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10 apps for distraction-free, productive writing

A brief look at ten of the best distraction-free programs for writers and non-writers alike to help with productive writing.

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Using technology for more productive writing sessions

If you are a writer or even just responsible for blogging on your company website, chances are that you use your computer. The downside to using a computer? Constant distractions. From blinking icons, to Facebook notifications, and everything in between, it can be hard to focus on the task at hand. Luckily, there are several distraction-free writing programs that can prove to be useful tools for the writing process.

Some of the most useful tools the programs provide are the ability to keep track of how much you are writing. This enables you to weigh how much time you are spending writing against how much you are actually getting done and in turn, increase your productivity. It can also help you achieve your writing goals.

If you set a goal to get a certain amount of pages done in a week, the tools in these programs will help you get there by alerting you to how many pages you have done and how many you have left to go. This should give you the motivation to continue writing towards your goals. Here are ten of the most effective (in this writer’s opinion) distraction-free programs for writers:

1. WriteApp

WriteApp boasts both a mobile app and a web app. The mobile app is currently available for iOS and Android. They offer both free and premium versions. You can write in fullscreen, distraction-free mode with theming, Markdown and live previews. You have the option to keep things completely private or share. You can even send a text message to the app and they will save it for you. Not bad for a free service.

2. FocusWriter

FocusWriter is a free tool for Windows, Mac, and Linux, that offers a writer a full-screen, distraction-free writing environment. The tools are hidden at the top of the screen, so that if you need them, you can easily access them, but if you prefer to just write without any fancy add-ons you can do that as well.

FocusWriter supports customization in the form of background images, fonts, and other tools. There is also a daily goal tracker which will keep track of the amount of time you spend writing as fell as spell-checking and how much you write. This is especially helpful if you are freelancing and want to keep track of how much writing you are producing in one day, without the distraction of actually stopping to count each piece.

3. WriteMonkey

WriteMonkey is a free program for Windows users that is so distraction-free you can write an entire document without ever using your mouse. Every function and command, should you need them, can be accessed with a keyboard command. This program also supports Markup language for easy formatting. It also has a great feature for editing called “Segment Focus,” which allows you to focus on just the portion you are working with; enabling quick and easy edits, tweaks, and writing.

4. Ommwriter

Ommwriter started out as a Mac-only program, but is now available on iPad and Windows. It is free, but there is a premium version available (the only visible difference being that the premium version has more background and audio options). It is the pinnacle of what I think of as a zen-like environment. It has the option to use many different minimalist backgrounds and soothing music while you write. You can customize the size of your writing area, as well as, font and color.

Also, with Ommwriter, you can save your file as a .txt or .pdf. All of these options are tiny bubbles near the top of the page. I do not find them to be distracting, because they disappear when you are not hovering on them, but some people may prefer an absolute minimalist environment.

5. Yarny

Yarny is my personal favorite and another free service. There is a place to put ideas; things that you have not yet fully developed in to a story. Things like people, places, things, dreams, random thoughts, whatever you want; you can store them in a separate place so they are readily accessible when you begin writing.

You can tag your own writing and use the search bar on the side to filter what you have saved. In snippet view, you can reorder, group, or arrange your writing to fit your needs. And when you are ready to go distraction-free, there is a fullscreen option to allow you to focus on your writing. Yarny works with Linux, Mac (Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion, and Lion), Windows (XP, Vista, 7, and 8).

6. WriteRoom

WriteRoom is just for Mac/iPad/iPhone users. It was created as an alternative to Microsoft Word. The reviews for this are really good, but I do not like the black ground with green print, but this is my personal preference and other people love it. And since the app is $4.99, you will definitely want to check out the screenshots and reviews to make sure it is something you think you will like before you purchase. However, it does have a lot of nice features.

It is a fullscreen writing environment so that you can get the distractions out of the way and just write. WriteRoom does not have all the functionality of Word, but it does offer a quick and easy way to get your writing on the page. It offers a word count feature and auto-save. You can also sync it with Dropbox, which is nice if you write on-the-go from your iPad and want to continue on your Mac when you get home.

