Zen Computing: Toward a Distraction-Free Desktop


Early last year, I did a roundup called 12 Top Zen Apps to Keep You Focused.  It focused on a number of free tools in the category of zenware–mostly applications that do away with the clutter you typically find on your computing desktop.

Some of the readers of that original post suggested some more zenware applications that they like, and I keep seeing new ones, so here is a zenware update.

Among the 12 tools I collected in the original zenware post, DarkRoom (for Windows) and WriteRoom (for the Mac) will probably have the most appeal to most web workers. They present you with tabula rasa interfaces for doing word processing, so you don’t have system trays, docks, icons and alerts staring at you or flashing at you all the time.

Readers of the original zenware post called out JDarkRoom as a similar offering that deserved highest praise. It’s a full-screen text editor that looks and works like the other two, but it also comes in a free version for Linux users. Other readers said I should have mentioned Q10 as one of the best zenware word processors.

If you like the zen effect that these word processors have, you may want to try the updated version of AlphaXP Lite,  which does a similar thing. It lets you control transparency effects for any Windows 2000 or Windows XP desktop, and you can even control fade-ins and fade-outs whenever you hover your mouse over interface components.

Lifehacker has done a good post on Dropcloth (for Windows), which lets you blank out your Windows desktop, and I previously mentioned Backdrop (for the Mac) which does the same thing. Today, Lifehacker has a good post up on Ghoster, which is a utility for Windows users that darkens everything on your Windows desktop except the active window you’re working with.

Finally, if some of these zenware applications go too far in eliminating aspects of your desktop interface that may distract you, Leo has done a good post on word processors that just naturally have very simple interfaces, free of some of the distractions you find in other applications.



iWork 09 has full screen too, super nice…black background and just the stuff your working on.


OK, maybe I’m the only one who feels like this, but I actually like the interface and having all the tools at hand….a totally blank screen would drive me nuts.

Stephen Hay

If you live in a text editor, MacVim has a full-screen mode which blacks out the background, hiding everything else on your screen except for the editing window.

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