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Bill Bennett


Word 2010: distraction free word processor

Distraction-free word processing appeals to writers looking for lightweight tools that stay out-of-the-way.

The thinking is that heavy-duty word processors like Microsoft Word 2010 take your focus off words. Word’s array of tools, together with its fancy layout features, distracts writers.

Distraction-free writing tools like Q10 offer a fresh approach.

Sadly Q10 is unstable. Crashes may not worry casual writers, but I write for a living. I can’t afford to use an unreliable word processor.

So I returned to Microsoft Word.

Big, bloated software

Word is a huge program. It packs more features than I’ll ever use. I rarely go beyond typing, emboldening, italicising and inserting a hyperlink with Control-K. 95 percent of Word’s features are untouched on my machine.

Word’s stability is important. It makes automatic backups. And, as the industry standard, it allows me to file copy to editors in a format they like.

Earlier this year I upgraded to Word 2010 and turned it into a distraction-free writing tool:

  • First, I hid the ribbon by clicking the tiny up-arrow next to the question mark in the top right corner of the display. This makes Word 2010 much less distracting.
  • Next, I hit the Alt-V key immediately followed by U. This removed everything on the screen except my words.
  • The escape key brings back the menu and status bars.

This gives the best combination of all: distraction-free writing, stability and compatibility with co-workers.



2 thoughts on “Word 2010: distraction free word processor

  1. You can also easily hide the ribbon by using the CTRL + F1 key combination.

  2. WriteSpace is an addon for Word that can make it very close to Q10 et al. Problem with it is that you can’t do any formatting while you’re in it and if you have a doc that has some formatting, going into the WriteSpace environment and then back out to Word loses your formatting.

    Personally, I like to use Word 2010 for certain purposes where the awesome new Nav panel and Find functionality lets me shuffle the parts of a long doc like playing cards, so I build a template that gives me a black background, the right text colors and sets up my headings to where they look like they’re doing the Outline View thing without being in Outline View (because it only does white background; typically I use Web View to reclaim as much screen real estate as possible). Then I go in and set up custom keyboard shortcuts for toggling the Nav panel and, get this, View: Full, a command that doesn’t appear in any ribbon but as you mentioned with your Alt+V, U trick, still exists. This is great fun for working on the structure of a novel (that’s mainly what I write).

    However, I’ve had some serious stability issues with it, mainly on my Core2Duo based ultraportable. Various things are pointing at the fact that I’m running the x64 version (on Win7x64, of course). I’ll rip it out and try again with x32, but that’s a lot of work for something we would hope would be most stable (but if you look around, I’m sure you can find the horror stories that alot of us folk growing up with Word as the primary wordprocessor have with lost data).

    Talking about that, though, most of the fleet of distraction free editors have auto save and some even have backup functionality. Q10 definitely does. I’ve written a novel in it and parts of two others and lost nothing.

    Mainly I use WriteMonkey now which can be made to look almost identical to Q10, but is extra awesome due to the fact that its actively developed (I used to talk to the Q10 developer, but about a year after the “current” version was released, the addresses I had for him went dead; no clue what’s up with that, but its very sad). WriteMonkey allows for Markdown and some other forms of text only markup and you can export from it straight to Word via various CSS sheets (there are some defaults included, but you can totally make your own), so its a snap to type things in *bold* or _italics_ or mark things as a hyperlink and then have that translated on the fly with a simple export (or have a manuscript CSS that takes one of my novels and puts it into Word with 95+% of the formatting taken care of at the touch of a button). WriteMonkey also supports various means of focusing on or jumping through your text that can either mimic or put to shame some of the stuff I’ve lauded Word 2010 for finally including. I know I’m going on and on, but seriously, that’s just the tip of the iceberg about WriteMonkey.

    There’s tons of distraction free editors with various useful and/or interesting functions. There’s quite a few programming centric editors that can be modified to suit many purposes (my fave is Sublime Text, especially the new “2” version that’s in alpha right now; so many things you can do with it, don’t get me started, though a big point has been absolute stability, even with these new alpha versions)

    And then there’s still Q10, which I still fire up for some projects because there are some neat little motivational tricks you can do with multiple, namable whole and partial word counts that you can’t quit manage, even with WriteMonkey (which has a whole count and a partial count, though you can’t label either). Besides, after all the time I spent with the little thing, it still feels mighty homey.

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