Last week two applications caught my attention. WriteRoom (Mac) and Dark Room (Windows-clone). They both do share the same concept of distraction free writing. The only thing you can do is write, no highlighting, no bold or italic, just plain writing.
Especially after reading this wonderful article about managing you daily office life I tried the Mac-version. I really have to say that I did like it a lot. You just type in what comes to your mind and don’t care about layout. That you can and have to do later. However, even after writing just two or three things I changed the way I wrote. I paid more attention to the style of my writing so that even without formatted headings you can do a lot with basic text layout.
So is it a replacement for word? Yes and no. Sometimes I just want to type in stuff and word will not be the tool to layout it at the end, e.g. when writing emails. However, as I neve used layout techniques to a high extend I tried the Word full screen feature. This is almost the same as with WriteRoom, it doesn’t show anything but text and grey background. Then I set up my keyboard shortcuts to have some for heading 1 to 3 and that’s all I need now. It saves the same purpose of distracting free writing for me since there are no toolbars and so on. So, give it a try and see for yourself how different writing can be.
In his new Alertbox Jakob Nielsen talks about his new findings about screen resolution and imporved productivity when using big screens. His recommendation is to use a basic layout optimized for 1024×768 and make it liquid so it will adopt 800×600 or 1280×1024. The most important thing in his alertbox for me was that there is a
need for a new paradigm in the future
The reason behind that is not only the screens getting bigger and bigger. There is another trend in screen resolution going on for a while that hardly gets noticed. Many screens do not fit onto the 4:3 layout of applications and web sites anymore. Since many laptops have been optimized for DVD playback or Apple sells the cinema displays designers have to think about different layouts even more – how to build for 16:9.
Offline we still use the portrait format for writing and sharing information. We have books in that format, newspapers and the plain paper are sold in portrait. On the screen we have been used to a landscape format. Since the early beginning of TV we have been accustomed to that format and now this goes on with computers. A few years ago first cinemas and then home TV moved to 16:9 format instead of using 4:3. That was because our eye’s viewing area is landscape instead of portrait and wider than high.
So how do we handle this situation? We have to accept that we no longer have controll over the screen size. Sure, we may write applications and design web sites that share the least common deliminator. But would you really like to have a web site 800×600? That’s where Jakob Nielson’s suggestion comes in place – make liquid layouts that will adopt to a lot of different sizes and proportions. You may not get every case but it should be able to be viewed in at least 5 to 6 different orientations and sizes.
The next comparison in my “versus” category is about editing text online. There are a lot of CMS out there, most of them have some kind of way to edit html online.
One way is the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) – Editor. It looks like word in a small window and has features like bold, italic, fonts selection, tables, borders, list, …
Another way is textism. Special tags that will be parsed when you see the page (being used in Backpack, Writeboard).
*text* will be parsed to text
As a tech savvy user I like textism a lot, since I get results very fast in the way I want them. Also nothing really spectacular can happen with it. Every time I use a wysiwyg-editor I don’t exactly know what will happen. Also, I never use more than headings, bold, italics but I still have to wait until the editor will load completely.
I think wysiwyg-editors will dominate for a long time, since few people have to worry about the markup. But as soon textism is used more and people see it’s easy useage they will like it. It’s just simple.