If you suffer from writer’s block, maybe it’s time to change your word processor to something new or something completely different. The writing apps presented here cover a wide range of writer’s needs: from distraction-free writing to advanced features and lightweight solutions. In short, there’s something for everyone.
You’ve probably heard of FocusWriter, since it is often praised as one of the best distraction-free text editors for Linux, OS X and Windows. The stripped-down interface – a blank, semi-transparent surface without buttons and toolbars – can be used in full-screen mode for maximum focus. There are several themes and background images to choose from, and you can even design your own theme (by adjusting colors and fonts).
FocusWriter helps you improve your writing habits by providing many useful options: spell-checking; auto-saving; tracking daily writing goals; setting timers; and real-time word, page, paragraph or character counting. It also supports session saving and remembers the exact position in the text where you left off.
FocusWriter works with TXT, ODT and RTF files, and you can use it in portable mode (without installation). Users who prefer audio feedback can turn on a nostalgic typewriter sound effect. If this motivates you to write more, then FocusWriter fulfills its purpose.
CutePad is an interesting app with an innovative approach. It’s a small project from Sri Lanka inspired by Windows Metro interface design. The download link asks for your name and email, which might discourage some people, but you can just enter fake information if you value your privacy. To install CutePad on Linux, simply extract the downloaded archive and run the executable file in the “CutePad_LinuxBuild_x8x” (sub)folder.
The central writing area is flanked by context-sensitive floating toolbars that enable quick access to CutePad’s settings. The bottom toolbar offers basic functions: opening, creating, printing and saving files, as well as “Search” and “Export to PDF.” The top ribbon contents change as you select options from the menu (“Write,” “Format,” “Insert” and “Find”). The “Insert” toolbar has handy pop-up dialogs for inserting links, pictures, tables, date and time, while options for alignment, word wrap, bulleted lists, font type, size and color can be found under the “Format” menu.
CutePad supports standard keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl+S for saving, Ctrl+B for bold text …) so it shouldn’t take too long to get used to it. It’s not exactly “distraction-free” as the floating toolbars seem quite intrusive, but its fresh appearance might get your creative juices flowing.
TextTrix is a Java application, which means it’s not the prettiest text editor on the list, but on the other hand, you don’t have to install it – just run it by typing
java -jar TextTrix.jar in the terminal. It will appeal to advanced users and programmers, as it supports syntax highlighting for a number of programming languages, and you can even develop your own plugins to extend TextTrix’s functionality. The best feature of TextTrix, and the one I’d love to see in other text editors, is “Line Dance.” It’s a simple and extremely useful way to navigate within a file by bookmarking selected lines.
Apart from this, TextTrix supports spell checking, opening multiple files in tabs and organizing them into groups, and saving sessions (similar to FocusWriter). While you might not opt to write your PhD thesis in TextTrix, it can help you work more efficiently with big text files.
TextRoom is built on a similar premise as FocusWriter, but it has more options (that, admittedly, might make it less distraction-free). You can use it in full-screen mode or in a window; press F1 to access help and F2 for options. The status bar at the bottom shows time and statistics related to your current document (word and character count).
Apart from standard formatting (fonts, colors), alignment (indents, paragraph spacing) and application appearance (background images, transparency) adjustment, TextRoom also supports spell-checking, printing and export to Google Docs and ODT file formats. You can easily insert images and current date and time, and load the last opened document on startup.
TextRoom tries really hard to accommodate writers, so it offers a Flow Mode (where Delete and Backspace keys are disabled) and a random word generator called GetAWord which is supposed to spark your creativity by giving you writing prompts. You can also set target word counts and mark writing deadlines in a calendar.
There’s also a mind-mapping tool MiniFlo which can be great if you’re writing a book or working on a project that requires organizing multiple concepts. TextRoom also supports typewriter sounds and has a rudimentary music player called MusicRoom for all your background noise needs. You can turn TextRoom into a versatile writing tool or just keep it minimal – the choice is all yours.
WordGrinder is a bare-bones application for the hardcore command-line fans. This doesn’t mean that it’s not powerful; on the contrary, it supports HTML, ODT, LaTeX and Troff files; working on multiple documents at once; and configurable keyboard shortcuts. You can also use a spellchecker and show word and paragraph counts.
A unique feature is that WordGrinder saves file settings along with the file itself, so your text won’t be saved as a TXT file but rather in a binary format. However, you can export it to TXT or other formats and normally open it in another editor. WordGrinder is a great choice for older, slower computers, but you can use it anywhere if it suits your workflow.
Have you tried any unusual writing apps? Do you rely on plain old Gedit or prefer something advanced? Show off your writing skills in the comments.