Monday, 16 September 2013

Software Review: OmmWriter Dāna II

I'm one of those writers that gets easily distracted. So many things are hazardous to my productivity; choosing some music to write to can lead to me completely rearranging my iTunes playlist or seeking more music to buy, making a cup of tea can turn into me making a full-blown meal, looking for a pen can spark off a quest to find the Holy Grail and slay a dragon. I try to keep my screen minimalistic while I work, but there are still tons of windows and buttons around to tempt me on even the most frugal of settings.

Then I discovered OmmWriter. With its minimalist design, functions limited to a vital few, and music that you might expect to hear during a meditation session, could this be the program I need to banish distraction for good?

Developed by an independent creative agency in Barcelona, OmmWriter is a simple, no-frills text editor designed to 'transport us away from the humdrum noise; allowing us to be at one with ourselves and our ideas'. The designers advocate 'writing for the simple pleasure of writing', and their program reflects that philosophy.

As soon as it installed and I got it running, I was greeted with this beautifully simple interface. The six buttons down the side toggle font style, font size, background, music, keyboard sound effects, and the final one has Save, Save As and Open features. If you prefer a larger text box, you can resize it. If larger text boxes are too distracting, you can keep it small. Simple, but effective. Words are counted in an unimposing bracket beneath the text box, and the whole interface is invisible as you're typing but shows up again with just a twitch of the mouse should you need it.

The program provides a lovely, tranquil setting for your work - I almost feel as if I'm writing sat in a snowy plain or something as I type; everything is so quiet, so minimal. The music is atmospheric, gorgeous, but not off-putting in any way. Tracks fade smoothly into one-another; not one bit of it is jarring. Track 3 even simulates the sound of being on a train, complete with five minute 'station breaks' every twenty five minutes to encourage you to have some breathing space, which is an often overlooked part of every worker's schedule.

Plus, there's always the 'mute' option if you'd rather write in silence or listen to music of your own. And you can turn off backgrounds and keyboard sounds as well, if that's how you roll.

When it comes to saving work, OmmWriter is simple even then - you can save as .omm or the universally recognised .txt, or as a .pdf if you intend to print your work. Or, if you have another format in mind, copying and pasting into the program of your choice is easy: copy and paste functions are available in the 'edit' bar at the top of the screen (move your mouse up to reveal it) or you can just go for the good old ctrl+c/ctrl+v.

My only gripe with this program is a pretty minor one - the cursor in OmmWriter is horizontal, under the space after the last character you typed, and for users like me who are so used to the vertical cursors of Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, Pages et al, it takes some getting used to. Whilst writing in OmmWriter I found that I'd lose my place or delete the wrong letter if I went back to tweak something - however, after some time, I found the horizontal cursor was another subtle way of removing distraction from the writing process - without the vertical cursor up alongside the letters, or in the middle of a word, I found I was able to look at it much easier without the presence of the cursor throwing me off.

I would recommend OmmWriter for those of you who need to just sit down and write. It's excellent for churning out those first drafts with minimal distractions, and I'd even say that people who worry a lot about the quality of their first drafts might benefit from its minimal interface, tranquil music and calming environment. You can tune in to OmmWriter, forget your worries and just write with little regard for page count – and hopefully, if the program works for you like it should, you'll end up putting down way more words than you expected. For editing though, I think I'll stick to good old OpenOffice.

OmmWriter is available for Mac, PC and iPad, but no versions are available for iOS or Android. It's free for now, but once October 1st 2013 has been and gone, OmmWriter will revert to its usual minimum price of $4.11/£2.59. By 'minimum', I mean that you can choose to pay more if you like. For $4.11 though, is it worth it? I'd say definitely, if distraction proves to be a big issue in your work process.

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