Distraction-free Writing Is Distracting to Me


Like over 300,000 other Mac (s aapl) users who downloaded the MacHeist nanoBundle (as covered by Simon), I received WriteRoom as part of the package’s bevy of software. This lightweight word processor promises distraction-free writing. Having read about it and the productivity concepts underlying it in the past (here’s an old WWD post from Leo about distraction-free writing tools, for example), I was interested in giving it a spin to see if it could help me.

In a word, I found WriteRoom distracting. Here’s why:

Green Text on a Black Background. Perhaps it’s because I wear bifocals, but I find the green text on a black background to be very distracting (it hurt my eyes!) — and don’t get me started on my flashbacks of Matthew Broderick in 1983’s action thriller,  “War Games. While some usability and productivity pundits do sing the praises of an all-black screen, the strain the screen contrast put on my eyes was a distraction unto itself.

No Visualization. Whether I’m writing my next post for WebWorkerDaily, an article, or a technical document for a client, I need to be able to visualize the final product as I’m writing. Like many writers, I like to see how my writing looks both on the screen and on paper in order to spare myself surprises at deadline time. Writing in WriteRoom doesn’t let me do that because it’s not WYSIWYG, and it doesn’t give me access to print preview or similar tools . As a technical writer, I’m probably not the right customer for WriteRoom. However, my work as a technical writer plays a heavy influence on my composition process, even when it comes to articles and blog posts.

However, while I didn’t find a productivity boost with WriteRoom, it doesn’t mean you won’t find one. As I often advise other writers, you have to find the composition process, workflow and right mix of tools that works for you and your projects.

WriteRoom is available with a free trial ($24.95 to purchase) from Hog Bay Software and — despite my experience — I recommend you giving it a try if you think it may help you with your writing.

Do you write with WriteRoom? Share your experience below.



Clearly, you have missed the point of these writing tools. These were made for writers to focus on the content of the article. Any formatting and revisions needed for a good printout can be done later. And as mentioned, there’s a setting for the colors. The green text on black background is designed for those geeky writers that like the feel and look of a terminal window.

I tried several of these but my choice is WriteMonkey. http://writemonkey.com/

Simon Mackie

I don’t think Will has “missed the point,” he tried it and it just didn’t work out for him. He acknowledges in the post that he’s probably not the type of writer to benefit most from this type of tool and even suggests that others should try it if they think they might get some benefit.

Will Kelly

Unfortunately, WriteRoom didn’t fit into my composing process and the look and feel of a terminal window when I was writing became very distracting to me. If such tools work for you, then I say use them. All of us have our own work styles and composing processes so word processors and tools like WriteRoom can never be a “one size fits all” for writers.

Angus McIntyre

If you don’t like the green on black, the solution is as easy as a trip to the Preferences. Look under the ‘Full Screen’ options and you’ll find that you can change the colors to whatever combination works for you.

If the kind of writing that you do means that you need to think about formatting and layout as you write, then Writeroom probably isn’t the right tool for you – but then it’s not intended to be. If I understand its purpose correctly, it aims to help writers concentrate on the words and worry about the rest later. I’ve been using it for writing fiction, and I do have the impression that it’s helpful in keeping me focused on the task.

A possible alternative for Mac users is Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html), which is also intended as a writer’s editor, but allows more control over formatting.

Simon Mackie

Thanks for letting us know about the color preferences. I don’t mind green on black at all (reminds me of working on my old Apple IIe) but I can see how others might find it irritating

Will Kelly

Angus– I tried the color change preferences but came to see that WriteRoom wasn’t the right tool for the way I write. Even if I am writing an articles or a blog post, I still like to see the formatting even if it is just the font. Not having that available in WriteRoom was very distracting to me personally.

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