ArtsyEditor: another approach to distraction-free writing

Chrome is distracting. I’m not talking about Google’s browser, but the stuff that’s put around your application’s main working area.

A lot of web-based blog and other CMS editors (including apps I’ve written and/or managed) include huge amounts of chrome – from navigation menus, to fields for additional metadata. A lot of the time it doesn’t particularly matter, but if you’re writing large chunks of prose, an uncluttered user interface is essential.

WordPress can be one of the worst offenders when it comes to chrome. Its standard blog post entry screen is built up of many boxes, each with specific purposes. Users can reduce the impact by switching off boxes they don’t need in the Screen Options dropdown, and then drag and drop the remainder into some sensible order. But it still can mean that quite a small portion of the browser window is devoted to the main task of writing content.

In the recent update to version 3.2, WordPress introduced a full screen mode, which allows all the chrome to fade away, allowing for a predominantly blank screen. Basic WYSIWYG controls are accessible at the top of the page, but everything except your text fades away if your hands remain on the keyboard instead of moving the mouse (see illustrations on this post about the WordPress.com installation – the same illustrations apply to self-hosted WordPress.org blogs). Most of the toolbar functions can be activated with familiar shortcuts – ⌘-B for bold (HTML <strong>), ⌘-I for italic (<em>), etc., so for the most part you can just focus on the writing, applying formatting as needed as you go.

A new WordPress plugin, ArtsyEditor, tackles the same issue in a slightly different, more customisable way.

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