Creative writing without distractions
Distraction-free writing software is increasingly popular - searches have increased dramatically over the last year - and it's easy to see why. Social media notifications, email notifications and rolling news updates all compete for our attention. Unread message counts, often highlighted in red, are difficult to ignore and it's all too easy to spend an hour or more attending to other people's requests before getting down to actual work.
FocusWriter is specifically designed to help creative writers put their ideas to paper - more a notebook than a text editor. It's not intended for the second and third drafts, when sections need to be moved or cut, paragraphs refined and chapters cross-referenced, which explains the omission of some features we've come to expect from word processing software.
The program's interface is very clean, with only a central blank page eagerly awaiting your words. You can change the theme (including text colours and wallpaper) to something more inspiring than the default cheesy woodgrain, but make sure it's something you really like - there's no way to change the size of the paper in the centre, or make it occupy the whole screen, so you'll be looking at that background a lot.
Menus and setting are accessed by moving your cursor to the edges of the screen. The top menu features a pared-back version of the usual text-editing options (alignment, special characters, bold/italic/underline, find and replace), as well as a few special tools to help keep your wordsmithing on track. You can set alarms to trigger after a certain period has elapsed, or at a particular time, which is very useful because your PC's clock is one of the many distractions FocusWriter blocks out.
You can also set yourself targets - either by time, or by word count. By meeting your targets, you can start a 'streak' - a simple but effective way to ensure you push yourself by gamifying the writing process.
FocusWriter's killer tool is Focused Text, while fades out everything except the section you're currently typing - a whole paragraph, a block of three lines, or just the current line. As mentioned earlier, this is no use for editors, but for simply putting ideas to paper, it's brilliant.
The optional typewriter sound effects are a less essential feature, but can be satisfying - particularly if your keyboard lacks the pleasant clack of mechanical switches. Alternatively, you might prefer to dig out your comfiest headphones, load Rainy Mood in the background and forget the physical action of typing entirely.
The final ace up FocusWriter's sleeve is the portable option. Simply save the program to a USB stick and create a folder called 'Data' in the same folder as the EXE file. FocusWriter will store your documents and settings here. To start storing data on your PC again, simply rename the Data folder. It's a thoughtful addition, ideal if you use a desktop for prolonged writing sessions at home, and a laptop for cafe-based typing.
FocusWriter can save your work in TXT, RTF or ODT formats, so it's ready to open in another program for editing. If you have an idea blossoming in your mind, FocusWriter gives it the room it needs to grow.