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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

Why your Instagram follower counts might be jacked

(SOCIAL MEDIA) What’s going on with Instagram follower counts? It’s a v-day bug, of course!

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Yesterday, I did what I usually do on Instagram – peruse through my own profile because I enjoy my photos. Though my follower count is nothing to write home about, I was confused when I noticed I had lost about 10 followers and had mysteriously unfollowed about the same number of people.

To quote Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, “I was like, totally buggin’”. Turns out, bug was the operative prefix as a bug was cause for the issue, and many users were feeling the bite.

TechCrunch shared that Instagram confirmed the bug was the problem causing follower counts to change. The social media platform also said that the issue should be resolved by 9 a.m. PST on Valentine’s Day (because the only love worth celebrating is that of your follower count!)

At first, many users, myself included, assumed that the decrease in followers came from an attempt from Instagram to remove fake spam accounts. However, when we noticed that our following count had also gone down, that was when people took to Twitter to complain.

One user wrote, “so I just lost like 4K on Instagram and it unfollowed like 100 people within a matter of minutes? what’s going on [whining emoji] like I’m not mad about my follower count cause I’d rather have less spam followers and better engagement but like why is it unfollowing people?!”

Instagram also used Twitter as a way to explain the issue, which is where they shared that the problem should be fixed by Thursday morning. “We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company tweeted on February 13. “Update: we’re expecting to have this issue resolved by 9 a.m. PST tomorrow. We understand this is frustrating, and our team is hard at work to get things back to normal.”

My follower/following count went back to normal a few hours after I noticed the issue, but it may take just a bit longer for all users to see the counts restored.

Share with us below if this issue threw off your social media game yesterday!

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Fallout from Facebook’s shady program spying on children

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is barely even trying to be sneaky anymore, paying children to allow them to spy. Shameless.

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Facebook recently landed in hot (boiling) water when it was uncovered that Facebook has been paying teens to install a “research” VPN on their devices that would allow the tech giant to see all of the teen’s cellular and web usage, for about $20 worth of gift cards each month.

The participants were largely recruited into the program as a result of targeted Snapchat and Instragram ads, and offered participants additional incentives to refer friends into the program too.

The purpose of this Big Brother program was not to empower young minds with technological innovation, but to use all of this data to track Facebook’s competitors, keep track of emerging trends, and otherwise be creepin’ on the kids. The program reportedly went so far as to ask users to share screenshots of their Amazon order history pages.  

According to the report: “Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity.”

Oh, and if the privacy concerns of this whole program weren’t terrifying enough; it has been going on since 2016.

Almost immediately after the news broke, Apple banned Facebook’s Research VPN and shut down the iOs version of the Research app, before Facebook could suspend the program voluntarily. Apple also released a statement condemning the program and Facebook’s shady choice to hide it in the iOs Developer certificate rather than the App Store (where apps that collect personal data have been banned since last summer).

This entire debacle highlights the murky borders of online consent when children and teens are involved. Not only are teens less likely to be aware of the risks of sharing their data, but also often parental “consent” is not real. There’s no verification of parental consent; if a teen checks a box in an online form saying that they are their parent—the website is none the wiser. The same is true for many age verification processes.

If you are a real parent reading this and want to check to make sure that your teen’s not selling their personal data for pennies, you LifeHacker has instructions to help you identify whether or not they are in the program (and get them out of it!).

This entire debacle is a nice reminder that large tech companies may offer innovative services, high salaries to employees, and strange new ways of keeping in touch with people we’d probably forgotten by now, but the product is not the social networks they build.

The product that Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other giants are really interested in is data – we’ve been reporting that for over a decade now. Their treatment of people that may not even be able to consent to sharing their data highlights this narrow goal. If you a not a person, but rather a collection of market insights, what does your age matter? It’s just another variable for the algorithms (robots).

The upside of this entire debacle is that many parents previously unaware of this type of program are now talking to their children about this topic.

Further, this gives politicians more tangible evidence of why media companies like Facebook should never get a free pass for bad behavior.

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We’re skeptical of FB’s reason for killing the Moments app

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is killing Moments. Turns out, most people don’t know it exists – here’s what we’ll all be missing.

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January was the longest year ever, amirite guys? Now all that’s over, we can finally say goodbye to toxic things like Whole 30 oversharers and, if we’re lucky, terrible products from tech giants.

I love writing about tech companies’ failed attempts at ~cool~ new products. Honestly, it’s become a personal hobby, or, dare I say, delight. Nothing warms my ice cold heart like seeing Google Glass, Google+, and the Facebook “Moments” app go up in flames.

*record screeches*

Wait, hold up… there was a Facebook Moments app? What the heck is (or was) the Moments app?

In case if you didn’t know like most people, here’s what you need to know:

Moments was originally created in 2015 as a way for Facebook users to privately share photos outside of the standard Facebook platform. The app implemented machine learning and facial recognition technology to help group photos, and then “recommended” who to share the photos with based off who was in the picture.

Get off my lawn.

If there’s anything we learned in 2018, it’s that we can totally trust Facebook with very private and personal information!

And I know what you’re thinking: why would this crappier and creepier version of Google Photos be necessary? Spoiler alert: it’s not.

In a moment of temporary sanity, Facebook announced it’s shutting down Moments and the app in its entirety on February 25th, citing a notable lack of downloads.

Here’s the interesting bit, though: no other reasons were mentioned like security or privacy concerns, and they insisted it’s pulling the plug only because not enough people downloaded it.

Considering Facebook bullied hundreds of thousands of users into downloading the app, so much so that in 2016 it was #1 in the App Store for several days, do we really believe the “no user base” excuse?

What else is going on under the hood of Moments that isn’t being revealed?

Given the recent controversies surrounding Facebook’s lack of data transparency and unethical decision making in this realm of personal data, I have a hunch something else might be behind this sudden “no downloads” rhetoric.

Only time, and perhaps another amusing congressional hearing, will tell.

In the off chance you’re one of the seven people with photos on Moments, you’ve been forewarned, and make sure to delete all of your data from it in case if Zuck pulls another Cambridge Analytica.

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