Are computers really a boon when it comes to reading or writing? Would you rather go back to a time when you read or wrote without being pinged by a friend or distracted by your Facebook wall? Here are some simple apps that make these activities a pleasure.
Digital immigrants might still remember a world where mono-tasking was the norm. I started my career 15 years ago. Computers had arrived, but in their most primitive form; desktop computers were few and far between. If you opened a word processor, there wasn’t a chance that some other program — a chat window or a Facebook wall — would interfere. Life was a lot simpler.
But, in an integrated Web experience, where every major service from Google to Facebook lays emphasis on remaining ‘logged in’, that degree of detachment required to focus on a single task — be it writing or reading — seems near impossible. In a way, personal computers that are supposed to simplify our lives have only ended up complicating it.
Now, a generation of software and applications is trying to simplify these activities. Please note: all the writing software discussed will probably not have any use for the mouse at all. Formatting is minimal and one may not be able to save rich text.
OmmWriter from Dana: One of my favourites from the applications I’ve tried in the past couple of months on my iMac, the OmmWriter is a word processor that introduces an element of Zen into the writing process. The company details its mission while describing the product — “to recapture what technology has snatched away from us: our capacity to concentrate.”
OmmWriter offers backgrounds that range from a pearl white screen to a Zen garden. There are options that enable you to play soothing Zen music to help you focus on the screen. They rip off the formatting and other option keys. There is literally nothing between you and your words.
The latest version of OmmWriter is a paid-for App in the Apple store, available for both the Mac and the iPad. The one I recommend, however, is an earlier version that is available as a free download for both Mac and Windows from their official website http://www.ommwriter.com/.
Focus Writer: A free word processor application that works similar to the OmmWriter. Only here, the free version even allows the user to create themes. All the formatting options appear only when the mouse cursor is moved to the corner of the screen. Otherwise the full-screen view is minimalistic. Apart from the word count, there’s a ticker that shows the time spent writing. A good tool for writers who want to devote a specific number of hours every day to their craft. One can even set alarms and targets. Another feature most writers enjoy: one can configure the software to replicate the classical typewriter keystroke every time a key is pressed. Get the software from the website http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/.
Write Monkey: As basic as it can get, Write Monkey’s makers haven’t wasted time calling it what it is. This is classified zenware — light, fast and free. It allows you to write without any distraction. Editing can be done another day. A commendation comes from an author who has commented on Write Monkey’s website: “With every new version, conventional word processors like Microsoft Word gain more and more features, bells and jingles nearly nobody will ever need, while disregarding the needs of creative writers. When I am writing, all there has to be is me, a blank screen, my words and the current word count. No fancy toolbars, colourful buttons, floating windows or other useless distractions from the things that really count.”
Write Monkey is available for free download at http://www.writemonkey.com/. Those who value the product can make a donation.
Clearly: So much for writing, what about reading, one might ask. Clearly is a smart application from the popular Evernote that paves the way for a distraction-free reading experience on the Web. Just add the extension to your Chrome Browser and the button sits right next to the address bar. Hit the button while browsing any article page and all you get to view is the article with all the advertisements and other distractions becoming invisible. One can also save the articles to be read later or convert them into a note in the Evernote directory. Visit www.evernote.com/clearly
Readability: Readability was the application that was a precursor to Evernote’s Clearly, performing pretty much the same function of stripping the web pages of the bells and whistles and presenting an article in its purest form to readers. Available only for the Apple universe, Readability was one of the frontrunners among the text-only reading tools. If you own an Amazon Kindle, Readability will port it to your device too. Visit www.readability.com.
WordPress: worthy mention:One of the purest writing environments is provided by the latest WordPress engine in its full-screen mode. Experience it.