13
July
2006

Writeroom 00:55 on Thursday

The intention of Writeroom is good. But I’m sorry to say, for me Writeroom has close to nothing to do with bit-literacy.

Writeroom is a gimmick, a step backwards, not forwards. It’s a plain text editor in a new, trendy package, and plain text only goes so far. About half a page I’d say, before starting to get useless. Besides, everybody but the real nerds got over green text on black already in the 80′s. And what’s with Courier and the typewriter nostalgy mixed in? Courier is not a good screen font. A special full screen mode? That’s why they put Hide Others in the OS X menu.

We don’t need Writeroom. (And if you really think you do, why not go two more steps, download GLTerminal, and vi away?)

Instead, we need better, more powerful tools. Not seemingly simplified tools with the power of a toy windmill. Tools that simplify work, not tools that simplify tooling around.

5 Responses to “Writeroom”

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  4. ryrivard Says:

    I just surfed in – I think from the Long Tail listserv – and I’ve been following the full-screen text editor movement. I respectfully disagree.

    Besides Hog Bay, Khoi Vihn has a similar editor which The Guardian reported this way: “When we write, we have to devise strategies to thwart these [distractions] and to ensure concentration, such as headphones, soothing music, sequestering ourselves away in rooms away from the office hubbub or even joining “writing centres’ where quietude is guaranteed for a monthly fee. By and large, these strategies fail to address the very source of most distractions that fill a modern working day: computers. “

    Computers have largely taken over so we are now at point of continuous partial attention – these programs, Writeroom and Vihn’s Blockwrite, are steps backwards from a situation very serious and somewhat ignored, save bySteve Talbott and several other progressive technocrats and anyone’s who tried to write a novel lately, which is the permanent loss of our thinking minds for the sake of transient information.

  5. Niko Says:

    I fully and respectully agree with the need for avoiding distraction. I still do think though Writeroom and Blockwrite are not even close to being the solution.

    Actually, I have more of a problem with hailing Writeroom and Blockwrite as solutions to the distraction problem, than the programs themselves. Whipping out a plain text editor is ok if you need to jot down a few notes. But writing a novel or a scientific paper, both tasks that would actually benefit from a distraction free environment, on a plain text editor..? No. Silly retro-geek-love looks don’t help when I need an automatic index of my 150 page document.

    That’s why I called Writeroom a gimmick.

    Having said that, I repeat that I fully agree a visually distraction-free full screen mode is useful. Myself I use a combination of Backdrop (a dark grey ‘layer’ between windows) and Spirited Away (which automatically hides inactive applications).

    And you don’t necessarily need any special tools to achieve that. You can handle the visual distraction in other ways, too:

    • make your MS Word window the size of the screen and depending on your settings you will automatically have a distraction free white, grey or (for the slightly more recent retro wannabes) blue background
    • remove all toolbars and learn the keyboard shortcuts
    • remove or shut off all visual “helper” notifications etc.
    • set your desktop to a dark colour and hide other apps
    • use a silly full screen plain text editor like Writeroom ;)

    To avoid other distractions from the computer:

    • close your email
    • close your IM application
    • in fact, close all communication channels you have made available to you: mobile, TV, door…
  6. ryrivard Says:

    Yeah – these are helpful solutions (I’ve tried most of them: I have a blank desktop, with a plain charcol wallpaper and no icons of any kind), some of them haven’t worked (on the Word I have for OS X “full screen” mode includes a large “Close” button that won’t go away). The real solution is the sort of unbearable one: get off the damn computer. Even when they had typewritters, writers went into the woods, rented apartments in strange cities and showed up in small hotels in out of the way places. The problem, I guess isn’t the computer, it’s us.