Total Distraction Free Writing with Q10

Good day folks.

Recently I was looking for a writing application that might replace the one I’ve been using mostly over the past few months – Microsoft’s very own built-in and simple Notepad.

See, I’m a fan of simplicity and lack of worry about unnecessary details when trying to focus on the single task at hand.  Yes, I’m also a fan of “single-tasking”, as opposed to “multitasking”.  I might go more into that in another post.

So I was looking up some recommendations and came across a little gem called Q10.

So this is my test and review of the Q10 writing without distractions app, and I wrote this entire post using this app alone (apart of course from my blogging software during the upload process).

It’s basically a regular text editor, like the good old Notepad from Microsoft, except that it creates a completely distraction free environment and allows me to adjust the visual parameters of the screen and text as I’m typing to a style that suits me and my eyes best.

I particularly like the fact that I can set a completely black background, which is both easy on the eyes and easy on my laptop’s battery life.  Also the fact that I can increase the font size and color to suit my quickly deteriorating eyes is a huge boon.

Yet, it also adds the ability to add counters to help me keep track of how far I am with my writing goals and how far I still need to go to reach them.  At this moment I have total amount of words, total pages, total lines, total characters, and total partial words as counters displayed along the bottom of the screen in a small, barely visible but completely readable, dark font the I don’t even notice if I don’t specifically look down there.

Also, along the bottom, on the right, I have the program set to show the full path of the file I’m currently working on, as well as the current time, in the same unobtrusive, non-distracting faint font.

All the parameters for these displays can be adjusted in the setting page easily accessible by, surprise surprise, a shortcut key combination.

That’s right, there are no menus in Q10, thanks to it’s minimalist design.  And this is perfect because, since it’s a text editor, your hands will be on the keyboard already and the shortcut keys quickly and easily accessible without having to reach for the mouse.

The settings are laid out in a dialogue box fashion however so you will still need to navigate them with a mouse (well, technically you can do that with the keyboard as well but, since it’s a graphical interface, the mouse is easier here).  Of course, you will likely only adjust settings a few times in the beginning stages of setting up the program so having the graphical menus out of the way is much preferred, considering the main aim of the program.

A list of all shortcut keys can easily be accessed by pressing F1.

Then finally (well, finally in terms of this first impression review), it has both a spellchecker as well as the option of being completely portable, meaning I can simply copy the app files over to a USB stick and basically have my very own personalized writing environment with me wherever I go.

For some reason the spell check function is a little hit-or-miss and does not seem to work perfectly every time.  I’m not sure if this is simply due to me missing something or if this is an error in the program itself.  I may investigate this and report back here on my findings at a later stage.

It is worth noting that Microsoft’s own Notepad does not have a spellchecking feature at all, so as a replacement app to Notepad, not having the spellchecking feature work perfectly out of the box is not that big of a deal for me personally.  Just something you might want to be aware of.

In fact, while having the spell checking feature certainly is useful, not having it will force you to re-read your work and re-read it again and again to make 100% certain that there aren’t any spelling mistakes.  In doing so, as I’ve experienced here in my using Notepad recently, I am able to pick up more opportunities for tweaking my writing to improve and feel entirely confident that I’ve checked everything myself several times over to the best of my personal ability.

For personal writing only, the occasional spelling error really isn’t that big of a deal.  But if you’re going to publish your work, you most likely will be using some form of additional editing on top of the basic text file that this app creates anyway, so you are always welcome to work in a quick final software assisted spell-check in there as well, just to be sure.  In fact this would be recommended.  If you’re going to use WordPress to host your blog and upload your post, then it’s good to know that it’s own editor includes a sufficiently functional spellchecker as well as basic text formatting tools.  I can’t speak for other blogging software as I don’t have experience of them at this point in time, having only used WordPress so far.

At least with this method you’ll know that you’ve checked your own work a few times more than you might’ve if you simply relied on built-in spellcheckers exclusively.  This is one of the major reasons I prefer to do my initial creation in a basic text editor, rather than be bogged down with formatting, menus and other intrusions during the creative phase.

In any event, as I’m based in South Africa, we tend to use slight variations in the spelling of certain words that contrasts to American English, and with most built-in spellcheckers defaulting to American English, the constant red squiggles I tend to pick up as I type when I know the words are spelt correctly in South African English, tends to just be another needless distraction from the creative process itself.

