Why so many distraction-free writing tools?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by skaertus, Dec 21, 2014.

  1. skaertus, Dec 21, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014

    skaertus macrumors 68030

    skaertus

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brazil
    #1
    I noticed that there is a trend for distraction-free writing software. There are lots of software calling themselves aimed at distraction-free writing, with very few features. This lack of features is considered a feature itself.

    Features would distract writers and make them lose focus. So, these software are supposedly better because they would allow writers to keep focus on what really matters (writing) without being distracted by features.

    The list of software is long, here are a few:

    • iA Writer
    • iA Writer Pro
    • OmmWriter
    • WriteRoom
    • CleanWriter
    • Byword
    • Write
    • Focus Writer
    • Grandview
    • JDarkRoom

    The list is long and is growing. Meanwhile, there are just a few word processors that have a full set of features. We have Microsoft Word; Apple Pages (not really as it lacks features); Mellel; Nisus Writer Pro; and LibreOffice/OpenOffice Writer.

    It seems to me that developers have released lots of distraction-free writing tools recently because these apps are easier to develop and do not take too much time or effort, more than because they really believe these apps are better tools for writing. I have seen no new full-featured word processor lately and it's disappointing.

    Does anybody feel like me? That these distraction-free word processors may be useful for some but really nonsense for lots of people? I don't get distracted by the features of my word processor. There are lots of things to distract me – mainly the web – and it's not the lack of features that will help me. On the other hand: those features are useful and help me get my text written.
     
  2. Jessica Lares, Dec 21, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014

    Jessica Lares macrumors G3

    Jessica Lares

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2009
    Location:
    Near Dallas, Texas, USA
    #2
    Distraction-free is not necessarily the bloat. It's the problem that you have to think too much... Like I want to do bold text, so I have to select my stuff, then hit the command or use my mouse and press the key. If I use Markdown, I can just use two **'s surrounding the text. Or I need to make this a blockquote, how do I do that again in Word? I can just do that with a > on each line in Markdown too.

    This gets even more complicated on iOS because you have to select text with your fingers and hit the correct buttons. With Markdown, all you use is the keyboard, and whatever shortcuts an app might have for you to use to make it so you don't have to type the codes for things like links and images.

    You can also tweak Markdown to output differently. Fountain is based on it, and just lets you write a screenplay, and then does all the formatting for you. But instead of doing all the crazy simples in Markdown, it understands how a typical screenplay looks, and how dialogue and scenes are done, and takes the cues from your headings.

    There are lots of word processors out there, but they have the same issues that Pixelmator suffers from. A lot of people have used Word for years, and don't want to deal with the subscriptions now, and so there's a lot of push for developers to make an editor that is competition with Word directly. Just like people want Pixelmator to be Photoshop. Developers understand that people don't want a Word replacement, they just want these other apps to be Word.
     
  3. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Location:
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    #3
    Yes, I share your impressions. Before settling down to a word processor on my MacBook I have tried dozens of apps. The preinstalled one was out of the question as I consider it more of a toy than a serious word processor (especially the new version).
    I got really fed up when in this process in one of the apps I wanted to insert page numbers. It took more than 3 minutes to find the function in a submenu where it was placed.
    And that was the moment when I installed the good old Microsoft Word for Mac. It does what it should.
     
  4. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2008
    #4
    Have been a Mac user since 1990. Word 5.1 was the best MS Word of all time. Every upgrade since then has been a confusing trail. I have 2011, but only use it when someone submits seminary papers in .doc format.

    I have been long time Nisus Writer Pro and Mellel user. Both are a pleasure (compared to anything else out there, see my exception below).

    If I had only one word processor it would Mellel. I can do long documents, handle Hebrew, Greek and other languages. The styles are better organized and usable (MS Word styles are a disaster, with extensive experience in this). The autotitles in Mellel are great. In the 12 years I have used Mellel, it has never failed me.

    Nisus Writer Pro is excellent as well. If I didn't have Mellel, Nisus Writer would be my primary word processor.

    My exception: Scrivener. I have two major projects in Scrivener. 1) Entire curriculum for seminary, 2) My blog posts (four separate ones).

    We are blessed with a wealth of writing apps.
     
  5. iososx macrumors 6502a

    iososx

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2014
    Location:
    USA
    #5
    It's all about choices, variety, and developers trying to make a living in the highly crowded iOS app space. If some of you are bothered feel free to look the other way. Buying is optional.
     
