WriteRoom Brings Distraction-free Writing to Mac OS X

I write for a living. While I don’t suffer writers block too often, I do have one major problem that affects my productivity and reduces my output – distraction.

I love my MacBook Pro. I’m just a few clicks away from 16,000 songs, and all day long various applications ping, click and bing, alerting me to new Facebook photos, emails from friends and comments on my blogs. Entertaining though all this is, it’s not exactly conducive to sitting down and getting my articles written.

Enter WriteRoom, a Mac application designed to take away all these distractions and allow me to concentrate on what actually matters – getting my work done.

WriteRoom is basically a text editor intended to run in full screen mode. Nothing is shown apart from the text. If I move my cursor a word count pops up in the bottom-left of the screen – it’s all I want, and all I need.

WriteRoom for Mac
WriteRoom for Mac

There is actually more power hidden away than that. It is possible to configure the program to display rich text instead of simply words, but that, to me, is against what I am trying to achieve.

I’ve quickly settled into a completely new writing workflow, with WriteRoom at the center of it. I open the program, switch to full screen and type. As there is no active spelling and grammar checking, I’m not distracted by errors that disturb my flow. Rather than editing as I go, I copy and paste the whole lot into Word at the end, and do one big proofreading and formatting exercise.

Given that I always did this at the end anyway, I am saving a lot of time. I realize now that I was going back and correcting errors on the fly because Word’s red and green error lines were breaking my concentration. As a result, my articles are now getting written much quicker.

WriteRoom is highly customizable. Your editing window can have any background and text color you like. I have simply gone for green on a black background, which is both easy on my eyes, and lets me pretend I’m using a vintage Amstrad PCW word-processer – which feels oddly compelling on state of the art Mac!

WriteRoom is fully compliant with OS X Lion’s resume / save features – useful to some I’m sure, but not relevant to me as I always move text into Word for further editing. This is one way in which I could suggest a small improvement – a shortcut button to fire the text directly into Word or Pages would further speed up my workflow.

Those who do wish to save directly from the program can do so in text format only – or export straight to PDF.

Another handy feature is the option of logging work sessions to a spreadsheet – useful to track how long articles are taking.

The simple things are the most important – the things that actually affect how I work. Switching to full screen mode requires a shortcut of CTRL+SHIFT+F. To get back to the OS X desktop, you have to repeat this combination – pressing “Esc” does nothing. Now this may seem like a small thing, but when I have used Word’s full screen mode, the temptation to quickly press “Esc” when Mail “bings” the arrival of a new message is too much to resist.

This and the totally distraction free typing window are what make this app essential – it genuinely makes me better at my work – and exactly what the best apps should do. For me, it’s worth every penny of its $10 price tag.