Category Archives: Writing

FocusWriter -Distraction-free Writing

focuswriter,focuswriter logo, focus writer,energize educationDo 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.

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The FocusWriter opening window (with some prose by the author)

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.

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The bottom panel displays info about the current session

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.

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The Space Dreams theme could inspire your students to create whole universes.

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.

Resources

FocusWriter Web Page

References

Gott, G.  (2017).  FocusWriter [computer software].  GNU General Public License.

Gott, G.  (2017).  FocusWriter.  Retrieved from  https://gottcode.org/focuswriter/.

Story Maps -Young Author Story Creation Software

Arguably, storyboards provide the ideal way to introduce young academicians to writing. Story Maps is an open source application that provides young authors with a graphical interface with which they can plot their stories and a text editor to provide the details that will bring their stories to life. In short, Story Maps is a virtual storyboard. The developer who created this application did so as part of his post-graduate studies in conjunction with teachers, students, creative writing experts and an illustrator. It utilizes story elements commonly found in fairy tales.

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Story Maps start up screen

Upon launch, the user is presented with Planning View, which offers a simple interface. The screen is divided into upper and lower halves. The upper half has a green background and offers tiles, called story cards, from which users can choose story events. The story cards are labeled and have a corresponding image to further convey their purpose. Hovering the mouse pointer over each story card enlarges it and provides the user with additional information about that particular story card.

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Ready to start writing.

These story cards can then, individually, be dragged and dropped onto the gray field in the lower half of the screen. Here, they can be arranged into a story map. Near the top of the Story Maps window is a menu bar offering one option, File. From here, users can save the current story, open an existing story, preview the current story, save the current story as HTML or print the story. At the bottom of the screen is a panel offering options to Write your story!, enter your story’s title and a button that allows users to sort story cards. The result is an interface that allows ready access to features and that is also aesthetically appealing and delightfully engaging.

Using Story Maps is easy. As mentioned above, simply click on and drag story cards to the canvas below. Once the story cards are selected, users click on the Write your story! button. This brings up the story editor that takes up the lower half of the screen, while the selected tiles move to the upper half of the screen. The current story card is displayed to the left of the editor.

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Exported to HTML.

The story card is described (e.g. Home: “How the story starts”) to the right and ideas for what to write are presented below this description (e.g. for the Home tile: “You could: Introduce the main characters and…”). Scrolling down in this pane brings the user to the editor where the stories are typed. Below this is a toolbar offering Cut, Copy and Paste options on the left and Save Story, Preview Story, Save Story as HTML and Print Story on the right. Prev and Next buttons with appropriate arrows are, respectively, on the far left and far right of this pane and allow users to scroll through tiles without having to leave the editor.  Clicking on the Go back to planning button moves the editor pane down so that the writer can access the story cards.

In terms of exportability, Story Maps can save only to its native format and HTML.  The HTML format is more like of snapshot of the sessions in question, as can be seen in the screenshot above.  Printed pages look just like the HTML pages.  The beauty of this is that the hard copy can serve as a graphic organizer when moving the story text to a word processor where the story can be viewed without graphic organizer components.

So, if you’re looking for an engaging application that serves as a graphic organizer and as a motivator to get young academicians writing, give Story Maps a try.

Story Maps is available for Linux, but there are similar Web-based programs available online.
Resources
The Story Maps Web site

References
Fernandez-Sanguino, J. (2012). Story maps: general commands manual. GNU General Public License.
Hammond, S. (2012). Story maps [computer software]. GNU General Public License.