Meet the Developers: Garrick van Buren of Typerighter

It’s always exciting to come across a new tool that actually becomes a part of your daily workflow. I try out new apps all the time, and minimalist writing apps are a particular favorite of mine. Most fail to make the writing experience perfectly smooth, and usually have too many features while missing the very quite writing experience I’m looking for.

That’s why I find Typerighter exciting. After trying it out and reviewing it at the beginning of the month, it’s become one of the apps I use daily. Most of my articles this month have been originally been written in Typerighter, and I’ve increasingly enjoyed using it.

I was excited to have the chance to interview Typerighter’s developer, Garrick van Buren, this past week, and find out what inspired him to make Typerighter and how he made it feel so perfect for writing. Here’s our interview for your reading pleasure.

Thanks again for taking the time to do an interview with us at! I’ve enjoyed using Typerighter ever since I first heard about it from Patrick Rhone’s Minimal Mac blog (and I was user number 56 based on my price). When did you first have the idea for Typerighter?

In the autumn of 2011, I sat down to start writing a book. But, I couldn’t find a comfortable place to write – a quiet place to lose myself in my writing. A place not littered with formatting options, categorizing options, and other distractions (e.g. remembering to ‘save’). In the tradition of fine artists mixing their own paints from pigments, it seemed only appropriate that I needed to create the place to write the book.

There’s quite a few minimalistic writing apps on Macs and iOS devices, and even a few web based ones, especially note apps like Simplenote. What need does Typerighter fill that other apps weren’t already filling?

Throughout the day, I’m as likely to be working on a Mac as an Amazon Fire, HP TouchPad, Windows box, or an iOS device. I’ve tried a number of other writing apps before building Typerighter. Many of them required a companion app or just didn’t work on one or more of the platforms I’m likely to interact with throughout the day. Ultimately, Typerighter’s goal is to provide a quiet, consistent writing experience no matter the device or browser.

I appreciate the fact you can purchase basic account without having a recurring subscription. In a world where people think you can’t charge for web apps and have to make them freemium, what’s your thoughts on pricing and one-time purchases versus subscriptions for web apps?

In my experience of building web apps over the past 5 years having some price – any price – is better than no price. When people pay some price, any price, they’re indicating a belief in the project’s philosohy.txt and a want for it to exist tomorrow. While that gesture is worth far more than the price paid – money is the most concrete way of expressing it.

The one-time fee Typerighter basic membership is great for the vast majority of writers. It worked great for me for almost 6 months. The Typerighter Pro! subscription membership is designed for writers with a volume of writing and an intended workflow. The two memberships are for two different writers.

I love iA Writer’s Nitti font, and one of the first things I did in Typerighter was check its source to see what font its using. How’d you pick the default font, and why did you choose it?

Typerighter uses the Vegur font – web optimized by the brilliant Richard Fink. I tried out all 1,500 fonts in the Kernest repository – and Vegur stood out as both distinctive and quiet. The same qualities Typerighter needed. Similarly, I tried out every shade of grey for the font color and the background color. The same for every font-size and line-height. Each of those visual design elements was tweaked and refined until it felt right. Meaning – it didn’t distract me from writing.

Do you see Typerighter more as a writing app for typing text to use elsewhere (say, writing blog posts to then paste into WordPress), or do you see it as a notebook app like Simplenote for saving all of your random plain text, whether long or short?

Typerighter started as a place to write long form text. A place to comfortably write 500 to 1000 words. I’ve found it so comfortable that all my writing of substance has started in Typerighter. Emails, blog posts, research notes, this interview, everything.

Typerighter has no explicit character limit. Just like a piece of paper has no explicit character limit. Writing evolves. Sometimes a short note is the start of something longer. This interview started as a few short questions. I pasted it into Typerighter and comfortably, worked and re-worked my responses over the course of a few days.

My entire office puts all documents of any substance in Typerighter. That change took about 2 hours and has dramatically improved how we collaborate. We setup a common account for the office. We’re all in it throughout the day – writing emails and blog posts, outlining the week’s deadlines, and reviewing accomplishments. Everything.

Building and launching a new web app is challenging. Did you learn anything from designing, building, and launching Typerighter that you can share with us?

We’re really fortunate to have such mature and feature-rich web browsers. Typerighter can be so minimalistic because of all the hard work that’s gone into robust browser engines. I didn’t need to design how ‘find on page’ or spell-check should work and look – they’re part of the browser.

I can’t emphasize enough how important having advocates and users at the earliest stage of web app development. Patrick Rhone, Jamie Thingelstad and the other writers have identified bugs, performance issues, recommended features, and always told me when Typerighter wasn’t working as expected. That’s invaluable – especially at an early stage.

Has it proved difficult to get Typerighter to work virtually the same on all browsers, from, say, Chrome on Windows to Safari on the iPhone to the browser on the HP Touchpad? I love Typerighter’s simple .. commands, especially “top..” to get back to your list of Typerighter documents. What was the inspiration for this simple way of adding more features invisibly?

In Typerighter, the writing space is sacred and the keyboard is the user interface.

There’s always the challenge of visual consistency across all browsers and platforms – even with such a minimalist app. With Typerighter, the greater challenge is in designing the snippet and ampersand commands to be consistent and accessible across all the different device keyboards. I spent the better part of an afternoon comparing the default keyboard layouts of every device I could get my hands on. The one one thing they all had in common was an obvious period. Thus, the snippet command is dot-dot.

You’ve added a lot of features to Typerighter since it was launched. Do you have any more upcoming features you can share with us? Where do you see Typerighter in 5 years?

Almost from the beginning of Typerighter, writers asked for a way to make their writing public. Introducing pound-public forced us to revisit every line of Typerighter’s underlying code. I’m really proud of that work – it also gave us hashtags and forced us to clarify Typerighter’s command syntax. In the office, we’re finding hashtags a great way to organize writing. Again, hashtags are completely invisible. If you’re a Pro! member and inclined to use them – they’re there.

For me, as a writer with a long form book project, Typerighter still doesn’t do everything I need it to. I’m confident the current Typerighter commands and philosphy.txt provide a solid structure for adding new features and capabilities.

Even with the features we’ve added and one the ones we’re working on – the writing space hasn’t changed. It’s still a blank piece of paper. It will always remain a blank piece of paper.

Do you think web apps are going to be more or less important in the future, with mobile OSes becoming more of the standard and App Stores selling billions of native apps?

Scanning my office right now I see 6 devices with 6 different operating systems. Yet they all have a fully modern web browser and email client. I’m not sure of any native application available across all of them – maybe Angry Birds. Down the road – I see more interesting and diverse internet-enabled devices. If it has a browser and a keyboard – Typerighter should work on it.

For some computationally-expensive applications a native app may make sense. Typerighter isn’t computationally-expensive, nor are the vast majority of the applications I use on a daily basis. I’m far more interested accessibility, portability, and reliability. For that, I look to web apps.


We’d like to extend a special thanks to Garrick van Buren for taking the time from his busy schedule to do this interview with us. If you haven’t given Typerighter a try yet, you definitely should try it out. You can test it for free, get a one-time paid account, or subscribe to Typerighter pro for even more simplistic writing features. If you’ve been looking for a minimalist writing app that works on every platform, you don’t need to look again. Typerighter’s one of my personal favorite apps, and I highly recommend it.