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Excellent Free Distraction-Free Tools for Writers

by Frazer Kline

Fans of the typewriter remain a vehement group. They view the typewriter as something really special, a tool which makes the connection between languages. One of the attractions of a typewriter is that it offers a distraction-free alternative of modern day methods for producing a document. They challenge the writer to concentrate on what really matters - the content. They force the writer to think.

In many countries, the typewriter has been largely consigned to history by the computer. Yet, the computer is jam-packed with distractions. The desktop with its cluttered interface, the chatter of social media, the almost limitless content of the internet, the chirping email notifications, the list of distractions is endless. When writing, concentration is vital. Fortunately, there are computer applications which are designed to offer a distraction-free environment, to ensure the writer has mental clarity, by not being distracted by the operating system and a cluttered interface.

Here is my take on the finest distraction-free applications to help you focus on writing without interruption. Each of the applications run in Linux, most are available as desktop applications.


FocusWriter in action

FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free word processor. It uses a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work. It has multi-platform support, and has been translated into many different languages.

FocusWriter allows you to customize your environment by creating themes that control the font, colors, and background image to add ambiance. It also has on-the-fly updating statistics, daily goals, multiple open documents, spell-checking, and much more.

When you open the program your current work in progress will automatically load and position you where you last left off so that you can immediately jump back in.

FocusWriter needs Qt 4.6 (or higher, Qt 5 is supported) and hunspell.

Features include:

  • Timers and alarms
  • Session management
  • Daily goals
  • Fully customizable themes
  • Auto-save (optional)
  • Live statistics (optional). Statistics include word count, page count, paragraph count, and character count
  • Spell-checking (optional) for supported languages, on-the-fly, or performed in the background
  • Multi-document support
  • Sessions
  • Portable mode (optional)
  • Scene list sidebar
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • TXT, basic RTF, and basic ODT file support
  • Basic support for Office Open XML files
  • Typewriter sound effects (optional)
  • Translated into over 20 languages including Armenian, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, Serbian, Swedish, Turkish, and Chinese

Calmly Writer

Calmly Writer in action

Calmly Writer is billed as the ultimate distraction-free writing tool. It has been designed to help you focus on writing. As you start typing, all the distracting options disappear from the interface.

Calmly Writer also includes a "focus mode" option, which highlights only the paragraph you are editing at the time. This lets an author focus solely on the current text fragment, greying out the rest of the work into background.

Calmly Writer is available to use online (for free), and as a paid Chrome desktop app.

Features include:

  • Well designed spartan interface
  • Simple to use
  • Full-screen mode
  • Runs offline
  • Focus-mode, which highlights only the paragraph you are editing at the time
  • Automatically adapts both the layout and the size of images and font with the aim to provide an optimal viewing experience for each context
  • Print (and export to PDF using a PDF generator)
  • Dark mode (white on black)
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Import/Export: Calmly Writer can open/save .cml (essentially HTML files), HTML and Markdown
  • Embed or link images
  • Powerful formatting options - quick markdown syntax to format headers, italics, bolds and bullets
  • Spell check (via the browser)
  • Word and character counter with estimated reading time
  • Website:
  • Developer: Yusef Hassan
  • License: -
  • Version Number: Desktop version available but not free


TextRoom in action

TextRoom is an open source basic full-screen rich text editor for writers.

TextRoom seeks to help you start writing right away by providing distraction free environment to your liking, as well as a familiar set of keyboard shortcuts to control its behavior.

TextRoom needs Qt 4.7 or higher, SDL 1.2.13 or higher, SDL_mixer 1.2.8 or higher, and hunspell 1.2.6 or higher.

Features include:

  • Export your documents to Google Docs
  • MiniFlo mindmapper based on Flo by Ian Reinhart Geiser
  • GetAWord random word generator
  • MusicRoom - a very basic music player
  • Basic rich text editing: bold, italic, underline, and changing font, font size and color
  • Configurable statusbar colors and fonts
  • Configurable editor width and height
  • Configurable tab stop width and paragraph spacing
  • OpenOffice, Writer Document (odt) export
  • Insert images to your documents
  • Configurable behavior: full-screen on/off, auto save, flow mode (disable delete and backspace keys), load last document on startup, remember position in text for the last file
  • Insert current time and/or date in a configurable fashion
  • Live word count for all text and selected text
  • Live character count option
  • Configurable page count option
  • Live clock on statusbar
  • Targets
  • Keyboard shortcuts for the most common tasks
  • Typing sounds similar to a typewriter which can be disabled
  • Spellcheck with hunspell (US English and Turkish, for now.)
  • Printing support
  • Background images
  • Transparent statusbar
  • File association with .txr files
  • Restoring all settings to defaults
  • Plain text only or rich text options
  • Scratchpad
  • Line indent (Shift+Enter ignores indent)
  • RTL support
  • Aligment (Right, Left, Centered and Justified)
  • Cross-platform support
  • Website:
  • Developer: Petar Toushkov, Omer Bahri Gordebak
  • License: GNU GPL v3
  • Version Number: 0.11.7

Write Space

Write Space in action

Write Space is an installable web application for Google Chrome / Chromium and derived web browsers. It is a minimalist, full-screen text-editor that aims to be simple and distraction-free.

Write Space is customizable with options accessible through Tools / Extensions from Google Chrome.

Features include:

  • Persistent auto-save. The document is automatically saved with each key press
  • Offline. The application is completely self-contained, which means that it functions without an internet connection
  • Saves data locally. Write Space saves your data on your own computer, not on an external server
  • Live document statistics showing the word count, lines, and characters (this can be turned off if considered obtrusive)
  • Customizable - change the font (size, family and colour), background, editor width, vertical padding, line spacing, as well as the options of turning off the status bar and the spellcheck
  • Website:
  • Developer: Haydn Trowell
  • License: New BSD License
  • Version Number: 0.60

Last Updated Sunday, July 20 2014 @ 02:12 PM EDT

We have written a range of guides highlighting excellent free books for popular programming languages. Check out the following guides: C, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, CoffeeScript, HTML, Python, Ruby, Perl, Haskell, PHP, Lisp, R, Prolog, Scala, Scheme, Forth, SQL, Node.js (new), Fortran (new), Erlang (new), Pascal (new), and Ada (new).

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