Friday, 9 January 2015


Last year I posted about distraction free markdown editors and more recently about converting my old eepc netbook into a distraction free writing machine.

I’ve actually never quite bought the distraction-free meme. The idea is that you have an application that allows you to create and save text with the minimum of formatting, allowing you to focus on the text. Optionally it starts up full screen so that you’re not distracted by new email, tweets, or whatever.
Being sufficiently old to have written research papers and documentation on a typewriter, I can tell you that one could find plenty of sources of distraction if one worked at it. Switching to WordStar on a clunky CP/M machine with it’s monochrome character interface was not much better in the distraction minimisation stakes.

Also, any decent text editor, such as Kate, TextWrangler or Geany will let you create a text document with a reasonable degree of fluidity.

Now my life revolves around notes. It’s how I keep track of things. Lists are crucial to remembering what I need to keep track of. A large part of my life is in Evernote.

These notes however quite often require a degree of structuring that’s a little more than the capabilities of the inbuilt editor in evernote - code fragments for example, so I have evolved the habit of writing things in markdown ( on windows and the mac, Retext on linux, and Markdown on Android) saving them to Dropbox, and later tidying them (proof reading, sanity checking etc) and then saving them as a pdf document inside of Evernote.

None of the tools I use are perfect, and I’m always on the lookout for an alternative - one of my gripes being the way the tools interact, and while they all produce syntactically correct markdown, they’re all sightly different which makes editing a document with either Retext or Markdrop a little more annoying than it should be.

Courtesy of a post on I came across FocusWriter.

Focuswriter takes a slightly different approach to my preferred Markdown editors - basically it opens with a blank screen on to which you type text. By default it creates an odt file, and you can add some minimal formatting, bold, italic and so on. It doesn't support Markdown, but that's not an issue for my use case.

It doesn’t do dot points which is a minor irritation. However you can simply just type text into the application as you can do with Kate or TextWrangler. The use of odt as a file format means that you can fix up the text later with libre/open office, or even AbiWord.

The real use I can see for it is in meetings and presos for writing one or two line notes with zero formatting where one ends up with a set of disjointed paragraphs that can be cleaned up on the train or while waiting for a flight. As yet, I’ve not used it in anger, but it looks sufficiently useful to be worth giving some diskspace on the eee …
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