Tools for writing: Distraction-free text editors

Dark RoomI am easily distracted by things on my computer: email, blogging, IM etc. (More tips on how to concentrate on writing in my recent post.) Several people have recommended using a back-to-basics fullscreen word processor. Here are a few alternatives:

I’m going to try writing an article with one of these and I’ll report back on how effective it was.

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18 Responses to Tools for writing: Distraction-free text editors

  1. Nancy Friedman July 9, 2006 at 7:51 pm #

    DarkRoom sounds a lot like the late, much-revered XyWrite, the only word processor developed for writers (journalists, originally) rather than for secretaries. I reluctantly abandoned XyWrite only after I upgraded to the XP OS; it was in almost every respect the perfect writing program. I’m eager to see whether DarkRoom approaches this nirvana!

  2. munkay July 11, 2006 at 8:10 pm #

    Neat idea. For linux users, as an alternative to using the Java program, try the tty[1-6] screens. If you boot straight into X/Gnome/KDE/XFCE/etc, use Ctrl+Alt+F1 for tty1, or Ctrl+Alt+F2 for tty2, and so on until tty5 or 6 depending on your config. These terminals are text only, and once you log in using your usual username/pass, you can use vi or emacs or pico or any other console text editor of choice (mine’s vi) for distraction free writing! And all that without all that Java bloat!

  3. Roy Jacobsen July 12, 2006 at 1:47 am #

    I just started using DarkRoom this week, using it to transcribe an interview, and I’ve found that the totally distraction-free interface is ideal for that particular purpose. I’ve not used it for anything else so far–mos of the projects I’m involved with right now involve a good bit of formatting as well as text manipulation, so I need the rest of the tools that a full WP program offers.

  4. Simon Wakeman July 14, 2006 at 8:38 pm #

    Your experience with being easily distracted tallies with mine!

    I’ve downloaded Dark Room today – and so far I think it’s helping with getting writing done without undue distraction from other things on my PC.

    Thanks for the tip

  5. Karl September 25, 2006 at 4:55 pm #

    Hi, just thought I’d mention for Matthew and anyone else after a full screen and uncluttered Windows based WriteRoom or DarkRoom style app that do one.

    It also splits the document into chapters for structure purposes, but other than that it does virtually nothing but let you edit.

    It’s actually both a full-screen text editor and still a genuine Windows app!

  6. Bob Gerber July 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    Is this the Simon Wakeman who has a manuscript on Rumi? I want to talk to you about it. (I know Tony Blake)

  7. Desika Nadadur July 21, 2008 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi Mathew,

    You have a very informative site. Thanks for the information on the distraction-free editing software. While checking these out, I also found Q10 ( I installed it and briefly tried it. It also looks very good.

    I will be coming back for more of your writing tips.


  8. Desika Nadadur July 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Matthew,

    Sorry, I missed a ‘t’ in your name. I apologize.


  9. Roberto Pen December 22, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    a new distraction-free writer in alpha stage of dev.

  10. MV December 31, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    I love DarkRoom, keep it coming.

    Recently I started this new project:

    It isn’t as mature as DarkRoom, but it supports syntax highlighting, which I really missed for writing Latex. I’m still using DarkRoom (or PyRoom) for most of my writing though.


  1. iScatterlings - July 11, 2006

    Be a Better Writer…

    If you have a desire to be a better writer than you need to go visit this website
    It is packed with excellent advice on how to write simple and clear English. It has other distractions too which I found very useful and interesting. So interesting in fa…

  2. iScatterlings - July 11, 2006

    Be a Better Writer…

    If you have a desire to be a better writer then you need to go visit this website
    It is packed with excellent advice on how to write simple and clear English. It has other distractions too which I found very useful and interesting. So interesting in fa…

  3. Better Communication Results - July 13, 2006

    […] Distraction, for a writer, is serious business — even a humble request to ‘take out the garbage’ midstream can cause 40 minutes of lost productivity, as one of Matthew’s commentors to his post Tools for writing: Distraction-free text editors points out. […]

  4. Manage Your Writing - July 15, 2006

    Get those editing tools off your screen…

    To write more effectively, you need to learn to draft without letting your Internal Editor interfere. I’ve recommended turning off your monitor (or turning down the brightness of your laptop screen) while you draft. But if that’s too radical for…

  5. Simon Wakeman » A more efficient writing tool - July 20, 2006

    […] So having checked out Matthew Stibbe’s post that Lee cited, I decided to download Dark Room – a no frills editor that takes me back to the old days – green text on a black background. […]

  6. Success in Work » Blog Archive » Using the Right Tools Part III - Text Files - January 6, 2008

    […] lists over 200 applications in the Editors category, and Wikipedia provides a comparison of editors by feature. Also, Matt Stibbe writes about an interesting use case I hadn’t thought of: distraction free writing, and suggests a few tools. […]

  7. How to combat the natural tendency to procrastinate — Bad Language - January 27, 2010

    […] access to distractions. Distraction-free editors can help. Working in a different place can be good too. I wrote a nice list of alternative […]

  8. HP Business Answers: Ten ways to use technology to enhance marketing | MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog - September 22, 2010

    […] Increase concentration. Creativity is the heart of marketing and it starts when you shut out distractions and focus on the task in hand. Consider using a distraction free word processor. […]

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