This post was written by former Gradhacker author Trent M Kays
I’ve seen the blinking cursor on my laptop screen awaiting my commands before. It taunts me, and there are times when I just can’t write. I’ve always found it a bit humorous, since my job is teaching writing, but even writing teachers can’t write sometimes.
Writing has always (normally!) come easy to me. I enjoy writing on many levels, but I recognize that others have difficultly with writing in different ways. When it comes to my students, I provide them with techniques and tools to aid their writing processes. A set of tools, which is helpful to all distracted writers, encourage distraction-free writing environments, and I always urge my students to use them.
Here are a few distraction-free writing tools, which may help you and your students:
Pen.io This tool is one of my favorites. It’s browser based, dead simple to use, and free. Basically, you open the browser link, and you’re presented with a blank screen. You have the ability to save to PDF or to a secure and password protected webpage. The Save to Pen.io option saves to a webpage and the Save to a PDF option allows you to download a PDF of your work. I think one of the strong aspects of this browser based tool is you can save to a webpage, which anyone can access if you provide them with the link and password. It’s a clean and accessible tool. One caveat is you are unable to download your work to file types other than PDF; however, you can always just copy and past your work from the webpage into a RTF document.
I made a screen capture of this tool because there is a sound element. Zoom in or open the above video to fullscreen for details about why I love FocusWriter!
The only caveat to FocusWriter is it doesn’t offer grammar check support, which is something many students seem to need, even if it isn’t used correctly. (I would go into a diatribe about how the grammar check in Microsoft Word is horrible, but it is something most writers expect to see, and I don’t have time in this post.)
The lastest edition of Microsoft Word (2010/2011) offered an excellent fullscreen and distraction-free writing option. It comes with the ability to select fullscreen under the View tab, and it presents you with a blank screen and minimalist tool bar. It’s a nice writing environment; however, if you’re not a fan of Microsoft Word, then you’ll probably not enjoy it. While the view does provide you with a clean writing area, that’s about all it does. You can’t set a theme, and you can’t save it in the cloud with one click. Despite those drawbacks, most people have Microsoft Word and might find some benefits in the distraction-free writing environment it provides.
I prefer FocusWriter for my distraction-free writing space because the themes, ease of use, and price (FREE!) are attractive to me. It’s more customizable than Pen.io but less cumbersome than Microsoft Word. I would prefer it to have grammar check support, but I usually open all files in Google Documents or Microsoft Word for final formatting check, so I am provided with a final proofreading opportunity. These are just a few distraction-free writing tools, which I recommend to my students; there are more than these three tools, but these are the ones my students seem to respond to the most.
What distraction-free writing tools or strategies do you use to aid your writing processes?
Photos and YouTube video provided by the author // Creative Commons licensed: CC-BY
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