrusive.

    I have been contemplating moving to open office just because of the extremely annoying interface of office 2007 alone. I really wish I could give up a pc at home so I could give Writeroom a try, it sounds great!

  9. Rodrigo

    Rodrigo

    25 October 2007 @ 05:21PM #

    I must say that the death of clippy was one of the better parts of the extremely horrible office 2007

    They also killed “proper” HTML rendering in their email client along with it…

  10. Zinni

    Zinni

    27 October 2007 @ 02:35AM #

    @ Rodrigo: Yeah that is very true, I have spent numerous hours learning how to dumb down my HTML emails because of that fact. Also, convincing clients that things they used to do in the past in emails would not be a good idea anymore. I.E. pretty much any situation where you would have to depend on a background image in an email or use of css with floating.

    What a nightmare office 2007 has been…

  11. Marc

    Marc

    07 November 2007 @ 03:17AM #

    Hi Elliot, just came across your site. Nice blog, and great portfolio :)

    I use Dark Room (windows equiv) if anyone is still stuck on Windows: http://they.misled.us/dark-room

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