The Best Distraction-Free Writing Tools for Your Platform

©iStock.com/123ducu

By Leslie A. Joy

While technology has made finding writing work and publishing your own material easier than ever, it comes with its own set of problems.

Namely–distractions.

Between Twitter, email, RSS feeds, and IMs, sitting down to focus on writing can be a challenge. Add in that there are desktop notifications and “distraction-free” starts to seem like an anachronism.

Luckily, technology has offered a solution to the problem it’s created–distraction-free text editors designed to focus on just and your work. Some are more feature-packed than others, but all of them focus on the most important part of the task on hand–writing.

In this post, I’ll share tools for a variety of platforms including: Windows, Mac OS X,  Linux, and Google Chrome. I’ll also share some cross-platform and web-based tools.

Distraction-Free Writing for Windows

Here are four distraction-free writing tools for Windows:

  • CreaWriter. CreaWriter doesn’t just aim to boost your productivity. It also aims to boost your productivity through creating a distraction-free zone where you can either turn on a soothing background image and sounds or turn them off, depending on your style and mood.
  • DarkRoom. DarkRoom is a bare-bones, distraction-free text editor. While it hides everything that could possibly distract you, the green-on-black background does leave something to be desired.
  • Q10. Q10 is like most distraction-free text editors, except it’s portable. Install it on a USB drive and you have the program and files no matter where you are or what computer you are using. Handy!
  • WriteMonkey. WriteMonkey also uses the ubiquitious green-on-black color scheme, but offers some additional features, such as being able to toggle to a progress bar to see how much work you’ve accomplished, the ability to support bookmarks, and a timer.

Distraction-Free Writing for Mac OS X

Here are a pair of distraction-free writing tools for Mac OS X:

  • WriteRoom. WriteRoom is a text-editor for Mac that like DarkRoom for Windows, strips away everything, but the text. Also, like DarkRoom, it has the green-on-black color-scheme, which is less than aesthetically pleasing.
  • Ommwriter. Ommwriter’s main focus is to create a relaxing, zen-like environment for your writing. Think a text-editor with serene backgrounds and ambient music. It’s perfect if you use your writing to relax or unwind. OmmWriter can also double as a great journaling tool.

Distraction-Free Writing for Linux

Here are a couple of distraction-free writing tools for Linux:

  • PyRoom. A distraction-free text editor that runs on Linux with absolutely no bells, no whistles, no snazzy anything–and that’s the point. The app is there to just let you be you and let you handle your writing–period.
  • TextRoom. TextRoom is similar to PyRoom, but offers the added benefit of allowing you to format your writing. At the bottom of the screen is a simple toolbar that tells you only the time and word count. TextRoom also has a calendar function that enables you to set goals, “such a write 400 words on Tuesday.”

Available from the Google Chrome Web App Store

These tools are available through the Google Chrome Web App Store:

  • Pillarbox. A full-screen text editor that runs though the Google Chrome browser. Two of the best features of Pillarbox are that, although it lives in your browser, it’s completely offline and it automatically saves your work every ten seconds. Pillarbox allows you to create a word goal and then alerts you when you reach it. There’s also built-in timers, built-in spell-check, and a fully customizable interface.
  • Write Space. Another full-screen, offline, text editor that runs through the Google Chrome browser, Write Space offers a “persistent save” feature, which means your text is saved with every keystroke. Nifty! Write Space is completely customizable and also offer live document statistics. Handy!

Distraction-Free Writing Across Platforms

These tools work across several platforms:

  • FocusWriter. FocusWriter doesn’t just offer a cross-platform, distraction-free writing environment–it offers so much more! You can create daily goals, there’s tabbed documents, spell-check, themes, and real-time stats (such as how many words you’ve written.) It’s perfect for people who want something less powerful than Word, but more robust than a standard text-editor that’s just an electronic typewriter. Use it either for permanent use or as a stepping-stone towards a more minimalistic app.
  • jDarkRoom. jDarkRoom is very similar to DarkRoom for Windows and WriteRoom for Mac. In fact, it’s almost identical–a minimalist text editor and that’s it. The main difference is that it’s cross-platform, so it’s a good choice if you frequently work across OS’s.

