Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

WriteRoom + TaskPaper for fun and profit

I'm always trying new software and experimenting with my workflow. Over the past two weeks, I've been spending time with two delightful Mac apps from Jesse Grosjean and Hog Bay Software: WriteRoom and TaskPaper. Both are simple, elegant tools that do a few things very well. These are not examples of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink software.

WriteRoom is a dead-simple text editor. It's primary benefit is distraction-free writing. There is a full screen mode that leaves you nothing but a blank screen and a blinking cursor - no toolbars, floating palettes or rulers (or browsers, email, and chat windows for that matter). You really don't realize what a difference it makes until you actually have something you have to write (not just a couple of lines of "This is a test of WriteRoom").

At first, you start feeling anxious and start minimizing it to make sure you're not missing anything. After a few minutes of staring at WriteRoom, though, you can feel your brain switch to a different gear when it gets the message that for once it only has to do one thing - write. When you have the words perfect, you can move the text into another program for formatting. If words are an important part of what you do, you owe it to yourself to try WriteRoom.

TaskPaper is a straightforward to-do list tool. I've used so many different tools to satisfy my list-making obsession (yes, including actual paper) that I need to buy software just to keep track of them all. Like WriteRoom, TaskPaper mostly stays out of the way and just lets you work. Within minutes you'll have 3-4 projects and lots of task entered. After using it for a half hour, you'll basically have it mastered.

Like WriteRoom, it took me a few minutes to acclimate myself, but now I leave it open throughout the day and regularly add things to it, including things to do when I get home or plans for the weekend. It's a very handy scratchpad that's fun to use, searchable, and doesn't kill trees!

In both these cases, Hog Bay is very friendly with its file formats. I've opened documents for both apps using vi from the command line without trouble. This means you're never locked into the software and always have full access to your content.

The fact is, I love quality software whether it meets one of my specific needs or not. In this case, both of these apps have been a huge help. Plus, I have a weakness for small, independent development shops who care about doing software and business right. Hog Bay is clearly one of those companies. If you haven't tried these tools yet, play with the free trials for a couple of days and see if they become part of your own workflow.

By the way, I apparently have passed my software habit on to my son who is in 6th grade. He was looking over my shoulder the other day and saw me using TaskPaper. "Oh, I use that," he said.

"You're kidding? How did you hear about TaskPaper? It just came out."

"I saw it when I went to download WriteRoom."

Of course. That makes perfect sense.

Update 11/7/2007: After posting this review, Jesse at Hog Boy contacted me and offered a review license for each of this fine products, which I gladly accepted. Read more about User Powered Software here.