Many of us have some kind of writing to do during the course of the work day, but how do you get down to some serious typing with so many distractions around? These mobile and desktop apps tackle the problem head-on, stripping down the old word processor concept to its essential parts and enabling you to focus on the words.
Typed (Mac, $29.99)
Typed cuts out much of the clutter of the writing experience, but the features it does keep—like word count and auto-save—are tastefully incorporated into the software. You can fade out everything but the current paragraph for some real, intense focus, and there’s even a special Zen Mode complete with sound effects and inspirational quotes to get you in the writing zone.
Write! (Windows, free)
Write! is a new word processor app for Windows that looks like a stylish version of Notepad and uses a browser-style tabbed interface. You get some basic formatting tools and and auto-learning spellchecker too, and if you sign up for a Pro account—free for a limited time to early adopters—you can take advantage of native cloud syncing and unlimited undo levels too.
OmmWriter Dāna II (Windows, Mac, iOS, $5.11+)
OmmWriter describes itself as “your own private writing room” and it lets you pay what you want to use it (as long as you pay at least $5.11). The interface is certainly sparse and distraction-free, and there’s a nice choice of backgrounds, audio tracks and keystroke sounds to pick from: If you want to customize the ambience of your writing environment, it’s a good option.
Writer (Chrome, free)
If you’d rather use something inside your (Chrome) browser then give Writer a go—it looks very much like an Android app, complete with the recognizable Material Design aesthetic. A simple menu lets you change fonts and switch to night mode, and you can opt to have word and character counts permanently on display if you want. A full-screen mode is available too.
Hemingway Editor (Windows, Mac, web, free-$9.99)
You may well have heard of Hemingway before: It started life as a free web app that grades your writing on how difficult it is to read, but it’s now available as a paid-for desktop application as well. In addition to critiquing your prose it also gives you a clean and streamlined interface to do your writing in, and the basic text formatting options are a useful addition to have.
iA Writer (Mac, iOS, Android, $4.99-$19.99)
Newly updated for September 2015, iA Writer first appeared on the iPad but has since extended to OS X and Android too. The latest version cuts back on bloat rather than adding new features, leaving a writing tool that’s very lightweight and comfortable. The syntax highlighting options are particularly useful and the estimated reading time feature is another nice touch.
Byword (Mac, iOS, $5.99-$11.99)
Byword has a strong focus on Markdown (and it includes better export options than most), but whether or not you use that formatting approach, the app interface is very easy on the eye. Keyboard shortcuts are the best way around the various features on offer, and you can keep all your work synced to the cloud through iCloud or Dropbox as you prefer.
Calmly Writer (Chrome, free or $0.99)
Calmly Writer is another browser app that’s available in both free and paid-for versions (if you decide to pay you get Markdown support, a dark mode and instant saving to the cloud as extra features). There’s a focus mode here that dims everything but the current paragraph, and you get some basic image import options, as well as a choice of two fonts to do your writing in.
Ulysses (Mac, iPad, $19.99-$44.99)
Ulysses is more advanced than the other writing tools in this list, but at its heart is a distraction-free writing app that focuses on your text—you also get some handy document organization and navigation tools, so it’s particularly suitable for people with a lot of notes to keep on top of. Images, links, annotations and footnotes are all supported, as is dictation input.