Darkroom

This may be the newest idea in computing: a simplified, does practically nothing but show you what you’re typing, “word processor.”

I put that in quotes for a simple reason. I’m not sure this thing even qualifies as a word processor. I’m not even sure it’s a text editor, except in a basic sense. It does create text when you type, and it lets you edit it, but it wouldn’t know programmer’s notation from Ariel. You can open new text documents, save them to the folder of your choice, and generally do what you could do with any state-of-the-art program — like Notepad, for instance — and that’s about it.

What this application has that practically nothing else except OS-X’s Tiger, in its cute little WriteRoom editor has, is lack of distractions. I open Darkroom, hit Esc or F11, and my screen turns black. I begin typing, and the letters appear in bright green. I don’t like that, so I right-click, choose Preferences, and change the text to a pale gray. Very restful.

After typing for a bit, I hit Ctrl+S to save the resulting .txt document to the folder of my choice. The “normal” window that pops up against the restful gray on black of the monitor screen is jarring, and a bit distasteful. I hasten to fill in the info and clear the screen again. Writing in Darkroom is a HOOT!

But, you’re asking, what’s the big deal? I’m not sure I can tell you. All I know is that the uncluttered desktop, the relaxing colors, and the lack of bells and whistles puts me in touch with my writing far more than other word processers have. There are no bars, buttons, scrollbars, little drop-down windows, eleventeen ways to save stuff — none of that. It’s just me and words, the way it used to be with the old Remington Noiseless typewriter that I learned touch-typing on back in the mid-20th Century. I feel, somehow, more like a writer, and when Darkroom is in fullscreen mode, none of the pop-ups, alerts, pokes, IMs or other onscreen distractions exist, until I decide to let them back into my life.

Now if you’re inclined to use a lot of formatting in your writing, this probably won’t be for you. I write almost exclusively for the Web, and when I don’t I use Google Applications 99 times out of a hundred. I can easily code in the occasional italic or underscoring, toss in a hyperlink if I need to, or simply paste the text into Scribefire and do that just before I post. The same is true of GApps: it understands HTML just fine, too.

Here’s a link to a screenshot that gives you an idea of how this all works out. If you’re tired of being separated from your writing by a lot of high-tech, don’t really need it, distracting garbage (and don’t mind learning a few shortcuts, like we had to back in The Day), Darkroom might just be for you.

This little app is the child of a programmer who liked the Apple offering for its relaxing interface, and decided to create the same thing for Windows. You can find his page, and the download link for Darkroom (free), here.

  • Alan Monroe

    Unsurprisingly, this idea is not new. See the print ads for _Bank Street Writer_ from the Apple II / Commodore 64 era :)

  • Bill Webb

    Apparently the irony was a touch light. I thought the reference to Notepad might give it away. Certainly it’s nothing new, but still a fresh breeze for those of us who have watched (for example) Word go from v. 5 — probably the best version of all — to the bloated mess it is now.

  • Dick Wilson

    I still use WordPerfect for DOS on a PC with Windows 98SE, because you can set it up this way for writing – 50 lines of text (I use yellow) on a black background, just the odd instruction popping up at the foot of the screen. And it creates a full document backup every 5 minutes automatically, unlike Word.