Business Productivity

Distraction Free Writing Tools for Linux Users

I am typing!Distractions are the bane of many writers. photo credit: Stephen Fulljames

You sit down to write the next best seller and the next thing you know, you have wasted an hour reading your friends’ Facebook status updates.

Distraction free text editors, such as Darkroom for Windows and WriteRoom for Mac and iPhone, help minimize distractions by being the only thing on your computer screen.

Linux users have a choice of distraction free editors at their disposal.

Each of the following editors take up the entire screen so all you have to focus on is your writing.


KoalaWriter is a clone of OmmWriter, an editor for the Mac OSX operating system. It is meant to be used with the KDE desktop and requires the Qt4 library. The software is not available through the software repositories of the major distributions and there are no installation packages for the distributions. However, building the software from source code is quick and easy.

The nice thing about this editor is you can add your own background images and sounds. You can also change the color size and family of the font. However, once you choose a font, it is the font that will be used for the entire document. You can’t change fonts for chapter titles or other formatting reasons.

The configuration menu is shown directly on the screen. This makes changing the fonts, sounds and backgrounds easy. The software saves your work as a text document which makes it easy to import into another word processor to format the final draft.


FocusWriter is another distraction free option that uses the Qt4 libraries. There are installation packages available for most of the major distributions on the web page.

FocusWriter is more full featured than KoalaWriter. Like KoalaWriter, the background is customizable. There is also a hide-away menu, which allows you to change options whenever you prefer. The menu only shows up when you move your mouse to the edges of the screen and disappears when you are finished using it.

If you need additional documents open while you are working, you can access them through tabs at the bottom of the screen. If you close FocusWriter while the tabs are still open, they will open automatically next time you start the program. That way you can start writing, instead of opening a bunch of documents before you begin.

FocusWriter also allows you to set timers and goals directly within the software. If you plan on writing for an hour, set the timer for an hour. If you set a goal for writing a thousand words, set a word goal.

FocusWriter shows you your writing statistics (word count, paragraph count, page count, etc.) on the screen. It can be configured to do automatic or on demand spell checking, depending on which you prefer.


PyRoom is a completely distraction free editor written in Python. It requires the GTK bindings and the XDG bindings. There are installation packages available for many of the major distributions, and it’s also available as source code.

PyRoom is perfect for the true minimalist. It has no background images, menus or widgets. All the controls are managed through keyboard shortcuts. This makes the learning curve a little steep. You can configure the text colors and white space, but those are the only configurable options.

PyRoom will autosave your work on a regular basis and show you your word count through a keyboard shortcut. You can also work on multiple documents at one time and flip through them using keyboard shortcuts. Other than that, there are no bells and whistles. This is meant to keep you focused on your writing and only your writing.

Each of these programs allows you to focus on only your writing. The one you choose depends on which features are important to you. If you are already using a console based text editor such as Vim or emacs, you may prefer the keyboard shortcuts of PyRoom. If you like to listen to music, you may prefer KoalaWriter. If you are a goal setter, then FocusWriter may be right for you.

About the author

Bob Lee

Hi! My name is Bob Lee and I’m a web developer / technical writer who specializes in developing and reviewing web applications. As an entrepreneur, blogger, developer, and tech enthusiast, I have been in this field for more than 10 years, and have been loving every minute of it.

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