Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Minimalist editing

After playing with the full-screen editing modes of both Scrivener and MacJournal, I started to wonder if there were editing environments that were even more free from distraction. Turns out there are. The ones that I've looked at this week are:
What I'm looking for here is a return to the way that I wrote documents in the 'old days'; first concentrating on the text in a word processor, then concentrating of the layout in a desktop publisher. This is what I discovered for each app.


This is a paid app, available through the App Store for £5.99. It has Markdown support, which is neat. It can fade all of the paragraphs except the one you are editing, which is a feature I've not seen elsewhere. However, I've not found a free trial version and so it's hard to be sure how easy it is on the eyes in real use. From the screenshots, I'm not convinced.


This is an open source program, seemingly based on Qt, with precompiled binaries for Windows and OSX and source code also available. This isn't as aesthetically pleasing as the other applications here — the user interface is less polished. However, feature-wise it's a strong contender. It has RTF support, you can customise the UI, and it has a pleasant (optional) typewriter sound effect. Oh, and it's free.


Here we have two versions: the free Dāna I and the purchasable Dāna II. The purchased version has more backdrops to the writing area and sound effects, and will relieve you of a donation of your choice of $4.11 or more. I've tried the free version, and it was nice to write in. However, only one of the sets of backdrops and sound effects were tolerable to me, so I don't know how much use I would get out of the paid version. A lot of work has gone into making this one look superb though.


The first thing that I noted about this app was the compatibility with DropBox, SimpleText and TaskPaper. These are all nice apps in their own right. Running the app for the first time was far more 'Matrix' than 'Zen writing environment' and the font was too small. It's all changeable, through the standard preference settings, but it's not as easy as FocusWriter let alone Ommwriter. As a paid app, this doesn't really have anything to elevate it above the capabilities already in MacJournal. At $24.99, I'm not going to be considering this one further.

Wrap up

For now, I'm going to use FocusWriter and give Ommwriter another go. $4.11 is something that I could risk to see what improvements the paid version brings. Byword is also interesting, but slightly more expensive — I need to know more about it before I take that plunge. After all, TextMate has good Markdown support and I already have that.

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