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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/.

WriteType -a word processor to help students write

While looking for an open source technology to review, I came across WriteType, .an open source word processor geared towards school-age children.  I work in special education in a middle school and all too often I hear students lament about having to type out assignments.  WriteType through the combination of an accessible interface and valuable features, strives to be a word processor that students can readily use.

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The WriteType window

Let’s start by checking out the WriteType window, shown in the screenshot at left.  As can be seen, the interface is WYSIWYG, offering a menu bar and the top of the window and simple toolbars below this.  WriteType offers only the most common word processing features, such as text and paragraph formatting.  Features can be quickly and easily utilized via either the menu or the toolbars.  Simply put, everything a user needs is here.  There are no tabs or complex menus offering features that can confuse new users and into which one could get lost .  This functionality is further enhanced by context menus accessed by right-clicking on the text or area in question.

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Note the Word Completion list on the right

So, what makes WriteType ideal for students?  The integration of certain tools takes much of the pain out of writing.  One of these tools is word completion.  As the screenshot on the right shows, as they type, users are presented with a list of suggested words in the gray field on the right-hand side of the screen.  Simply click on the the desired word in the list, or press an indicated function key, and the complete word is inserted into the document.  Another useful feature is the fact that WriteType can read back what users have typed, which will help them to catch mistakes prior to proofreading or printing.

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WriteType’s Se tings window

If these features aren’t reason enough to give WriteType some serious consideration, other features include auto-correction and grammar checking.  Users can also add words to the integrated spelling list.  Text highlighting allows users to mark areas of text in need of attention.  Distraction-free mode allows users to work without the added distraction of a menu and toolbars.  Other customizations include adjusting read-back speed as well as changing the font size of the suggested word list.  WriteType also offers multilingual support.  WriteType can be readily customized further via the Settings option under the File menu.  Documents can be saved in either the native WriteType format (.wtd), as formatted text (.html) or as plain text (.txt)

WriteType is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS.  WriteType teacher workshops are available for free to schools in the Minneapolis area.

Resources

WriteType Home Page

Reference

Documentation: a word processor to help students write.  (n.d.).  GNU General Public License.

Shinn, M.  (2010).  WriteType [computer software].  GNU General Public License.