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WriteRoom, DarkRoom, and now pyRoom

I’ve always had mixed feelings about *Room software (there has got to be a better way to say that). The idea behind programs like WriteRoom and DarkRoom is simple: it’s supposedly difficult to write on a computer because everything else on the screen is trying to grab at your attention and distract you. So a program like WriteRoom comes along and blacks out your entire screen, leaving nothing to distract you from its bare-bones word processor.

In theory, it’s supposed to help you concentrate. In practice, it gives me headaches. The traditional green-text-on-a-black-screen is not friendly to my eyes in the least. Sure, most programs give you the chance to change that, but not knowing of any better color schemes I default to black-on-white. Then I start wondering where the page borders are, how I’m supposed to know how much I’ve written, and so on…

Maybe I’m a rarity, a writer who thrives on distractions. Whenever I get stuck, I’ll stop (sometimes mid-sentence), minimize the window, mess around with other stuff for a while, and then go back to writing. I’m very in-tune with my word and page counts, also; I find they help me get a handle on my pacing. I’ve found myself using WriteRoom and DarkRoom more when I have something I need to get written, like an essay or paper, and less when I’m writing something I want to write. I just can’t stand staring at my own words and nothing else for more than a half-hour at a time, maximum. They’re not that great!

But still, as I hinted at before, distraction-free editors do have their uses… so, knowing I’m going to need one sooner or later, I found pyRoom for Linux. Surprisingly, I like it.

There are a few subtle differences between the layout of pyRoom and the other editors. In WriteRoom/DarkRoom, the text stretches from top to bottom of whatever screen you’re working on. But pyRoom gives you a box to write in, instead, keeping your text concise and manageable.

As for the colors, pyRoom is the only *Room I know that gives you the option to pick not only individual colors, but a color scheme. “Amber” is a lot easier on the eyes than green-on-black, believe me.

Ahh, that's better: the pyRoom help window displayed in glorious Amber.

Besides this, pyRoom gives lets you edit multiple files at once. That’s right – you can work on multiple buffers. To switch between opened files, you need only hold down the Ctrl key and tap page up or down. Now you can work on a document and refer to an outline at the same time. Seriously, this part blew my mind.

Of course, it has some limitations – unlike WriteRoom (and unfortunately like DarkRoom) you can only edit plaintext files, not RTF. This is a huge issue for me, since every story requires some sort of formatting, even if it’s just bolding the chapter titles. Hopefully later editions of pyRoom will give us the option.

All in all, though, pyRoom is my favorite fullscreen editor yet. If you’re concentration-challenged, this is definitely the program for you.

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6 Comments on “WriteRoom, DarkRoom, and now pyRoom”

  1. […] prefer plugins like this one to fullscreen editors for several reasons. First, when you use a fullscreen editor, you essentially have to learn an […]

  2. Trinae Ross says:

    I would like to throw FocusWriter into the mix. I used it for my 2010 NaNoWriMo project and it really helped. I would go as far to say that it was one of the main reasons I completed my first NaNo. The URL is: http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/

  3. […] As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of fullscreen editors. It wasn’t until I tried FocusWriter that I realized why. […]

  4. Peter says:

    Love you article. I was chasing some Keyboard Shortcuts. Do you know of any because the documentation is brief.

  5. Control-h brings up a help screen in PyRoom that lists the keyboard shortcuts. Regarding not being able to edit in RTF format (plain text only), one can format their text (italics, bold, larger headings, for example) using plain-text markup (like **bold text** //italic text//) and run it through a command-line utility program like text2tags to convert that simple plain-text markup to HTML or many other types of files.


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