As mentioned in a previous post, I partook in NaNoWriMo 2011, and rather than use my beloved WriteMonkey like I did for NaNoWriMo 2009, I used yWriter 5. Recently, I’ve tried a few other distraction-free writing programs that are currently out there, and I’ll give you a quick review of those I tried.
* Just as a side not, I tried Scrivener again for the second time in as many years, and I still don’t like it. While certain areas are customizable, its layout and format just rub me the wrong way. While some areas in it are customizable, its layout and format just rub me the wrong way. I’m sure it’s fine for what it is, some people even claim to “live” in Scrivener, but I just can’t. A pen and notebook are more organized. I find Scrivener messy and aesthetically very unpleasing. That’s all I’ll say about that!
Creawriter was the first distraction-free writing program I tried. It’s easy on my memory, which is important because I use a laptop that likes to overheat a lot. There are two versions, a free and donor version (any donation over 5€ accepted) . In the free version, the background, background transparency, and background sound file is customizable, and typing sounds are donor-only. Fonts are limited to three basic fonts (mono, serif, and sans serif), and font sizes come in only three options (small, medium, large).
I give it a 5 out of 10. Visual customization is good, though the white “wings” where the buttons are on are a little distracting (they disappear when you start typing). I feel that the buttons on the right could be designed better. Personally, I prefer something more customizable, and while typing sounds are a little perk in these sorts of programs, I find it a little strange that they’d leave it out even in a free version. See their website (towards the bottom of their site) to see what more you get with the donor version. Or click the thumbnails below to see if you like it!
OmmWriter: I really like it, but it eats at my memory. If I turned its preset background music off, I may far better with it (for I hate typing on a laptop whose internal CPU temperature is 174C … you do the math), but otherwise, it does tend to eat my RAM and CPU.
It has a very Apple feel, and it figures because OmmWriter was originally for Mac. I’m happy to see it available for Microsoft because I really like it. Font is limited to three typefaces, four different font sizes, it does keep a word count at the bottom of your writing area, and the writing area is fully movable and resizable. This program is very visually appealing. The only downside is that it becomes just another full-screen writing program if all those nice typing sounds and background music is turned off. Background, background music, and typing sounds are not customizable, though the donor version ($4.11+, the amount is up to you) gives you quite a few more backgrounds, music, and typing sounds to enjoy.
Easy on the eyes, and recommended if you’re into a very clean and simple program. I give it a 8 out of 10 for the minimalism and aesthetic softness of it. The music gets a little loud (earphones recommended) and I didn’t find an option to turn it down other than turning down my volume, which is a little unfortunate. I like those ambient typing sounds!
Focus Writer reminds me of a basic text editor (like WordPad) with the functionality and snazziness of Write Monkey. With background pictures, and the option to not be in full screen mode. You can create entire savable themes, choosing any background picture (with the option to tile, stretch, or center), any font and color in your computer to switch to any mood you’re in with a few clicks. There’s a timer that comes with the program (set for word count or time) and did I mention you don’t have to keep it full-screen? I know, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of “distraction-free” writing, but sometimes alt-tabbing for whatever reason out of a full-screen program gets a little … tedious. It also has a built-in spellcheck (it can be turned off).
The only so-called problem I had with FW was that the typing sounds had to be manually changed, as in, you have to go to the folder you installed it into and replace the typing sound file with something else (I would presume you need to keep the same file name, so back up the old one if you want it back!). But that’s negligible. No background music, but I think it helps with how much memory it eats, because FW doesn’t eat too much of my memory. I give FW a 9.9 out of 10. I’m sure there has to be something wrong with it, I just haven’t found it yet. Of all the three programs I tried here, FW comes out on top. Tips are welcome for the programmer!
I’ll save my review of yWriter 5 for another post. I enjoyed it, but well, call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer keeping all my notes and timelines and character sketches hand-written in a notebook in front of me. I will say, that out of all those writing programs like Scrivener, yWriter (free!), Liquid Story Binder, WriteItNow, CeltX (free!), RoughDraft, PageFour, the list goes on, yWriter is my writing program of choice. Next to MS Word, of course. Questions and comments are welcome!