Losing my MacBook Pro two months back was devastating. That may sound like hyperbole, but bear with me — I spent at least 8 hours a day on my laptop. I easily banged out over 1,000,000 words of fiction on it, two non-fiction books, dozens of freelance projects and countless emails, blog posts and tweets. It traveled with me on photo shoots below sea level in the Mojave desert and hitched a ride when I hiked to 11,000 ft in Colorado in near-zero conditions. I’ve professionally edited terrabytes of photos on it. As a Mac user for 20 years, my entire creative mindset is tightly integrated with the OS X environment.
Most of my writing and photography had been backed up, but getting back in a creative groove wouldn’t be seamless. I couldn’t afford a new Mac or a repair, so I opted for a cheap Windows replacement. Trying to replicate my workflow and overall ‘headspace’ has been a challenge.
The first task was to replace my most used apps with free/opensource Windows alternatives — OpenOffice (mostly) replaced MS Office and Apple’s iWork. Google’s Picasa replaced iPhoto, and Gimp and Inkscape have replaced Photoshop and Illustrator. The bulk of apps have been ‘good enough’ to get the job done.
But many Windows apps just don’t have that special ‘something’ that Mac apps have in spades. Pages is an elegant word processor with no meaningful counterpart in Windows. A creative writing app like Literature and Latte’s Scrivener? Forget it. Windows can’t even touch an app like that or the equally great Ulysses. Even a simple yet powerful freeware text editor like Bean have no Windows counterpart. Most Windows apps seem to offer too many/too few features welded to a butt-ugly user interface.
My main ‘go to’ app was WriteRoom, a ‘distraction-free’ word processor that does one thing and does it perfectly — let you bang words out and stay the hell outta the writer’s way. No icons, no toolbars, no nothing — just an old school DOS-style word processor.
So far, WriteMonkey for Windows has been the perfect replacement — the developers get it. It has the perfect feature set, it stays out of the writer’s way, it’s lightweight and it’s free.
It’s now my main Window’s word processor and makes me miss my Mac a little bit less. A little bit.