  6. skaertus thread starter macrumors 68030

    skaertus

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brazil
    #6
    I understand that formatting can be complicated in iOS. But iOS devices are not for producing documents, they are mostly for viewing documents. A Mac is for creating documents, and it cannot be handicapped by the inability of iOS handle them.

    I could use Markdown to make fonts bold. But what if I need to insert a footnote? Or a cross-reference? Simple apps are not for everybody.

    Not everybody wants a Microsoft Word clone. There was a time when there were plenty of word processors, and they competed against each other, offering features. WordPerfect is the last one for Windows; and Nisus Writer for the Mac. They are not Word clones; they are word processors on their own.

    I don't see many word processors now. All I see is a bunch of new apps, very simple to use, and with no features. Very simple to develop as well, I guess.
     
  7. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Location:
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    #7
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Never heard of Mellel, but I would definetly check it out. I guess if it handles Hebrew and Greek, it won't have a problem with Cyrillic Alphabet.
     
  8. skaertus thread starter macrumors 68030

    skaertus

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brazil
    #8
    Yep. Most of them are not real word processors.

    There are three word processors really worth mentioning for OS X: Word, Nisus Writer Pro and Mellel. Even Pages falls apart.

    But there are several apps for writing, much more than word processors.
     
  9. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Location:
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    #9
    Maybe it is just a way of habit. I write a lot at work, at home and actually everywhere. I know quite well what are my needs. To be honest with you I was very open when was checking out those quasi word processors. It was disappointing. Biggest one was Pages.
    I started - "anno domini" - with ChiWriter. I designed my own character sets. Then turned to Word. Left. It could not handle special characters that I need for all my languages. After that came my all time "love" WordPerfect 5.1 (DOS). It could handle those nasty special characters and had all the necessary dictionaries.
    Since then, I use mainly Microsoft Word. Got used to it over the years.
     
  10. onekerato macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    #10
    Well, if there is strong supply, it usually indicates there is strong demand too. So it's revealing to consider who wants these distraction-free writing apps? Some writers will try out lots of these distraction-free apps to find the "best" one. Which is funny because chasing after the next best app is a distraction in itself :)
     
  11. Ulenspiegel macrumors 68030

    Ulenspiegel

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2014
    Location:
    Land of Flanders and Elsewhere
    #11
    So true! I have spent more than a week with that nerve-eating practice.
     
  12. skaertus thread starter macrumors 68030

    skaertus

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brazil
    #12
    Don't know if there is strong demand. The barriers to enter the market are low, as these simple apps are probably easier to develop. They are sold for a few bucks. If nobody buys them, they will stop being developed.

    ----------

    It's OS X, not iOS. There is lack of word processors for OS X, real ones. There is a lot of these simple apps, though. They crowd the market, put the price at the lowest, and are definitely not an incentive to the development of better software.
     
  13. nightlong macrumors 6502a

    nightlong

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2012
    Location:
    Australia
    #13
    Like most writers of my age, I used Word for a long time. Distractions never distract me, I never plumbed the depths of Word, I just used what I needed ... Basic functions.

    but I used a lot of paper too ... My research and notes in journals, scrapbooks, and blue-tacked to walls, in piles on the floor.

    After spending some (too much!) time exploring new apps, I have settled on three.

    Notability ... for ideas, doodling, whether handwriting, typing, drawing, dictation.

    IA Writer on iPad, with hoverbar (positioned at eye level) and BT keyboard, saved to Dropbox, when I just want to write and in various places, I don't bother to do any corrections, I just write, simple as a typewriter.

    Scrivener on my Macs, for devepment of that writing, and keeping various research things in one place, and for exporting in various formats. I still haven't explored every nook and cranny, still using only what I need.

    It's a good combination for my simple/complex needs, and it is saving a lot of trees and my office looks much more zen these days. Well, less cluttered anyway.
     
  14. jojoba macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2011
    #14
    Like nightlong, I like a combo. I use Scrivener for all my writing projects, but since they are often long and complex, I sometimes do some redrafting in iAWriter or Ulysses. I kind of think Ulysses offers something of the best of two worlds. It will clearly never beat anything like Scrivener or Word, but it combines a distraction free environment with a lot more features than the strip down distraction free tools.
     
  15. skaertus thread starter macrumors 68030

    skaertus

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2009
    Location:
    Brazil
    #15
    Ulysses is fine, although it could have more features.

    iA Writer and iA Writer Pro are beautiful, and probably the best of these stripped-down word processors. The problem with them is precisely the absolute lack of features.
     

Share This Page