An interesting article on Slashdot about Word Processors: One Writer’s Retreat — wherein the author talks about the bells and whistles of emerging technology actually getting in the way of the relatively simple process of writing.
With a new novel to write, the time seemed ripe to switch software. I’d like to say I scoured about for word processors, but I didn’t. In my novel, one character would write computer programs. The story question was, What software would he use? It had to be vi. Vi, a Unix editor for plain text files created in 1976 by Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. I’d remembered working with a software engineer, who saw no advantage to word processors and dismissed the “prettiness” of desktop publishing. He did everything in vi. Could I write a novel in vi? I decided, Why not?
Vi fast became — and remains, 100,000 words later — my writing implement of choice. Most of all, what I like about vi is something that is, well, aesthetic. I like vi’s keyboard-only operation. Vi doesn’t assault with helpful balloons or racks of toolbar icons. No, vi has a 70s ambience (no mouse, no GUI) that’s refreshingly clean. In that sense, vi is a treasured software servant. It works well without showy presence and respectfully stays out of the way.
Just for the record, I won’t be writing any novels in Vi. That said, I will point out that I’ve never written anything creative in Word for many of the reasons the author cites in the article above: I like my word processing program to be that: a processor of words… that’s it: no helpful capitalization, no auto-correct, and certainly no desktop publishing features poorly implemented and largely unnecessary.
Roughdraft is simple enough for me.