Find Focus With This DIY Distraction-Free Editor

Illustration for article titled Find Focus With This DIY Distraction-Free Editor
Photo: Cameron Coward (Other)

I’ve tried way too many distraction-free writing devices, from the Freewrite to an old Brother typewriter. As a glutton for punishment, however, I may just build the FeatherQuill while I’m trapped at home.

Advertisement

The FeatherQuill is a project by Cameron Coward, a writer and hardware hacker who focuses on 3D printing. The project consists of a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, a touchscreen LCD, and a keyboard. He also added a set of rechargeable batteries to power the thing for 36 hours straight.

“I write for a living and spend most of my workday sitting in front of my desktop computer while churning out articles. I built FeatherQuill because I wanted a satisfying typing experience even when I’m out and about,” Coward wrote in a post on Instructables.

The system uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W—a super-small version of the Raspberry Pi—and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD. He added a smaller mechanical keyboard and then 3D printed a case.

The results, as you can see, are pretty bare-bones but sufficient for writers who are used to a blank screen. He uses an app called WordGrinder as a word processing system and DietPi as the OS. DietPi is a smaller, less power-hungry version of Linux that boots faster than Raspbian, the board’s default OS.

“Boot time, from power to WordGrinder, is about 20 seconds,” wrote Coward.

Advertisement

Wordgrinder actually works on Windows and Mac OS if you want to give it a try, and it offers a very austere writing interface for those looking to “just write.”

Illustration for article titled Find Focus With This DIY Distraction-Free Editor
Screenshot: John Biggs/Gizmodo
Advertisement

Interestingly, Coward had to print the case in two pieces and connect them together, a clever way of getting around the size limitations of his 3D printer. Obviously, you can also just buy the LCD and a Raspberry Pi 400 to create similar hardware, but this DIY kit is still ingenious.

Illustration for article titled Find Focus With This DIY Distraction-Free Editor
Photo: Cameron Coward (Other)
Advertisement

John Biggs is a writer from Ohio who lives in Brooklyn. He likes books, watches, and his dog. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo. Signal: +16468270591 Telegram: @johnbiggs

DISCUSSION

Ugg. What a terrible hardware kludge you’ve discovered!

I’ve tried all the “distraction free writing” apps out there, and none of them really work for me. By far my favorite way to compose is with Bean exclusively on MacOS. However, I’ve recently switched all-in to Elementary OS (linux) and I find with a little interface tweaking LibreOffice Writer is as good as any of the other options, although not as good as Bean. And when I say “a little interface tweaking” I don’t mean any rooting around in the guts of the program. Simply building a single tool-bar that suits my needs.

I hate word processors (like Microsoft Word and by extension, LibreOffice Writer) that try to be page layout programs. A word-processor should be just that: not a place to format a document. It should be strong on editing and navigation tools, but have only a minimum of formatting tools. It should save files in .txt or .rtf files.

The bane of my existence are files that have been saved in a .doc or .docx format that I have to insert into a document, where some helpful idiot thought they were saving me time by preformatting their work. Or worse, Microsoft Publisher files. Die, scum! Read and follow the goddamn submission guidelines!

Pant pant pant.

Luckily I don’t have to deal with that much anymore.