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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Minimalist writing tools

I downloaded an interesting program for my Ubuntu system today. It's called "PyRoom." Written in the Python programming language, it is like a walk back through time.

I went to the Synaptic software manager, found that PyRoom was listed as a choice, so installed it. A few moments later, it showed up in my "Office" menu. Launch it and you get...

* a mostly black screen, with a thin, outlined box for text in the middle.

* text that defaults to green (but I changed to amber).

And that's it. No menus, no control buttons. I don't even think it will print - you have to copy and paste into something else.

If you're not sure how to do something, type Ctrl-H and a help screen comes up in another black window. Ctrl-I tells you how many words you've written. Ctrl-P lets you change a few things. Ctrl-S lets you save a file. Ctrl-O lets you open more files to work with. Ctrl-Page Up or Down toggles between those files.

But basically, this cutting-edge program puts you back to word processing in 1985: an environment that is Zen-like in its purity, and apparently knows nothing at all about IM, or email, or distractions. So leaves you with nothing to focus on but creating text. Cruel, isn't it?

Apparently, the idea for this came from WriteRoom, which is a Mac program. You can even find a version of it online here, if you would like to sample the experience in a browser window. There are other distraction-free programs for various platforms: Q10 seems to be one of the best for Windows, and it has spell check!

ALSO, if you use the Chrome or Chromium browser, go to the "Web Store" and download Write Space. Open a tab to get the big, blank window. Type, and get both word count and spellcheck highlighting. It saves LOCALLY with each keystroke, as an SQLite database. It doesn't print or export, though - you have to copy and paste to something else.

Oh, and get this. All of them are free!

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