Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of writing in simplified plain text word processors using Markdown. I was surprised and rather pleased to discover my favourite of these was not one of the many excellent Mac programs such as Byword or iaWriter but WriteMonkey which is available solely for Windows.
WriteMonkey hits all the right zenware buttons. After launch you get a blank screen and a blinking cursor. At the bottom of the screen is the name of your file, your word count and a small digital clock. All of these can be switched off either en masse or on a case by case basis, for those times when all you really, really want to be looking at is a blank screen.
Since all of the zenware applications look pretty much the same why do I prefer WriteMonkey? There are a couple of reasons actually.
The first is that WriteMonkey is not, arguably, zenware at all. For me that implies a really stripped down and basic writing environment which cuts down on the number of features available and lets you just get on with the writing rather than tinker with your formatting or your settings. WriteMonkey actually has rather a lot of features but they are all ones that I really like or need. In fact, WriteMonkey has almost every feature from Scrivener that I require and that from me is high praise indeed.
It has an easy automatic backup system. You don’t need to worry about file format since it’s plain text.
It has a timer and a progress meter. Want to set yourself a target word count? WriteMonkey has you covered. Want to set yourself a countdown for writing sprints. WriteMonkey has a timer. Want to combine the two and attempt to write 1000 words in a fixed interval. WriteMonkey can do that to. WriteMonkey will even show you a progress bar along the bottom of your screen if you want.
There’s a scratchpad for keeping your notes somewhere easy to find so you can refer to them. Those features are pretty much all I need from a basic word processor. On top of that WriteMonkey can do a lot more.
There are small TextExpander type shortcuts similar to auto-replace in Word which allow you to insert the date by typing /now. Any other word or sentence boilerplate you have previously defined can be triggered by a combination of keystrokes you define.
If you make a donation, you get access to WriteMonkey’s plugins. These range from index cards that float above your text when you need them and vanish when you don’t, to my favourite (and a feature Scrivener does not have) a Pomodoro timer. This is very useful indeed if like me you use the Pomodoro Method. I’ve never actually found a pomodoro timer for Windows that I like as much as the ones available for the Mac so this is a real bonus. Another plug-in allows you to navigate around your document using the Markdown headers.
There are many more plug-ins such as a sentence highlighter, a clipboard picker and a thesaurus. I haven’t used any of those.
All the features can be uncovered by hitting function 1 which provides you with a handy list of everything that is possible. The same list provides you with a guide to Markdown syntax if you want to use it.
The other reason I like WriteMonkey is that its quirky. If you like it will make typewriter noises when you type or provide you with a funny quote when you load up the program. It’s a zenware program that has a bit of personality and a sense of humour. All of these things can be switched off if you don’t like them.
WriteMonkey can be installed on a USB stick and carried around with you. It’s free. If you make a donation you get access to the plug-ins but you don’t need to and everything essential is there in the basic program. I could do my pomodoro sets using the dash timer if I really wanted to. If only WriteMonkey could move blocks of text around within an outline structure the way Folding Text can then it could do everything I need from a word processor. As it is, it is by far my favourite of the plain text zenware writing environments. Highly recommended.
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