There are a lot of different distraction-free word processors available, and I think I’ve tried almost all of them, or at least the ones for Linux. I’ve tried PyRoom, (()), (()), and a couple others I can’t remember off the top of my head. And they were all pretty good. To be honest, since the idea of a distraction-free word processor is generally to be as basic as possible, it’s probably good that they were all so similar in what they offered. Sure, some of them were a little more polished, while others actually hid a pretty powerful word processor behind a simple interface. Others were as basic as you’d expect: a plain text editor with no formatting options, no sound effects, no backgrounds, no soothing music… no nothing.
Today I’m writing about a program called Textroom that in my view probably falls right in the middle. Unlike PyRoom, which doesn’t offer any word processing capabilities (it’s plain text all the way), Textroom does allow for bold and italics, but unlike FocusWriter, doesn’t go so far as to include such niceties as search and replace, smart quotes, superscript or subscript.
Although it’s probably pretty obvious from the screenshots, I think I should go into a little depth in what exactly a distraction-free word processor is. One of the difficult thing about putting words to paper is all the other “things” vying for your attention. Sometimes these distractions are in the physical world, such as children, the telephone or someone at the door. On the computer, however, the distractions can take on many forms, including emails, chat requests, the “need” to check out the latest celebrity gossip or sports scores, plus a whole lot more. Distraction free word processors block all that out, plus a little extra. They also get rid of all (or at least most of) the decisions you have to make when typing something in a word processor. Things like whether a word should be bold or italic, or both. What font am I using? Should it be bigger? How about the margins and the line spacing? Is single-space good, or should I use double, and is a 1.25 inch margin all the way around the paper going to be noticeable, even though the professor said use 1 inch margins? There are distractions everywhere you look.
With a distraction-free word processor, you usually get no formatting (or very little), no toolbars, no WYSIWYG, no… nothing. You get a black background and white text. Or a black background and green text. Or a white background and black text. Basically, you get an empty screen on which to type your words. Any formatting decisions can come later; a distraction-free word processor is just for typing up your content.
And in that regard, Textroom is as good an example of a distraction-free word processor as you’ll find. It does include a few other features, though, to help set it apart from something incredibly basic. It has a running count, so you know how many pages, words and characters you’ve typed. Or you can turn that off. You can get little clicking noises (like a typewriter), and you get to choose your background color (or picture), font and text size. Or you can leave it exactly like it is, with a very nondescript font on a black background.
But it does have some extras, such as the ability to insert the date and/or time. You can check your spelling, and Textroom also includes a scratch pad. This is helpful if you want to jot down a note very quickly, without closing Textroom. Just hit F6 and up it pops. Hit Escape and it disappears, but everything you jot down will remain there as long as your session is open.
All in all, I like Textroom quite a bit. It has a few rough edges at the moment, however. The automatic word count stopped working at 599, and the scroll bar that appears when your document gets too long to fit on a single screen is a little quirky. Still, Textroom is a very good example of a distraction-free word processor. It’s not the best I’ve used, but it’s really solid. If I had to choose, I’d probably select FocusWriter over Textroom, but you won’t go wrong with either one.