Provides: Full screen, distraction free word processing
Developer: Herraiz Soto & Co.
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5
Review Computer: iMac 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: Free (paid version available)
Availability: Out now
The modern computer experience is amazing for distracting you from work; E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Growl notifications, all popping up like friends at a party, dragging you away from the tasks you’re supposed to be concentrating on.
All of this has lead to a new class of word processor, one that eliminates features, stripping the experience down to its most basic features, and hiding the rest of your digital world away.
Omm Writer Dana is a text program that combines spare visuals with ambient sounds to help you shut out the world and simply write. Like a lot of other simple text programs, it operates in full screen mode (and only in full screen mode), meaning you can’t see other programs, or get notifications for new e-mail, Tweets, etc. What sets OWD apart is that it doesn’t give you a plain screen, but tries to create a soothing audio/visual experience as you write. It’s a plain text program—with a few bells and whistles.
And I mean bells and whistles, because the first thing you’ll notice about OWD is that it uses ambient music to help you shut out the world around you as well as on the screen in front of you. The makers recommend you wear headphones while using it so the simple, spare music will help you focus on writing. Dana I comes with three music tracks, made up of simple, soft acoustic music, bells, and other soothing tones. You can also choose to mute the tracks. If you leave OWD running but move to another program, the music mutes.
There’s another component to the audio experience: keystrokes. Yes, the program will give you soft clicks as you type (but not, wonderfully, when you delete). I expected this to drive me nuts, like those annoying computers you see in Hollywood movies, but quite the opposite. For one thing, they’re not atonal beeps, but “clicks” that have different tones—three different ones, the first is a soft tap, the secon sounds like water falling on bits of wood, and the third has a slightly metallic sound, sort of like a saw blade being bent. Like I say, these sounds add to the experience of typing, like the satisfying “click” of an old typewriter. But if you don’t like them, you can mute them as well.
Now, let’s talk visuals, which are the meat of a writing program. As I said earlier, OWD is a plain text program, so plain, in fact, that you can’t format the text in it—no bold, italic or underline. You do have some options on how the text is displayed, however. Though it always appears centered, left-justified, you can it to san-serif (the default), serif, italic, or monospaced, with four size variations. Dana I comes with three backgrounds. The backgrounds are stark: your choices are a plain white background, a grey, textured screen, or a winter landscape of barren trees against a plain, white sky. OWD completely takes over your screen, blocking notifications and sounds from other programs, and even your Dock.
The settings, as well as other features like the Save buttons and Word Count, are hidden as you type, but can be brought up by moving the mouse or using keyboard shortcuts. Both versions automatically back up your work every two minutes. Files can be saved as TXT, RTF, or PDF. When I first used it, I thought OWD didn’t have a spellcheck, but it does, just one that’s turned off by default. If you choose to use it, you can spellcheck after you’re done typing. If you run it “live,” it displays questionable spelling with a reddish hue that blends well with the other text. You can see it if you’re looking for it, and ignore it if you’re not.
The text box can also be resized by dragging from the four corners and four center points (and reset from the program menu, hidden at the top of the screen). OWD does not support adding your own backgrounds/sounds, and, fascinatingly, does not support printing(!), though obviously you can copy/paste or open the files in another program to do so.
I’ve used other full screen text programs, but OWD is a different experience. It doesn’t just block out the distractions on my screen, but in the room around me and in my head as well. As the writing part of my brain focuses on getting the words out, the part of my brain that wants to be entertained has the ambient music and odd, arrhythmic sound of the keystrokes to focus on. Another big distraction of mine is looking out the window, but OWD has that beat, too, because the backgrounds (other than, obviously, the plain white one) give me something to glance at: the grey background has a cloth-like texture, and the winter background has an austere beauty—I find myself glancing at the trees, realizing nothing is going to change, and getting back to the words.
Concentrating can be a problem for writers, especially if you feel stressed out about your inability to concentrate. Omm Writer Dana I doesn’t lock you in a dark room until you force the words out, but rather creates a space in your head that allows you to focus on what you want to say. What it lacks (formatting), it lacks on purpose: it’s a program for the start of the journey, to get you out the door and moving.
(Editor’s note: Omm Writer Dana I is available as a free download (valid email address required), but there is a paid version, Omm Writer Dana II, which has the same functionality, but more audio and visual options.)