Web Based Distraction-Free Writing Tools

Here are four web based distraction-free writing tools:

  • 750words. 750words is a web app designed not only to help you overcome writer’s block, but also to get you into the habit of daily writing. Not only does it offer a nice, distraction-free space to write in, it also tracks how much you wrote each day along the top. Each day of the month gets a box, with one slash through it meaning you wrote, but didn’t hit 750 words and an “X” meaning that you wrote AND hit 750 words. In addition, you can join in on monthly challenges, view a comprehensive range of statistics, and earn badges.
  • Google Docs. Using Google Docs full-screen view, you can easily turn Google Docs into a distraction-free writing zone. This allows you to stick with a program (and keyboard shortcuts) you know, while still taking advantage of a distraction-free zone. Just hit F11 and you’re good to go.
  • Koi-Writer. KoiWriter is another distraction-free text editor that offers font formatting options, such as text indentations and headings. You can also change the background to fit your mood-or type of writing project, which is a nice touch.
  • QuietWrite. QuietWrite is a gorgeous aqua blue, minimalist  web-based writing tool, that allows you to just start typing immediately. It offers an auto-save function–which is always a plus. You can also start a blog connected directly to QuietWrite, or hook your WordPress blog up to it. Note: Updated in November of 2014. It seems that QuietWrite is no longer available. You can find a list of similar tools at the alternativeTo site, here

Your Turn

What are your favorite distraction-free writing tools?

Leslie A. Joy is a marketing assistant, process manager, analytics geek, and blogger.

  1. I hobby write articles for sale and find that using plain old Notepad is the best tool for me. The lack of distraction is a definite plus.
    I cut and paste into Word when I’ve completed my draft, to do a quick spellcheck, proofread and word count, then cut back into Notepad to save the document as a txt file so I don’t have any format issues for buyers.
    Another trick that many people forget about in MS Word is using View->Full Screen. That removes all of the menus and toolbars giving you nothing but your page on screen.

  2. cmdweb–Thanks for that Word tip. I had indeed forgotten it. 🙂 I also use Notepad sometimes to avoid distractions, but now may try some of these tools.

  3. Wonderful post. I didn’t even know there were writing tools that kept track of how much I was writing or could help keep me from wandering off into other things. And I like your idea for Google Docs in full screen.

    Is your ebook for new freelance writers for beginner writers who are beginner freelancers, or anyone who is shifting into a writing career?

  4. Hi Tinu!

    I’m glad you found the post helpful. 🙂

    Excellent question about my book. I think both audiences would find the book useful, but it’s mostly focused on how to start a freelance writing business as opposed to how to become a better writer. I hope that answers your question.

  5. You might like to take a look at http://pangurpad.com, from a creative writing perspective it is a full screen, distraction free writing editor, but has many features essential to creative writing available ‘off screen’ for when you need them, character notes, plot timeline tools etc. It also keep working/saving if your internet drops out unlike other online editors.

  6. I’m finding this post a few months late, but that’s the joy of Twitter!
    Thanks so much for this article … There are a few I’m about to check out – see what works the best for me.

  7. Thanks for the article! I’ll check some of these out (a double thanks for also talking about apps on Linux!)

    Have a look at the full screen mode of Libre Office, it is pretty distraction free as well!

    /Erik

  8. I’m a suspense novelist and wanted a distraction-free tool, | I was spending far too much time checking emails, and facebook,) so just bought myself a Dana Alphasmart on ebay for $25.00. Waiting for it to arrive. Lots to recommend it, including a long battery life compared to my laptop.

    • Hi Joan,

      Wow, it sounds like you went totally unplugged to avoid distraction. I can see that working. You’ll have to let us know how it goes once you’ve tried it. 🙂

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation.