Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writer's block? Try Textroom!

In a world full of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, StumbleUpon and countless other online timewasters, it's extremely easy to let your mind wander to places totally unrelated to actual work. Maybe you're a blogger, maybe you're a short story writer, maybe you are a news editor; whichever the case may be, you NEED to write. I usually do my text editing in simple programs, like Gedit and I've been pretty happy with it so far. Until I met TextRoom.

TextRoom aims to squeeze the last bit of productivity out of you. But let's begin with how you can put your procrastinating hands on this baby. Direct your browser to the project's homepage and choose from the four packages available in the downloads section: .bin, .deb, .exe (rejoice, Windows users!) and .tar.gz. As I'm currently running Ubuntu 9.04, the obvious choice was to get the 386 KB .deb file. The installation was quickly over and TextRoom was patiently waiting for me in the "Office" section of the "Applications" menu. When I first opened it, a black page covered the whole screen and all I could see was a blinking cursor and an elegant gray bar at the bottom. As simple and minimalistic its interface is, TextRoom strikes you with a polished, professional look. Can you say Qt 4.3.2? Yep, TextRoom was created on top of that platform, and you really can't go wrong with Qt.

So I was telling you about that bar on the bottom... The first thing that attracted my attention was the realtime word count on the left. *Over-excitement warning* FINALLY!!! A text editor that has word count in plain sight! Praise the Heavens! OK. So, after performing a small victory dance around the desk, I returned to the computer and started looking for other cool features this editor may have. On the same bottom bar, you have the filename in the center and the current time on the left. That's all. Besides the text, all you have is these three elements. You and your creativity can finally be together, without any intruders.

But is this really all that TextRoom offers? Nope. Pressing F1 will pop up the keyboard shortcuts panel, from where you find out that you can change the fonts, underline words, insert time or date, go fullscreen- or windowed-mode, undo, redo and other basic functions. CTRL+P takes you to the "Options", revealing even more coolness. You can set Word Count Targets and the program will actually display your progress in both "current word count / target word count" and percents. Cool! One can also set deadlines by selecting whichever future date in the graphical calendar or enable a time limit, at the end of which, a pop-up will appear on screen and announce you that you're out of time. Autosaving is another useful feature. Speaking of saving, the formats supported by TextRoom are .txr, HTML and .txt.

As much as I enjoy using this editor, there are still a few things that are missing and could be added. First of all: spell-checking. Typos can easily go unnoticed by a hurried writer, so a discreet highlight or underline won't do much harm to the elegant interface. Secondly, you still can simply exit fullscreen and go Facebooking or YouTubing. An option to keep one locked in the fullscreen mode for a set period of time would be a great cure for the world's most procrastinating procrastinators.

There is also a small bug that I've noticed. The default bottom bar is a bit thinner than what you see in the pictures. Activating the word count target increased the width of the bar by a few pixels and unfortunately, it didn't return to its normal size once I have removed the target. Moreover, though there is an "enable sound" option, TextRoom is totally silent, even when reaching a time limit. Hm.

A few more words...

I just love simple text editors and TextRoom raises the bar a bit higher, leaving me no choice but to use it as my main "canvas". Sure, I still have to copy and paste the text, once it's done, into a spell-checking capable program, but it's a small sacrifice I'm willing to make. If you're a writer and all you need is to write text, without any fancy formatting, give TextRoom a try. Maybe it will help you get over those nasty writer's blocks quicker.


  1. Hello, thanks for the wonderful review.

    Actually, there are typing sounds in TextRoom, but in the Ubuntu package, they are installed in the wrong folder. If you move the keyenter.wav and keyany.wav files as root from /usr/local/share/ to /usr/local/share/textroom/ it must work.

    cd /usr/local/share
    sudo mkdir textroom
    sudo mv ./key*.wav ./textroom/

    This is a packaging bug, and if I can find time to work on TextRoom, will be fixed in the next release. Linux users might use the Universal Linux Installer for a better installation, but it doesn't check for dependencies.

    Have a nice day.

  2. Oh, thanks for stopping by and thank you for complimenting my article. :)

    I shall definitely try the workaround.

    You have a nice day too, and good luck with the future development of TextRoom.