Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Writing Versus Word Processing

They are clearly not the same thing—writing and word processing. One is an artform, the other a kind of wrestling, or clearly some derivation of manufacturing. I prefer to write as opposed to word process. And in fact, I still mostly (this blog being a glaring exception) write by hand. ((Definitely, all of my fiction is written long form.)) When it came to entering my scribblings into a digital format I long preferred simple text editors to the complexity of word processors. With word processors, I too often found myself distracted by instances of multiple paragraphs suddenly reformatting themselves, cursors leaping off the ends of lines, never being able to zoom in properly on the text, and on and on. For something as simple as a word processor very few companies have ever gotten it right. This is so much the case, that the one program I do use, I don’t refer to as a word processer. It’s just something other than a word processer clearly by design: Scrivener. It is the iTunes of writing. It is what Google was to the web—something to make the whole affair less confusing. The organization tools are awesome. And get this, you just write in text! You format later. And your documents are stored in text! Never worry about losing a document because you used some Mac OS 7 word processor. You can switch into a full screen mode so you can really focus. The best, most awesome interface innovation?—the entry point for the text stays in the vertical center of the screen. I know, it sounds like a mere triviality, but after you use it, you wonder what the hell these word processor programmers were thinking! Don’t take my word, listen to Steven Poole on his blog:

Pretty old-skool, huh? It’s perfect: far less temptation to switch to a browser window, much better concentration on the text in front of you. WriteRoom has a “typewriter-scrolling mode”, so that the line you are typing is always centred in the screen, not forever threatening to drop off the bottom, and what you have already written scrolls rapidly up off the top of the screen, dissuading you from idly rereading it. It’s a bit like the endless roll of typewriter paper on which Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road.

I could go on, but I will let Virginia Heffernan do it more lithely than I would.

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