TechieTalk: Distraction Free Writing Tools

By Roy Mathur, on 2012-06-04, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

I'm guessing that I'm probably the world's worst procrastinator. It's a common nerd trait. As a child of the age of TV, personal computers, video games and mobile phones, I am very easily distracted. For example, as I am writing this, I am watching TV, surfing the Internet and looking out into our picturesque garden. So, if you are like me and have regular writing deadlines to meet, these simple word processors will present you with a full-screen and nothing but your words. No fancy desktop gadgets telling you the current time and weather in Timbuktu, no fancy formatting options, no fancy anything except you and your own words. Other great features of these note-takers are that they automatically save your work when you finish and then you can start exactly where you left off in your next session.

Remember, even if you are not a professional writer, these tools can still be extremely useful. For example, how long have you been putting off writing that e-mail to your cousin in Australia, your daughter in England or your grandmother in France?

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the cream of what's out there for free. And it won't cost you even one Mexican jumping bean.

Windows: Q10

This is my all time favourite writing tool, if I was a girl this would be my BFF. Like most of these tools, you are presented with a blank screen on which to type. You can customise the back-ground and fore-ground colours, the dictionary language and, best of all, you get a choice of cool sound schemes to make it sound like you are using a vintage type-writer. There really is nothing more satisfying than that glorious "ding" at the end of every line. What, I particularly like about this application though, is that it has such a simple interface and a nice, clean status bar on which stats like word counts can be displayed. Find it at http://www.baara.com/q10/

Windows, Mac OS X, Linux: Focus Writer

Because the fantastically fabulous Q10 is only available on Windows, a decent alternative you should consider if you are using another operating system is Focus Writer. This is very much like Q10 with a few added advantages. For example, you can select a background image, like a peaceful zenscape, or a Hritik Roshan/Aishwarya Rai centrefold depending on which way you are inclined. (You may have noticed that I did not say "Aishwarya Rai Bachchan". This is because I remain hopeful.) Unlike Q10, you also have conventional menu system and have the option of using the program in conventional Windows-mode as well as full-screen mode. Whether or not this is any real advantage for a distraction-free tool is debatable, though it certainly does add some flexibility. Download it at http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/

IOS: Notes

OK, there are actually many of writing apps available for IOS devices. But free ones? Well, I have tried every single one and, to be hones,t they all have their drawbacks. My preferred app on IOS, and the one that I'm currently writing this article on, is Notes- the built-in note-taking app on iPads and iPhones. The only tweak I've made is to turn on Gmail syncing so that any notes I create on my iPad are backed up to a folder called Notes in my online Gmail account. I started doing this two weeks ago after I accidentally deleted a blog posting on my laptop. Duhhh. Now everything I write is automatically backed up and totally safe from my own stupidity.

Alternatives? WriteRoom (Mac/IOS: paid), WriteMonkey (Windows: free), OmmWriter ( Mac: free and paid versions), PainText (IOS: free and paid versions).

Incidentally, if you were wondering, the weather in Timbuktu is, of course, hot. Very, very hot. I mean it's in the Sahara!