7. WordPress.com

WordPress yes, you read that right. You can write distraction-free from WordPress. To enable this, click on the “Toggle Fullscreen” button in the toolbar (that’s the second button from the right, in the first row, or you can use the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift+G). When you turn this feature on, you will see a minimalist version of the toolbar, your title and the post’s content. You can still use your features, but without the distractions. Once you start writing though, the toolbar and everything else will fade away, leaving nothing but your words. You can easily get your toolbar back to check word count by simply moving the mouse around. Very cool and very free.

8. PenZen

PenZen is about as simplistic as they come. Once you click the link, you are taken to a blank web page. You simply click in the web page and begin typing. To fully enjoy the distraction-free feeling though, you will have to maximize your web page and minimize anything else (like toolbars). When you are done typing you can save to a .pdf file or download your writing. The only down side of this is that there are no features, but in a pinch, you can get your thoughts down and save them.

9. QuietWrite

QuietWrite is another app for windows that is simplistic, but effective. It is full screen, but minimalistic. It has an auto-save feature and word count, but there are not many options for customization. You just have to take it as it is.

10. Q10

Q10 is the Windows likeness of OmmWriter (before Omm adapted for Windows). You can enjoy the fullscreen and a multitude of features (just like OmmWriter) along with timed writing sessions and built-in spellcheck. When you open Q10, all you see is a black screen with a goldish-yellow type of text. But you can customize the view according to your personal liking. And there is a writing timer as well.

Nothing beats the easy of having a distraction-free environment readily available when the urge to write strikes and now you have ten great options to choose from and enjoy.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Charity Kountz

    June 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

    This is fantastic! I love the tip about WordPress, had never thought of doing that. I will definitely be trying some of these! Great post Jennifer!

  2. Darry Ross

    August 5, 2013 at 3:53 am

    On Android I would recommend dType — this is a very minimalist distraction-free writing app.

  3. Pingback: Toolkit Tuesday: Content Creation Tips and Tools for Busy Marketers • Belle Communications

  4. Pingback: 5 Tips To Blog Quicker In WordPress

  5. Jenifer

    October 16, 2015 at 5:24 am

    I know this is an old article, but with NaNoWriMo on the horizon I thought I’ve put in a word for Creawriter, which requires only a small donation to unlock full functionality and is very great for distraction free writing. 🙂

  6. Tim

    December 7, 2015 at 9:09 am

    thanks for sharing

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Social Media

Facebook releases Hotline as yet another Clubhouse competitor

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As yet another app emerges to try and take some of Clubhouse’s success, Facebook Hotline adds a slightly more formal video chat component to the game.

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Woman forming hands into heart shape at laptop hosting live video chat, similar to Facebook's new app Hotline

Facebook is at it again and launching its own version of another app. This time, the company has launched Hotline, which looks like a cross between Instagram Live and Clubhouse.

Facebook’s Hotline is the company’s attempt at competing with Clubhouse, the audio-based social media app, which was released on iOS in March 2020. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Facebook had already begun working on building its own version of the app. Erik Hazzard, who joined Facebook in 2017 after the company acquired his tbh app, is leading the project.

The app was created by the New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team, Facebook’s experimental development division, and it’s already in beta testing online. To access it, you can use the web-based application through the platform’s website to join the waitlist and “Host a Show”. However, you will need to sign in using your Twitter account to do so.

Unlike Clubhouse, Hotline lets users also chat through video and not just audio alone. The product is more like a formal Q&A and recording platform. Its features allow people to live stream and hold Q&A sessions with their audiences similar to Instagram Live. And, audience members can ask questions by using text or audio.

Also, what makes Hotline a little more formal than Clubhouse is that it automatically records conversations. According to TechCrunch, hosts receive both a video and audio recording of the event. With a guaranteed recording feature, the Q&A sessions will stray away from the casual vibes of Clubhouse.

The first person to host a Q&A live stream on Hotline is real-estate investor Nick Huber, who is the type of “expert” Facebook is hoping to attract to its platform.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “New Product Experimentation has been testing multimedia products like CatchUp, Venue, Collab, and BARS, and we’re encouraged to see the formats continue to help people connect and build community,” the spokesperson added.

According to a Reuters article, the app doesn’t have any audience size limits, hosts can remove questions they don’t want to answer, and Facebook is moderating inappropriate content during its early days.