There is one important caveat I found so far though in addition to the strange “irritability” of the spellchecking function that is definitely worth “taking note” of – it only works on Windows and the developers have no stated intention to develop for Linux or Mac in the near or distant future.  Sorry guys, but this is a Windows exclusive.

Now, the portability is very nice for sure and something I may well end up using at some point in the future, should I choose to eventually stick with using this app.  But the main laptop I’m using for my writing is a little Lenovo Ideapad 100s 11″ – tiny and light and very portable on it’s own – so I may end up not actually needing the portability function of the app that much.

Truly, what’s more important for me is the ability to change the way the screen and text looks while I’m writing, for reasons I kinda referred to above – something that Notepad does not really allow besides the bare basics.  In our modern age of cloud storage and backup, it seems a more useful feature would be to ensure that the files themselves are truly portable, and you don’t really get much more portable than the very basic .txt format.

You literally can do anything with text created in .txt.  It’s always easier to add formatting afterwards, than having to struggle to remove unnecessary formatting that isn’t needed and just ends up bloating the file size unnecessarily.  If you want your volume of text to lend itself to be quickly and easily shared without worry about compatibility and such, then .txt is the way to go.

A nice little gimmick is the typing sound.  While it’s really not a necessary feature, I have it on at the moment and it does create a bit less of a “cold” typing atmosphere, if I could call it that.  My physical keys make a big noise on their own as I’m typing anyway, but I have to say, having that bit of sound “in the back” kinda makes the typing a little more inviting – like a tiny little incentive to want to keep typing just to hear the soft little nostalgic typing sound.  Silly, perhaps, but it’s something I just noticed now.  I may indeed end up keeping the sound on.

I noticed with the saving feature, that it automatically defaults to the Q10 folder itself.  At first I thought this might be a problem with having to keep changing the save location to the place where I keep my text files normally, my desktop, haha.

See I’ve been using Notepad to quickly create a text note or file or piece of writing and just save it to my desktop, which is then included in my Google Drive sync folder, and so I know that whatever is on my desktop – all my writing – will be automatically backed up to Google Drive quickly and easily, and still be quickly accessible the minute I open the lid of my laptop and wake it up from sleep.  But now, thinking about it, it actually makes perfect sense to have the saving location within the app folder itself.  For a few reasons:

  1. It helps to declutter my desktop if all my writing is automatically saved in the same folder as the actual app I’m using to write with itself.
  2. It will make it easy to quickly and efficiently backup everything related to my writing – that is the work itself as well as the writing environment – to a USB stick, and be able to quickly take it anywhere, should I ever need to move it all to another computer system.  I just copy the whole folder, with the app files and my text files, onto the USB stick and take the stick with me.  Then, wherever I have access to a computer or laptop, I just plug in the stick and I have everything right there with me, already set up as I like it – the app saves its own settings within its own folder, so color and font settings are all available just as I need them, right within the app folder itself.  Launch the program from within its folder, and my text files are right there and available.
  3. I can quite easily just move the app’s folder to the desktop as well and have it sync up to my Google Drive in the same way my work is doing currently.  The app is both portable (indeed here is the first real benefit to me personally in this app being portable), and very small (so it takes up very little space and I don’t have to worry about clogging up my Google Drive space unnecessarily with program files when all I really want is the work).  This way, I don’t have need a USB stick.  Only internet access.  Wherever I am I can just log in to my cloud drive, download a temporary copy of the folder to the computer I’m working on, launch the program, and again, everything is right there as I need it.  When done, simply upload the whole folder to the cloud again, merging it with the online copy, and I’m done.  Since the app itself is so small and text files are so small and light themselves the download/upload process tends to be really fast and painless.

I personally tested all these scenarios and can confirm that it does indeed work perfectly.  I was able to simply move the entire app folder to my desktop, and set my desktop location to a folder called “Desktop” in Google Drive (also applies to any other cloud drive service you use that has a locally installed program component, such as One Drive, Box, or Dropbox) – so you’re not forced to use any particular cloud service like some other apps.  The app’s portable nature really makes this possible).

