Anyone who has to write at any length at their computer will know that it’s all too easy to get distracted. Using many modern word processors is akin to working in a cartoon with endless brightly colors buttons vying for attention, and when you add in the risk of being drawn to browsing the web in the name of “research”, it’s a wonder any words ever get written.
Writer is a distraction-free online word processor that has been designed to make it easier to focus on what you need to get down on the page. It’s like an online version of the popular Mac app WriteRoom, and might be just what you need to help you stay focused when writing online.
Working With Writer
Writer has a very distinctive 80s look to it, with green text appearing on a dark background. In terms of the interface, that’s pretty much all there is to see – green text. There is no GUI, no fancy options, just a blank page ready to accept your words.
You can jump right in and start working with Writer in a matter of seconds. There’s no software to install, and you needn’t even create an account if you don’t want to – file saves are catered for by cookies.
That said, it is still a good idea to create an account as it means you will be able to recover files if your cookies go missing for any reason, and it also means that your files can synced between computers. We’ve said that there are no fancy options to distract you, but this does not mean that Writer cannot be customized.
Among the limited options are the ability adjust the color of text and the page background, and you can also choose between three different fonts – one fixed width monospace font, and then a proportional sans-seif and serif font. Line spacing can be set between single and double, and there is also the option – oddly, for a distraction-free word processor – to enable typing sounds. Perhaps that’s ideal if you want to imagine that you’re using a typewriter, but otherwise, it seems more distracting.
The only other settings you need to consider are whether or not you would like to create an account or not and whether HTTPS should be used to secure your connection to the site. Signing up for an account can be done by choosing a username and password, but you can also use an existing Google or Yahoo account.
Writer in Action
As you type, Writer keeps track of your word count to the lower right of the text window. There’s also a character count so if you’re producing text that has to fit a certain space, you can keep an eye on things here.
As this is a cut-down word processor, there are no extras such as a spell checker, but as almost all web browsers have this feature included as standard this is not really an issue. The developer claims that Writer works best in Chrome and Firefox, but it can also be used in Internet Explorer and other browsers if you prefer.
The documents you create are automatically saved every few minutes – and naming is automatic as Writer simply uses the first line of text as the file name – but you can force a manual save at any time. There are only two keyboard shortcuts to remember: Alt+S to save and Alt+N to create a new file.
That’s about it in terms of basic features, but there are other options that are worth mentioning. Any of the documents you create can be easily shared online. This does not allow for collaborative work (unless you are happy to share an account) but it does make it possible for other people to view documents you need them to be able to access.
In the document list beneath the editing window, any file can be shared by clicking in the Shared column. If you then click the View link you will be able to see the URL that can be used by other people to access the files – bear in mind that this is publically accessible.
Writer can also be used as a starting point for blogging, and completed documents can be posted to Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress and other services by simply providing the relevant login details. You can also download files as plain text or PDF documents, while the Print option displays the current document in a more traditional black on white style to save ink before actually printing.
Writer brings the best of two worlds to the word processing arena. It is free from distractions which means that you are more likely to be able to concentrate on writing than doing something else, and the cloud access feature means that it is great for use on the move.
The developer specifies recommended browsers, but far more are actually compatible, and this includes mobile browsers so you can edit documents on your iOS or Android device.
There are numerous uses for Writer. If you’re a writer looking for a way to better focus on your work, this could be the word processor for you. Integration with a number of blogging services opens up more possibilities and the sharing options mean that it can be used to share information with others with a minimum of fuss. It doesn’t support Markdown formatting, though, something you might miss if you want to have formatting in your writing.
Oh, and one more thing. Don’t forget to switch your browser to fullscreen mode to avoid being tempted by the internet!