July 2, 2010

Zen and the Art of Text Editor Programming

I like technology. I surround myself with computers and electronics, I put a lot of faith in the scientific method as a general solution to life's daily problems, and I believe the pursuit of knowledge is one of the purest aspirations one can have.

I also realize that it can go horribly wrong, which is why when I was idly wandering through the vast information jungle that is the Internet, I was so pleased to stumble across this gem of a program:


It's a text editor. What distinguishes it from a lot of other software is that it takes such a focused approach to solving one particular problem: providing a peaceful, distraction-free environment so that a writer can focus on writing.

Now you're probably thinking, "I thought you were a vi bigot. What gives? Have you renounced your faith and joined the mindless horde of infidels?" The answer is, of course, no – I will probably use vi for code until the day my fingers fall off. Still, I don't always write code. Sometimes I write words (real ones, with punctuation and everything!), like the ones you're reading now. When I write prose, all the little tricks that make vi a great programming editor are somewhat distracting. I want to write. Just me and the words.

This is where OmmWriter excels. It's a full-screen editor with rudimentary features. You can load files and save files. You can choose one of three fonts and one of three font sizes. It only edits text files, so you cannot format anything. You can adjust the writing area, and you can scroll up and down if necessary. Finally, you can change the background image and sound effects. Now there are probably two questions in your head: "why is he listing features?" and "sound effects!?" To answer the first, it's because I just enumerated ALL of the features. All of them. It is a wonderfully minimalist editor. To answer your second question, don't knock it until you've tried it. I really thought that the sound/background thing was just a huge art gimmick to get publicity for their program, but I've been writing on it all day, and I actually find it really effective. It doesn't distract, and it puts me in a great, relaxed frame of mind.

So in conclusion, here's to you, artists. The unlikely combination of a bit of programming skill, a light brush, and a very focused vision for the right way to write has produced a wonderful little tool and won me over completely.

...oh, and I should probably also mention that because I am an unabashed terminal fanatic, I couldn't stand not being able to run OmmWriter as a command-line tool. So I fixed that little oversight: omm. You're welcome!