Ever sit down to write, only to find yourself 30 seconds later scrolling through Twitter or watching cat videos on YouTube? FocusWriter – which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux – aims to cut out all of these digital distractions and help you finish that article, novel or epic poem.
The key is its full-screen mode. Launch FocusWriter and it automatically creates a “writing environment” that blocks out all other windows, leaving you with a simple blank page. You can move the cursor upwards to reveal a menu with a small selection of formatting options, but that’s about it.
Not enough to tempt you? Fear not. FocusWriter has a few more tricks up its minimalist sleeve.
FocusWriter review: themes & goals
First, there’s a selection of default themes to get the creative juices flowing. There’s classic green-on-black, a terminal-style screen and a piece of paper on a wooden desk. If you prefer more dramatic backgrounds, choose a brooding forest or a gothic lightning storm. And if even those don’t appeal, create your own theme by uploading an image and selecting different fonts or colours.
You can also set a Daily Goal, measured in either writing time or word count per day (for example, an hour or 1,000 words), with a percentage bar at the bottom of the screen showing your progress. Your daily totals are stored in a calendar, rather like a health app, and organised into ‘winning streaks’ when you reach your target in consecutive days. Purists may mutter “gamification, pah” under their breath, but it’s a fun way of getting words onscreen.
FocusWriter review: Clicks and whistles
Other useful tools include the ability to grey out everything but a single line or paragraph, alarms and a customisable spell checker. For the full retro experience, you can even turn on the sound of a typewriter as you put the finishing touches to your novel, although this may quickly annoy everyone else in the room – and street.
This is no toy, however. FocusWriter files can be automatically saved in plain text (TXT), rich text (RTF), OpenOffice XML (DOCX) and OpenDocument Text (ODT). So you could tap your work, distraction-free, into FocusWriter, then export it into Word and format it as you need.
It’s the best software for budding writers who want an old-fashioned paper-style experience, without the old-fashioned hassle. Best of all? It’s completely free.
Ease of use
Probably the closest you can get to an old-school paper and typewriter experience