Thu 13 Jan, 2011
Tags: app reviews, chrome, cr-48, nanowrimo, writing
Distractions are the bane of anyone seeking to write significant amounts of text–the best productivity is achieved when the author has fifteen minutes or so to get ‘in the zone’ where they can let their words flow freely and their prose becomes much more natural. Writespace seeks to assist the author in this endeavor with a clean and distraction-free interface–it presents the author with a blank black screen with a few basic statistics (words, lines, characters) at the bottom in low-impact white text and a cursor.
The app page recommends using it in a full-screen mode in order to further minimize distractions–your computer becomes, in essence, one of the old-fashioned word processors. There’s no menus, no bells and whistles; just a tabula rasa for you to fill with whatever you need to fill it with. It doesn’t even have its own ‘find’ function–chrome’s find function works, though.
For first drafts, for long novels, and for things like literary analysis where print resources rather than online resources are used, this is a good paradigm. The lack of any bells and whistles acts very much like a feature here, in that many modern word-processing programs have remarkably cluttered interfaces with ‘helpful’ widgets that actively pop up trying to ‘assist’ the user. The no-frills attitude is an encouraging one, and one which I hope will be maintained; Writespace is an open source program, meaning that anyone can contribute, and that means there may be feature creep–people contributing ‘helpful’ features which may somewhat miss the point.
There are a few features that I do wish they would include, though. The existing configuration page (accessed via the ‘wrench’ icon in the corner of the app’s entry on the start page) offers a few basic configuration options (mostly to do with text colors and vertical/horizontal alignment) and the option to import a file–however, there is no option to export the current buffer to a file, nor are any file imports save from the local disk supported. For the CR-48, this isn’t entirely suitable; without the option to, for instance, sync to google docs, the user is limited to copy/paste transfers, which get a little clumsy for large (novel-size) works. The ability to write while offline is nice, but the limit of -only- writing offline doesn’t quite sell me on the app.
Things I like: clean interface, customizable to user spec, no mandatory network sync–good for distraction-free writing
Things I don’t like: inability to sync to network resources (or from them), no obvious documentation pointing to the configuration page
Things I would like to change: stick a sync button in the configuration page to allow for (for instance) google docs send/receive, more documentation–perhaps a ‘default document’ loads on first use to point the user to where the configuration page hangs out.