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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.

Social Media

Instagram now lets you create and share fundraisers

(SOCIAL MEDIA) If you’ve been wanting to start a fundraiser for something you care about, Instagram’s new feature lets you do just that. Go check it out!

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Instagram Fundraiser

Instagram announced last week that it has launched a test for a Personal Fundraiser tool on its platform. The feature will allow users to start their own fundraiser if it complies with guidelines or choose an existing cause to support. The launch began in some US, UK, and Ireland markets and is available on Android and iOS.

In its announcement, the company confirmed that since January, more than $100 million has been raised for COVID-19 across Facebook and Instagram (also owned by Facebook), citing that donations on Instagram have doubled in the US in the past 30 days. The announcement said, “from people raising money to buy medical equipment for Black Lives Matter protesters, rebuilding Black-owned small businesses affected by COVID-19 and funding educational resources related to racial justice, people are eager to mobilize around causes they care about.”

Personal Fundraisers are short-term and meant to serve time-sensitive causes, with the initial duration lasting 30 days with the option to extend for an additional 30 days. Users must be 18 to create a fundraiser and have a designated bank account in which funds can be deposited. Donations will be processed through Facebook Pay, which also powers Instagram’s new shopping features. The platform covers fees for non-profits, but not for Personal Fundraisers. Donors can choose to keep their information hidden from the public, but organizers will be able to see user names and donation amounts.

To start a Personal Fundraiser, users with access to the feature can tap “Edit Profile”, “Add Fundraiser”, followed by “Raise Money”. They can then choose a photo, select the fundraiser category, and write out a story to encourage donations. When approved, users will be able to raise funds.

Instagram says it will expand the number of users who have access to this feature in the months ahead, as well as give users access to share fundraisers both in their Feed and within Stories. Fundraising features already offered by the company include Donation Stickers for Stories and a Live Donations feature for live streams.

This feature is similar to the fundraising feature already available on Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.

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Social Media

Should you be Facebook friends with your boss?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Are there times when it makes sense to connect with your boss and team on Facebook? Or is LinkedIn enough?

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Just as we learn, grow, and change in life, so does our use of social media platforms and technology in general. It makes sense though – when hot new programs come out and “everybody’s doing it” (thinking of you MySpace and Plaxo), it’s easy to create a user profile to see what you think of the platform.

You may be a heavy user at first (looking at you Facebook) and then back off, only to use it for certain functions (Groups and Events for example). In the interim, you may have joined Instagram because for some reason it seemed simpler and light-hearted. And don’t let the new, shiny things coming out pass you by without at least seeing if you like them, or if they help entertain you and connect you to loved ones (looking at you Snapchat and TikTok).

Amongst some doubt of new or potential users in the mid-2000s after Facebook opened up to those outside of universities, we have to admit that Facebook has had a longevity that some of the other platforms have not. It allows you to keep your personal network in one place as well as your photos, significant dates, your career changes, events, and even see what your cousins are up to. It almost feels like once you’re invested, it’s hard to get out.

The thing is, there is definitely a grey area on who you accept as a “friend”. It really is up to each person’s comfort level on who they want to be connected to, and how much sharing they do on the platform. This article isn’t going to address Facebook privacy concerns and data sharing, but we do encourage you to look in to those if that is something that is important to you. It’s a similar idea with LinkedIn – some people are happy to connect with anyone and everyone, while others prefer to keep their connections to those they personally know and/or have worked with.

This story is addressing a question as it relates to an article in Inc. about whether or not is it’s ok for managers and employees to be “Facebook friends”, and some other tricky professional situations. We have to look at few things first, including the evolution of our use.

Since Facebook was made available to everyone, we have gone from a simple profile picture, relationship status (oof), and random updates about our breakfast/dentist appointments, to joining interest groups, sharing news articles, promoting brands and memes at a mind-boggling rate. Many people have considered deleting their Facebook profiles due to a high level of negativity, privacy concerns over their data and pictures, and how ultimately, scrolling your newsfeed can be a total time suck.

