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Writeroom: minimalism at its best

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?