Ommwriter, an extra helping of zen for writers

Brett Terpstra
B. Terpstra|11.30.09

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Brett Terpstra
November 30th, 2009
Ommwriter, an extra helping of zen for writers

As part of our Back to School series last year, I covered some of my favorite writing tools. Many of the writing applications I've mentioned there and elsewhere have full-screen, distraction-free editing modes, ala WriteRoom, which gets plenty of mention here at TUAW. The full-screen editing feature now seems to be a standard, and most apps that offer the option do a fine job of implementing it. Therefore, if one was to write an app along the lines of WriteRoom, it would have to do something out of the ordinary to get any traction. Ommwriter, a new single-purpose writing app, does just that.

The whole idea behind Ommwriter is to provide a zen-like atmosphere, not just a blank screen. While conforming well to standard text controls in OS X, it creates an interface that's quite pleasing to the eye. The ears are not left wanting, though, and the app provides a choice of several background soundscapes to help block out distractions. You only have 3 fonts to choose from, and they cannot be intermingled. There's no access to the menubar, just a series of rather elegant controls to the side of the resizable writing area. The background is gray, with optional faded landscape scenery. It's quite pretty, and is quite conducive to concentration ... and writing, of course.

The three font choices are basic serif, sans-serif and script fonts, one of each. In script mode, the display of words as you type becomes very fluid, although the response is a little slow for anyone with some typing chops. Faster display of text as it's typed in script mode would be my first request. I'd also love to see some more user-configurable options, even if they were tucked well away in a preference panel. While I really like the concept of Ommwriter, and it's a very elegant implementation, I just want enough options to really make it mine.

As I mentioned, because it uses a fully-compatible Cocoa text field, all the usual keyboard text-editing controls are available. Even Services work, either via assigned shortcuts or through the contextual menu. System-wide spell check (and auto-correct in Snow Leopard) can be toggled via the right-click menu as well. Ommwriter is, for both technical and aesthetic reasons, quite a pleasure to use.

Ommwriter is currently in beta, and requires registration (name and email) to get a link to the free download. It's worth a look, though. I'm not sure what the app will cost once its out of beta, but I'll keep an eye on it and let you know. That's the TUAW service guarantee.

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