Many stay on because they are in groups (like super amazing, supportive, and popular ones such as Austin Digital Jobs) that they enjoy, and it’s a way to stay connected with others. This has felt true especially during COVID-19 where many people have lost their social outlets, networking opportunities, and have not been able to get together in person. Social media has also been a useful platform for small business owners and entrepreneurs to run a business page at minimal costs (free unless they run advertising), and reach out to customers. Facebook (owner of Instagram) also seems to have been making strides this year to better support small business owners.

So, should you be Facebook friends with your boss?

That is up to you (we are not here to tell you how to run your life) and while many have said, “Nope” in a super unofficial survey of 30 respondents, there were a couple of interesting perspectives:

“Since I’m my boss, twist on my answer… I don’t yes any professional that asks to be FB friends. That’s what my page is for. I even have a canned response that says this because I get so many asks. My personal FB is for actual friends of mine. I didn’t want to yes my MIL either. I have her on the restricted list.”

“I guess it depends. I’m friends with my boss and most of my coworkers. Creative shop within a corporation … about 45 strong. We are tight.”

“If you love your job and you love your boss then I think it is ok. I work 2 part-time jobs and both of my bosses are amazing! I am friends and Facebook friends with both of them.”

“I’m fine. I don’t post much on Facebook anymore. My bosses are all fairly chill. ”

“I have been Facebook friends with previous bosses while they were my boss. I am not with my current boss, but I’d be fine with it if we were. I don’t post anything too crazy, and I tend to over share in the office already. I like to be an open book. Tiktok would be different though… ”

For some who are part of a start-up or smaller team where collaboration and getting to know one another  are supported (thinking teams of 10 or less, hey AG Staff Writers), this may be more of the ‘norm’ and acceptable. However, the majority of people do not want to be “Facebook friends” with their boss to draw a line between work and personal sharing. Many people also mentioned that it varied if they chose to be Facebook friends with their colleagues, although they seem to be more open to colleagues vs. direct supervisors.

This seems to reflect back on how you use Facebook and if sharing your weekend or family photos is not something you want everyone to see. On the flip side, if you’re not sharing much, maybe you’d be OK with being connected there. A more professional way of connecting with your supervisor and others at work is through LinkedIn, and is in fact, highly encouraged.

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Could TikTok soon be banned in the U.S for privacy breaching?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok, a video content social media giant, has been deemed a potential national security risk by the U.S Federal government.

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TikTok is banned

U.S lawmakers are calling for a full investigation into TikTok, the fifteen second video app with almost 180 million downloads, after expressing concerns of a privacy breach by the Chinese government.

TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, purchased the platform originally known as musical.ly in November 2017. Since then the social media app worth an estimated $150 billion has almost 180 million downloads in the U.S, and 800 million downloads worldwide.

According to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the U.S has reason to believe the Beijing-based company, ByteDance, may have been coerced into handing over data to China’s communist leaders. The app’s Founder, Zhang Yiming, and TikTok’s spokesperson responded to the accusations with the following statement: “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

We don’t know if we believe you TikTok.

TikTok received over 500 legal demands, including emergency requests, in the first six months of 2020. TikTok has also previously confirmed that the app stores user data on “U.S-based servers” withdrawn from phone downloads. Information includes IP addresses, messages, location information, and according to Pompeo, “sensitive information”, exposed by data breaching that disregards American rights to privacy and potentially violates national security guidelines.

Company employees may live in the U.S, but with its head of operations stationed in Beijing, pressure from the Chinese Government to provide user information is a very serious concern for Americans using the app. 41 percent of its users are part of Generation Z, a highly influential, social media-friendly age group, ranging between 16 and 24.

A sense of invincibility within this age range encourages users to use the app without caution of personal information that may be provided or derived off your phone after installation. In the past two years, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have also been criticized for not abiding to lawful privacy standards.

ByteDance has halted the use of its corporate office in Beijing and is looking to establish headquarters within the U.S or under new management.

The U.S. government is seriously considering banning the use of TikTok.

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