Reviews, Software Programs

Review: WriteMonkey

In the world of word processors such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer as well as their smaller alternatives like Wordpad or even Notepad, programmers tend to implement features that are never used.
Despite what the constant releases of newer, bigger, and glitzier commercial office suites might have you believe, users are still doing the same thing they have been doing in word processors since the nineties. Admittedly, progress and new features are a necessity, but when you want to sit down and just write something, distraction-free simplicity is king.

WriteMonkey does an excellent job of providing such a writing ecosystem.

The program provides a sleek, fast, and productive way of writing large amounts of text without distraction, which means sacrificing different formatting options such as colors, bolding, italics, underlining, tables, picture insertion.

So what is absolutely essential to a writer?s needs? A full screen for text, without any intrusion from any extraneous tool bars or buttons; in short, just a quiet place to write. Of course, this might leave most people wondering why Notepad is a bad example. Instead of answering that question directly, let?s cover the features WriteMonkey has to offer and let you see for yourself.

The first thing that sets WriteMonkey apart from the pack is immediately evident on start up: it runs entirely in full screen with nothing but a cursor on a text field where the text appears. This is definitely an ascetic interface, but it hides a number of customization options. By opening preferences with the F10 key, a menu opens up with numerous options to tweak the program to just any way a user would want it. One such useful daemon is the Infobar.

This bar which docks to the bottom of the screen can show a number of useful progress indicators such as character and word count, time, and even an overall progress bar based on time or word count which can be defined in a separate menu.

By pressing the F12 key, the complete statistics of the text already present will be displayed in a new window, along with options to define the parameters of the document itself. The alternative method of viewing the options available through this menu are available at any time by right clicking anywhere in the interface.

The program also features a bookmarking ability, represented by two ?@? symbols. These bookmarks help in the navigation of larger documents. Another feature which distinguishes WriteMonkey from other word processors is the Repository, accessed by pressing ALT+R, which functions as a separate place to store notes, unused text, and ideas that relate to the document.

For the older, or perhaps simply more sentimental user, the option to play a classic typewriter sound is available as well as a ?typewriter mode? wherein the line that the cursor stays on is centered on screen while the text moves up.

Other useful options also available include markup highlighting, timed writing, jumps, segment focus, backups and document history, an integrated spell checker, multi-monitor support, and Firefox integration.

At first glance, this program appears deceptively minimalistic, and while the actual interface is nothing to write home about, the options available make it absolutely ideal for people looking to write a lot of text. The final advantage this program has against its larger cousins is that it is released under a freeware license, is maintained and updated regularly, and is completely portable with a 3.4 MB footprint.

WriteMonkey is definitely worth trying, and may be the perfect solution for serious writers looking for a distraction free work environment.