An app for mobile devices isn’t available yet, but if you want to check it out, you can visit Hotline’s website.

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Brace yourselves: Facebook has re-opened political advertising space

(SOCIAL MEDIA) After a break due to misinformation in the past election, Facebook is once again allowing political advertising slots on their platform – with some caveats.

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Facebook open on phone in a wallet case, open for political advertising again.

After a months-long ban on political ads due to misinformation and other inappropriate behavior following the election in November, Facebook is planning to resume providing space for political advertising.

Starting on Thursday, March 4th, advertisers were able to buy spots for ads that comprise politics, what Facebook categorizes as “social issues”, and other potentially charged topics previously prohibited by the social media platform.

The history of the ban is complicated, and its existence was predicated on a profound distrust between political parties and mainstream news. In the wake of the 2016 election and illicit advertising activity that muddied the proverbial waters, Facebook had what some would view as a clear moral obligation to prevent similar sediment from clouding future elections.

Facebook delivered on that obligation by removing political advertising from their platform prior to Election Day, a decision that would stand fast in the tumultuous months to follow. And, while Facebook did temporarily suspend the ban in Georgia during the senate proceedings, political advertisements nevertheless remained absent from the platform in large until last week.

The removal of the ban does have some accompanying caveats—namely the identification process. Unlike before, advertisers will have to go to great lengths to confirm their identities prior to launching ads. Those ads will most likely also need to come from domestic agencies given Facebook’s diligent removal of foreign and malicious campaigns in the prior years.

The moral debate regarding social media advertising—particularly on Facebook—is a deeply nuanced and divided one. Some argue that, by removing political advertising across the board, Facebook has simply limited access for “good actors” and cleared the way for illegitimate claims.

Facebook’s response to this is simply that they didn’t understand fully the role ads would play in the electoral process, and that allowing those ads back will allow them to learn more going forward.

Either way, political advertising spots are now open on Facebook, and the overall public perception seems controversial enough to warrant keeping an eye on the progression of this decision. It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for Facebook to revoke access to these advertisements again—or limit further their range and scope—in the coming months and years.

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Twitter to start charging users? Here’s what you need to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media is trending toward the subscription based model, especially as the pandemic pushes ad revenue down. What does this mean for Twitter users?

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Twitter and other social media apps open on a phone being held in a hand. Will they go to a paid option subscription model?

In an attempt to become less dependent on advertising, Twitter Inc. announced that it will be considering developing a subscription product, as well as other paid options. Here’s the scoop:

  • The ideas for paid Twitter that are being tossed around include tipping creators, the ability to pay users you follow for exclusive content, charging for use of the TweetDeck, features like “undo send”, and profile customization options and more.
  • While Twitter has thought about moving towards paid for years, the pandemic has pushed them to do it – plus activist investors want to see accelerated growth.
  • The majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from targeted ads, though Twitter’s ad market is significantly smaller than Facebook and other competitors.
  • The platform’s user base in the U.S. is its most valuable market, and that market is plateauing – essentially, Twitter can’t depend on new American users joining to make money anymore.
  • The company tried user “tips” in the past with its live video service Periscope (RIP), which has now become a popular business model for other companies – and which we will most likely see again with paid Twitter.
  • And yes, they will ALWAYS take a cut of any money being poured into the app, no matter who it’s intended for.

This announcement comes at a time where other social media platforms, such as TikTok and Clubhouse, are also moving towards paid options.

My hot take: Is it important – especially during a pandemic – to make sure that creators are receiving fair compensation for the content that we as users consume? Yes, 100%. Pay people for their work. And in the realm of social media, pictures, memes, and opinions are in fact work. Don’t get it twisted.

Does this shift also symbolize a deviation from the unpaid, egalitarian social media that we’ve all learned to use, consume, and love over the last decade? It sure does.

My irritation stems not from the fact that creators will probably see more return on their work in the future. Or on the principal of free social media for all. It stems from sheer greediness of the social media giants. Facebook, Twitter, and their counterparts are already filthy rich. Like, dumb rich. And guess what: Even though Twitter has been free so far, it’s creators and users alike that have been generating wealth for the company.

So why do they want even more now?

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