Do you know a writer who would benefit from a distraction-free writing environment? This writer could be yourself, a student or a colleague. Distraction-free refers to any application that allows you to work without inundating you with menus, pop-ups and other distractions. Thus you can just focus on the task at hand. FocusWriter is a distraction-free word processor that exemplifies this concept.
Once launched, FocusWriter fills the screen with an image of a blank piece of paper resting on a desktop or table top, as shown in the screenshot. The user just has to start typing. By default, FocusWriter runs in full-screen mode. This blocks out the operating system’s graphics, including the desktop/wallpaper, icons, window widgets, taskbars and docks/panels (if your OS has them). With said distractions removed, the user need only concentrate on his or her literary creation.
Don’t let the apparent lack of tool and menu bars fool you. FocusWriter is a full-featured word processor with support for .TXT, .RTF and .ODT file formats. Integrated features include, but are hardly limited to, text formatting, spell-check, a search-and-replace feature, smart quotes and autosave. Once a user has saved his or her work, this piece will be opened by default the next time FocusWriter is launched. Add to all of this the high level of customization available and you have a powerful writing tool.
Should you need to access the menu or toolbar, have no fear. Though said items are not visible on the screen, they can be readily accessed. Hovering the mouse pointer at the top of the screen causes the menu and toolbar to drop down. From here, users can save or load files, format text and adjust settings, among other things. Moving the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen reveals a bar that lists open files in tabs, tracks the word count, tracks daily progress and provides a digital clock. Moving the mouse pointer to the left-hand side of the screen presents a panel that can be expanded to allow for easy page navigation. Opposite this, on the right-hand side of the screen, hovering your mouse pointer opens a scroll bar.
For educators, FocusWriter has much to offer. A timer and alarm can be set up so that students, and their teachers, can verify the amount of time invested in writing. Daily goals can also be established and monitored. It’s possible to enhance the distraction-free environment by adjusting the Focus Text option under the Settings menu. Here, lines or paragraphs not being currently worked on can be set to appear as faded. Students will love the fun ways in which FocusWriter can be customized. There are four themes from which to choose (I chose Space Dreams for the screenshot), as well as an optional typewriter sound effect. Finally, FocusWriter is available in over 20 languages. Get FocusWriter now and enter the world of distraction-free writing.
FocusWriter is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows and MacOS.
Gott, G. (2017). FocusWriter [computer software]. GNU General Public License.
Gott, G. (2017). FocusWriter. Retrieved from https://gottcode.org/focuswriter/.
This blog has danced away from open source educational technology of late, so I’d like to come back to my original inspiration for this blog -the aforementioned open source educational technology. I want to look at an educational suite designed with younger users in mind. pySioGame is just such a suite.
This application offers a delightful, engaging, intuitive and colorful interface. To the left of the main screen are two columns. These serve as your application menus. The left column lists categories of activities. The right column lists the activities for a given category. The scrolling wheel on the mouse can be used to navigate through both these menus.
Below the main screen is a gray field in which the title of a selected category or activity is displayed. This makes it easy to find a desired category or activity. The initial start-up conditions make it very easy to modify settings via the Settings button. You can add users, adjust the integrated narration (called eSpeak) and select a language, among other customizations. Completion of, and navigation through, the activities is handled through either the mouse or the cursor keys.
So, what kinds of activities are available in pySioGame? Here’s a brief list:
- Language Arts: letter and recognition and writing, reading, vocabulary
- Mathematics: number recognition and writing, counting (one-to-one correspondence), addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, geometry, time
- Art: color recognition, color exploration, paint application
- Memory activities
- Keyboarding/typing tutorial
- Games, leisure activities for one or more players
This list hardly does justice to the activities contained in pySioGame. Activity use is just as engaging as the interface would lead users to believe. Most activities require the user to use the mouse to click on an item and drag it to the appropriate box or place. Alphabet writing activities are done using the mouse. Certain activities require input via the keyboard.
Once an answer has been submitted, click on the green checkmark to the left below the main screen. Opposite this in the lower right corner are navigation controls and a button to end the session. As mentioned above, speech synthesis is integrated and it identifies items below the mouse pointer as well as given answers. Correct answers are rewarded with a splash screen and verbal reinforcement, both of a positive nature.
pySioGame is available in many languages including Spanish, German, Greek, Russian and English. Would be contributors are encouraged to contact the pySioGame people. This is an ideal educational suite for young learners and a fun way to reinforce what the older kids already know. pySiogame is available for Linux and Microsoft Windows.
pySioGame SourceForge page (for Downloads)
Imiolek, I. (2017). pySioGame [computer software]. GNU General Public License.