WriteRoom

A phrase that I am frequently starting my blog post with is:

“I am finding it increasing difficult to sit down and put my thoughts onto paper1 not necessarily because of lack of time, more due to a lack of motivation.”

Admitting that you have a problem is half the solution, the other half took a little bit of time to find and get configured.

What I was looking for was a text editor that relegates all of the distractions into the background so that I can concentrate on what I need to be doing. In the back of my mind was a programme which I had downloaded, dabbled with and then promptly forgotten…

So I went on the hunt for this utopian text editor…

Google: Mac OS X black screen text editor2

The second result was the one that I was looking for: “WriteRoom” was the name of this programme. So I downloaded it, mounted the disk image and copied the file over. I was met with a registration screen.

Facing the choice between ’30 day trial’ and registration, I promptly ‘command-spaced’ spotlight and typed up WriteRoom. Spotlight, for those non-Mac users, is probably the greatest OS search engine I have ever seen. I no longer have to delve through the hard drive to find the programme I am looking for, I just load up spotlight, type the first few letters and am ready to go. On a windows system, you would have to navigate the many layers of the Start menu. Alternatively you may have a shortcut on your desktop, but Windows just does not have Expose to quickly move the current windows out of the way and then put them back exactly how they were – and no I am not even thinking about the ‘Show Desktop Command’. Enough of the side-bar.

Through spotlight I found an email message that had all of the serial numbers for those that I bought through MacHeist II a year or so ago. And lo and behold the registration key still worked. Excellent, now I was on my way to typing Nirvana.

What is WriteRoom

WriteRoom is a pice of software, no more, no less, a simple piece of software, yet profoundly complex3.

It is a simple text editor that fills the entire screen, so that nothing else disrupts you from the task at hand, no Growl notifications, no bouncing dock icons to distract my attention, no “You’ve Got Mail” notifications, just a clean and clear writing surface that harkens back to the era of WordPerfect for DOS4.

WordPerfect Origins

WordPerfect was a fantastic word processor, and yes I am firmly in the camp that says ‘reveal codes’ was the best invention since sliced bread! Although I will say that whilst it was really useful to figure out why the formatting wasn’t working – A feature that sometimes I would dearly like in MS Word – WordPerfect just couldn’t keep up with the other feature sets.

I heard a story that WordPerfect employees were made to code any new functionality in assembler rather than c or pascal so that the code would be lightning fast. This of course took too much time, letting their fledgling rival MS Word take hold to become the behemoth that it is today. (Surprisingly, in MS Office 2003, there is still a help menu for WordPerfect!)

One thing that I remember fondly about WordPerfect was that the entire screen was blue, no menu bars (admittedly this was DOS), nothing to distract your attention from what was important – getting the words down. Once you had the words all nicely put on to paper, then you would go into formatting the document. I don’t know how many times I have seen people fiddle with the formatting of a document before they have even written a couple of paragraphs, I know from experience, I do this to waste time, hoping that a ‘pretty’ document will distract from the lackluster content. Apparently, the reason why they chose the screen colours was because their research showed that it was the easiest on the eyes. Once again I have no way of knowing the veracity of this story.

Whilst I am nostalgic, I still don’t want to step back in time and use WordPerfect for dos. After all the font was mono-spaced and DOS was not multi-tasking[1.TSR programmes semi-excepted]

WriteRoom Setup

I have setup WriteRoom to almost mimic WP for DOS version 5.1. I found a screenshot, the background is now the same colour, the text is the exact colour the number of columns is almost the same. If they could turn on the ‘show formatting’ bar, and have WordPerfect key bindings, I would be in heaven5.

Admittedly, I still have to add all of the HTML by hand, but this is somehow cathartic to me, something which still gives me pleasure. So now, hopefully I will be able to finish all of those blog posts that I have been meaning to…

This is a FULL screenshot of WriteRoom in action for this post all 1280×800 pixels of goodness (there may have been some editing done to the post after this screenshot was taken) – beautiful isn’t it. Notice how there is nothing else on the screen but a sea of blue punctuated by the waves of writing.

Writeroom may be downloaded here:

http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom

I definitely recommend a trial…

If you are looking to buy it, try out MacHeist that is where I got the original version from and it may be in one of the bundles this year.

This is probably the quickest post I have written to-date from whoa-to-go. In fact I interrupted another piece to write this one. Thank you WriteRoom, you have given joy back to the writing process…

As a final note, once I completed this post, I place it into my WordPress installation, do some minor formatting and then publish. When switching back to the normal Mac OS X screen, I was surprised at how busy and garish it was, how I longed for the serenity of WriteRoom.

Footnotes:

  1. Is this term used for the interwebs?
  2. And yes I use capitalisation in my Google search
  3. only joking, it is remarkably easy to use as well!
  4. I think that this was version 5.1, but don’t quote me on this
  5. This is probably going to far, I could always try and find an old version and use it – I still do like multi-tasking though

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