When I decided to really get cracking on my blog, I gathered up all my blog post drafts, ideas, and finished articles in Scrivener so it could serve as my central hub for working on them. The idea was to fire up Scrivener on a daily basis and work on whatever posts needed work until they were finished.

It just didn’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, Scrivener is an amazing piece of software for writers and legions of prolific writers praise it when it comes to working on complex projects. For me though, it’s just too much to deal with.

In Scrivener my binder is overcrowded and messy. The sheer amount of icons on screen distracts me. The fact that font styles and sizes can be different in each document bothers me. I have no real system for working on posts and although I’ve tried to use the corkboard and status stamps to keep track of things, I end up just being inconsistent with them. The fact that I can do so much from within one application actually hinders my workflow. I end up concerning myself with everything but writing.

So, quite happily, I returned to my ‘first love’ of writing software — Focuswriter — which I first discovered back in the days when I was running Xubuntu on a netbook. Within the first few days of using it again, my productivity soared!

Focuswriter is fast and responsive. But most importantly, it’s simple — which as the name suggests, promotes focus. Everything is hidden away until I need it. In fullscreen mode, it really is just me and the page.

Open documents are displayed in tabs across the bottom of the screen when I mouse over them, so switching between them is quick and easy with no need to navigate a folder structure. If anything, the limited horizontal space encourages me to finsh any posts I’m working on so I can close them and free up visual space.

Focuswriter’s ‘scene manager’ is a godsend when it comes to helping me structure my posts. When drafting I tend to spew every little idea I have onto the page as it comes to me — often in the middle of writing something else. I just have to get it down. Once this mental vomiting has subsided I can insert a double ‘#’ anywhere into the document to create a ‘scene divide’ which separates chunks of text. These chunks can then be dragged and dropped around the document using the scene manager window which pops out from the left of the screen. This feels much more intuitive than selecting text and cutting and pasting.

Finally, Focuswriter looks good. Really good. As a creative, aesthetics are really important to me.

Focuswriter comes with several pleasant looking themes as standard, but the customisation options are comprehensive and allow you to create your own. I appreciate being able to create custom themes and switching between them to suit my mood.

I love using different background images for different situations: something foreboding and atmospheric for my dark fiction, fluffy clouds in a blue sky for when I’m feeling inspirational or simply a wood texture for when I’m free-writing. For writing at night, I even like to change the theme to white text on a black background.

It’s almost as if the visual quality of my writing space adds to the quality of my work. I get this ‘aah’ feeling of contentment when I open Focuswriter to work on something and that encourages a state of ‘flow’.

Focuswriter aids my writing process by looking good and keeping everything as simple as possible. It makes writing a joy. If I find Focuswriter starts to limit me, then maybe I’ll choose to move back to Scrivener, but for now I’m settled.

Focuswriter is available here. Please consider leaving a donation if you find it useful.