Critical Zero

The online refuge of Andy Pearson
He’s been gone for a while, the posts are gathering dust...

Apple & Mac

Writing Trinity

11th January 2010
9:59pm

One benefit of using a Mac is the abundance of high quality software available. There is always new things to play with, and new applications to build into your workflow.

On the other hand this also means you can spend an awful lot of time trying new apps and not enough time actually using them.

I’m particularly guilty of this, like a magpie constantly distracted by shiny things I’m always on the look out for new things to tinker with.

With the immediacy of Project52 it was important to find apps that were going to work straight away, so the chosen tools wouldn’t get in the way of the bit that actually matters. That’s the bit where I have to write stuff.

Ommwriter

Ommwriter is the new kid on the block here, and when I say “kid” I actually mean “strange old hippy guy”. The app takes a look at other text editors, trims it all back to the basics and then asks “what do people actually need to write stuff?”

The answer, it seems isn’t text completion, fonts or clever interfaces – it’s focus.

Thankfully Ommwriter does have a clever interface but the beauty is that it stays in the background, it fades away, leaving nothing but a blank screen and soothing sounds.

Sounds? Yup, sounds. Not content with simply removing visual clutter the developers have added a couple of relaxing audio tracks, along with some gentle sounds which play on the press of each key. You sink into a gentle rhythm as your fingers pitter-patter across the keyboard. Pure writing bliss.

The perfect writing app for someone who is easily distracted, this is where I will be doing most of my Project52 writing.

Ommwriter is available as a beta, so you’ll need to give them your email address to have a go. I just hope they hurry up and release it, then I can fold some crisp notes into a paper crane and gently float my money to them.

TextMate

I’ve had many a flirtation with text editors in the past, but no matter how I stray, I always return to the ever faithful TextMate.

The solidity and flexibility of this app goes without saying. I’ve been using it since I got my first Mac (after a cold resentful relationship with Dreamweaver) and I am still learning new tricks, new titbits to speed things up or get things done more efficiently.

That’s even before you start to customise it, tweaking and fiddling until you aren’t using any old text editor, it’s your text editor.

After the main post is written in Ommwriter I’ll be moving into TextMate to do spell-checking, editing and to mark up the post using Markdown.

Writeroom for iPhone

If Ommwriter hadn’t turned up when it did, my main writing app would be WriteRoom – it does most of the things that Ommwriter does, except the sounds, which as it turns out are really, really good.

Having previously had a good experience with Writeroom for Mac I knew the iPhone version would be just as compelling – a solid note, and text editor which some great features and a nice was of going “full screen” by doing pull gesture leaving nothing but your browse and the iPhone keyboard.

The app has full support for landscape mode, as well as a way to lock the orientation for easy use, even when hanging from the ceiling like a bat.

Writeroom will be my tool of choice when the weekly deadline is getting close and I have to do some writing on the go.

The Secret Sync

Three different writing applications which all create and edit plain old text files, there must be a neat way to keep them all in sync.

There is.

SimpleText is a simple text sync service, as the name may have suggested, created by Jesse Grosjean of Hog Bay Software. Install this tiny app and tell it your Google Account and it will create a folder in your home directory where you can through text files for them to be automatically uploaded to the SimpleText server.

You can then access these files using Writeroom for iPhone, as well as a version of Writeroom that works in your text browser. The service also keeps track changes to all your files, so you always have a history of revisions to refer back to if you require.

I’ve tried things like Evernote in the past but in the end it all seems a bit clunky. There is something quaint and homely about a folder of text files, it feels accessible. The freedom to use any text editor you choose to edit your synced files means you’ll never be tied down to just one app.

If does the job it set out to do, no bells and whistles just simplicity. And awesome.