FocusWriter – Low Distraction Word Processor

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series How I Write

I’ve tried several of the minimalist word processors out there. For Windows only, I’d say Q10 is my favorite — clean, simple, and fast. However, I’ve been on the go a lot and find myself using all three major platforms (Windows, MacOS, and Linux) during the course of a typical day. If I want to sneak in a bit of writing at any moment, a cross-platform solution has turned into a must. I also realized that I do miss certain features that many “minimalist” word processors might consider extravagant.

I’ve fallen in love with FocusWriter for drafting new stories. It is not only cross-platform, but comes with a greater degree of control over the writing environment, without sacrificing the simple and clean approach to the writing itself. Put a different way, it’s actually not minimalist — it has everything that a fiction writer would want, and simply nothing more. Features: full-screen mode, instant word count, daily targets, session timers, scene dividers, and customizable themes.

Below is a screenshot of the custom theme I created to work on my Camp Nanowrimo novel, working title Red Soil Through His Fingers. Since the novel takes place on a Mars colony, the writing environment lends to the mood. (Don’t judge the writing sample too harshly… its a first draft idea dump…)

Screenshot from 2014-07-13 14:41:52

The background is a shot from one of the Mars orbiters, with blue-grey Georgia 16pt on 85% opacity black in the center. Ping me if you want the theme file.

<< Plantsing With the Three EggsHow I Write in 2024: Writing Hardware >>


  1. Interesting… I thought I’d seen every last one of these.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m a bit of a loon for software, but I’m also very picky and particular, which often gets in the way of getting work done (i think i’ve tried every ToDo method in existence, from paper and pen and index cards with rubber bands to about (seriously) 50 different computer based things).

    Anyway, I have a copy of scrivener (not to mention OmmWriter, SimpleText, iA Writer, Evernote, EagleFiler, vim, Notational Velocity, etc, etc,) which I like but seems… too heavy for drafting. At the same time, the others don’t quite do enough — I still want some ability to keep notes & random firings separate from research separate from actual scenes. Doing it manually (e.g. just keeping separate files or folders) takes a bit too much time, or anyway too much organizational overhead.

    I am, of course, overthinking it all, but the tension between minimizing the friction of starting to write yet still maintaining a few key features drives me to distraction. Then again, almost everything drives me to distraction… overthinking it all is kind of my main thing. 😉

  2. We sound very alike. I have Scrivener as well, and I love it. I find it more useful for revision and editing though, once the base ideas are already down. Then I can move things around, attach to research, etc. It’s an intuitive and powerful tool. For drafting though, I need less distractions, and Scrivener just has too many fun bells and whistles for that.

    (Not to mention I can just keep looking at all the cool Mars research I’ve done instead of, you know, writing the damn story…)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.