I also did this on my main gaming and video-editing laptop, so I basically have “one” desktop across my two different laptops thanks to Google Drive.  After moving the folder I was able to quickly and easily open up the file I was working on from the folder, because it’s also been saved to the same folder;  as well as other files I’ve been working on previously in Notepad, that I’ve now also moved into Q10’s working folder.  Yes indeed, since it works with simple ubiquitous text files, the app is compatible with any .txt file, regardless of where it was created initially.  Another great feature – it does not force you to work with a proprietary file format that inevitably only creates headaches down the line.

What this means is that I essentially have the same files and customized working environment available to me automatically across both my computer systems, as well as any other computer I gain access to that allows me to access my cloud drive, because the app is completely portable and will run automatically on any system without the need to reinstall.  Simply copy and paste, and you’re golden.

So yes, this might most definitely end up being my Go To app for quick and simple, worry-free and distraction free writing (provided all the features I talk about above actually continue to work in the ways I’ve discussed).  I can truly see the benefits now to having a truly self-contained, portable app.  Really, really nice.  In the case of Q10, less truly is more!

Best of all – the app is completely free!  That’s right, no licensing issues or hidden costs or begs for donations.  Totally and completely and utterly free as in free beer (not that I drink but, you know, it’s a well-known saying that gets the point across)!

So, my recommendation:  If you’re looking for a truly lightweight, customizable, easy to use, simple and truly portable writing and/or note-taking solution, and you’re only working on Windows-based systems, definitely give Q10 a try!

Get it here:  http://www.baara.com/q10/

Till next time.

UPDATE:  OK, I found a weird quirk.  When creating or viewing files in Q10, they look perfectly fine.  However, I opened this particular review in Notepad on my main laptop, just to check for the real compatibility and portability, and found that all the paragraph separations were removed and the text is all jumbled up into a single never-ending paragraph.  Basically, every time I pressed enter, the program simple didn’t record that action into the actual .txt file, even though it shows up in the Q10 app itself.

Strangely, however, the paragraph breaks show up perfectly fine in Microsoft Wordpad, the built-in “Word lite”.  Simply opening the file in Wordpad, and saving it again from inside Wordpad seems to “restore” the paragraph breaks, so that all appears perfect again when opening the file in either Notepad or Q10.

I suppose for my particular use case this would work perfectly fine because naturally Wordpad, would be the app I’d use to add in any additional formatting I might need before uploading the file to my blog editor.  Or I would just load it into my blog editor directly.

The existence of this quirk begs the question, however.  Why use such an app in the first place when I might just use Wordpad right from the get go?

I mean I can also create simple .txt files in this app (Wordpad) with the aim of easy future sharing and portability, the work would be perfectly compatible and portable via Google Drive as explained previously.  Both Notepad and Wordpad are also Windows exclusives just like Q10, though both are available pre-installed in the operating system itself without any additional “setup” work initially.

Neither Notepad nor Wordpad has spellcheckers, however, and neither have the benefits brought about by Q10 in terms of eliminating all distractions.  Notepad comes close, but not nearly as close or elegant as Q10’s solution.  Then neither Notepad nor Wordpad can easily be “ported” into various folders where you might need you pre-customized working environment ready to go.  You simply can’t just “copy and paste” the entire Notepad or Wordpad app, along with your personal settings and text files, all in one simple folder, to a USB stick or cloud drive and have everything work from there without any additional mucking about.

So I guess that is the main focus of the app.  While Notepad and Wordpad are both entirely capable of achieving the same workflow that Q10 can, Q10 provides the added benefit of complete distraction elimination and visual customization, but at the cost of minor initial setup and the absolute need to edit the work in another more feature rich app such as Wordpad, should one wish to share the files with other people (if for no other reason than to simply add in the paragraph breaks again – a weird little bug that I hope the developers work out soon).

So my updated recommendation is as follows:  if you can manage the distractions and can tolerate the default black text on white paper look, one might simply be better off just starting and finishing your work with the built-in MS Wordpad.

But if you really struggle with keeping a lid on distractions or struggle with the harshness of the white screen while typing, and also sometimes work on various different computers throughout your working hours, then I’d still recommend Q10 as a go to app to utilize for the initial creative process.

Get it here:  http://www.baara.com/q10/

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