Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. Photo by Jim Merithew/Wired
Mobile devices are the most procrastination-enabling objects in the world, boasting the combined distraction abilities of a world-class amusement park, a town-sized shopping mall, and a extremely shiny swarm of stinging hornets.
If you’ve found it difficult to get any work done on a smartphone or tablet, rejoice. A crop of apps have sprouted up to help you get into a productive, creative writing space by stripping word processing down to its essence and presenting you with only a blank screen — or something close to it — on which to work.
Meet one of the cleanest, least-adorned writing interfaces you can get short of turning off your iPhone and writing on the glass with liquid chalk. If you turn off the status bar in preferences, you’re left with nothing but the document title, a black “Back” arrow, and a gray dropdown arrow, all of which scroll off the top of the screen after a few lines of typing. The rest is just pure white writing space, plus a virtual keyboard if you’re not using a Bluetooth keyboard. In spite of this simplicity, WriteRoom has a lot of carefully sequestered features, allowing you to change typeface and font size, back up to Dropbox and use your TextExpander shortcuts.
WIRED Word count display. Ability to turn off auto-correction for a cleaner writing experience. Excellent Dropbox syncing.
TIRED No option to launch directly to a blank document.
Taking minimalism to new extremes, DraftPad does away with files and documents entirely. Everything you type is saved — if you clear the screen, the erased text is stored in the application’s history until you decide to wipe it. It feels almost too minimal at first; clearing a screen without hitting a “Save” button goes against decades of electronic habit. But once you get used to it, it’s a simple and effective way to compose documents.
WIRED E-mail or tweet your messages from a menu. One of the simplest apps you can get for writing, so good thing it’s free.
TIRED Can’t get rid of the status bar. Perplexing dual-mode action buttons.
As a minimalist word processor, ensō is a bit crinkled around the seams. It has more icons than its Zen brethren, and the “Done” button overlaps the text in landscape mode. However, if you want something a bit less minimal than the minimum, it provides the ability to overlay a simple sketch over your document, and save the result to your photo library, as well as the ability to see your document rendered as HTML. A very narrowly focused feature set, to be certain, but if you want either of those features in a small, simple package, ensō is begging to be your writing environment of choice.
WIRED Dropbox integration is good. More features than competing apps.
TIRED Confusing interface. Just two colors in sketch mode.