I have been writing for many years now. Long enough to appreciate the heavy-duty word processing and writing tools like Scrivner, WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, and Libre Office for their strengths, and their weaknesses.
Each of these word processing tools has been up on my desktop many, many times. I have watched them evolve through the years as they adapted to the needs of what I’ll call professional writers. Those people who have taken to the internet in search of fame, fortune, or just a few bucks spinning words into copywriting, content writing, short stories, and even fiction.
I am one of those people. I consider myself a writer working in the trenches. Take that to mean what you will.
High Overhead Writing Tools
As I have developed my writing chops over the years I have watched as every writing tool and platform delivered their full screen, distraction free writing environment. There isn’t a word processing system on the market today worth its salt that does not offer such a thing. But regardless of how it looks, these tools can never shed their roots as a high overhead writing system.
What do I mean by high overhead?
High overhead could be simply a psychological construct I have in my head. I may simply be imagining the word processor in question being busy behind the scenes disguising a bloated and cumbersome access to the keyboard, ram, and storage systems. I can imagine this because I have some background in computer science. I understand to some degree how a computer processes input, and what it does with that input for both the short and long run of a document’s life.
Actually I don’t think I’m imagining it, I know it to be true. All those menu options for formatting, export, import, printing, and hosts of other functions don’t go away when you enter full screen mode. They just get hidden. This leaves the system with tremendous amount of processing power that most writers don’t need most of the time.
Simple Functions Writing Tools Need
Simply put, from a writers point of view, a computer running a word processing system simply has to scan the keyboard fetching key clicks, put those key clicks in ram somewhere, and occasionally store or retrieve those clicks with a permanent storage system in an orderly fashion.
The system doing this job the simplest and most basic way is the humble text editor loaded on virtually every install of an operating system. Text editors do nothing more than record ascii code from the keyboard and format those strokes in a file stream which can be saved, or loaded from the long-term storage device.
Text editors provide no text formatting information about the text being bold, italic, underlined, Tacoma or Ariel, or much anything else like that. The data a text editor works with is simply ascii code and file I/O operations to and from the storage medium. Throw in some basic buffering to ram here and there, and that’s about it.
To be sure, some text editors have more functionality, but for the most part they are flat. Meaning they are designed to work very simply.
Full Function Writing Tools
On the other end of the spectrum you have full featured word processing systems like Microsoft Word, a professional product that allows a myriad of ways to format any document. Word by far is the most widely used word processing program and it is a very powerful. Make no mistake, Microsoft Word is an excellent and very powerful product. But that power comes at a cost: code and command sequences that must be stored with virtually each piece of text. The environment has to create, modify, and reproduce the desired formatted document at will. The overhead to do this can be extensive.
This overhead, however, has largely been masked with technological improvements of increasing ram access speed, processor command execution, and file I/O storage access. By and large most users never realize the huge amount of behind the scene command and control a program like Microsoft Word adds to a document.
All of these word processing programs mentioned are very good and it is not my intention they should be shunned for sake of misguided artistic purity approaching Hemingway’s lonely toils with his Corona #3. Instead I want to point out two-word processing programs that work very well for any writer who writes a lot, every day.
Write! and Writer, Two Excellent Writing Tools
Both Write! and Writer are cloud based editors. Both give you automatic saves and a minimalist design. Either one is an excellent distraction free environment, and both give you additional publishing power that allows you to send your documents pretty well any where you may want to send them on the cloud. Places like a WordPress blog, Medium, Twitter, Facebook, you get the idea.
Which writing platform sends documents where varies. I’ll let you investigate. I instead want to highlight why each system presents a true distraction free environment that is very powerful for writers.
Both Write! and Writer are apps that run on cloud based services. Writer runs exclusively in Chrome as far as I know, while Write! runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
The huge advantage for Write! is its ability to run cross-platform. I run Linux on a Crhomebook and Windows on my desktop. That I can work between the two environments, particularly Linux where word processing tool options are scant at best, is a huge benefit for me.
Write! also has a very nice folder feature type layout that is intuitive and easy to grasp. You simply create a folder fort your work, plug a document into that folder, and write. Very clean. Additionally Write! gives you plenty of publish options where you can retrieve or send your documents where you need. It also does markdown which is huge if your working on web-based documents.
Two disadvantages that I have found with Write! is new documents tend to create outside any folder, so I have had to physically move them to the folder I wanted. But once in that folder, all is well. This could be operator error on my side however. I use write for my client work because it lets me organize things very neatly and intuitively in folders. I also know it is saved securely on the cloud.
Another disadvantage to Write! is you have to pay a small annual fee for cloud storage. At time of this writing it is like $5.00. A pittance compared to the power you get with Write! The initial install, however, is free of charge. You can find out more on the Write! website.
Writer works as a Chrome app extension. For as weird and chincy as that sounded when I first discovered Writer some years ago, it has proven to be a workhorse of a writing platform. I am writing this document on Writer as I type. That should tell you something.
The basic app of Writer is free, and if you upgrade to the Pro edition you get some extra bells and whistles which I honestly forget now that I’ve been using it for so long. Even so, the fee for upgrading to Pro is like a one time $10.00 or so. Again, a pittance.
Writer lets me easily send my documents to my WordPress blog with a single key stroke. Typically what I do is send it, then I open my WordPress editor and do the final edits. It’s a system that works very well.
Serious Writers Need a Tool Box of Writing Tools
I would recommend any serious writer check out these two applications. When I was starting out I asked as many writers as I could which platform they used. In those days Scrivener and Word were the platforms of choice. It was only after I lost the formatting of a 50,000 word document in Word that I realized I needed a tool with a smaller foot print. That’s how I discovered Writer. It’s also when I discovered Microsoft Word gets flakey and unstable above the 5,000 word count because of all the formatting overhead.
To wrap it up, the two lightweight small footprint word processing systems I have found best are Write! and Writer. They excel over other office based word processors simply because of their small footprint and nimbleness.
If you write a lot every day, like I do, then either of these two editors is for you.