App Review – FocusWriter

This month, I’m breaking from our regular software reviews to take a quick look at a free timed writing app.

My guidelines are simple.

  • Free
  • Downloadable
  • Can be used offline
  • Windows compatible

Indie Plot Twist App Review FocusWriter


FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free writing environment. It utilizes a hide-away interface that you access by moving your mouse to the edges of the screen, allowing the program to have a familiar look and feel to it while still getting out of the way so that you can immerse yourself in your work. It’s available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X, and has been translated into many different languages. From the Website

FocusWriter is a free, downloadable writing app designed to help writers write totally distraction free or, if you prefer, with just a few distractions.

It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is a version for each platform, so if you choose to give it try, make sure you download the appropriate version.

I’m using FocusWriter with Windows 8.

If you prefer, you can also download a portable version.


A few of the more interesting features include

  • Text, basic Rich Text Formating, and basic open document file support
  • Timers
  • Daily goals
  • Customizable themes

Options including auto-save, live statistics, and spellcheck are also available.

Personal Notes

I tried two apps for doing off-line timed writings and this one is definitely easier and more fun to use than the other (which I’ll review in a few weeks).

The FocusWriter download file is a bit larger, so this is something consider if you’re working with limited hard drive or ROM capacity. But there are plenty of fun things with this, including the ability to change the appearance of the writing screen. It’s very easy to download and install.

If you need a totally portable writing app, you may need look no further than this. There are instructions for installing the app on a flash drive so it can be used on any computer anywhere. If you do this, I recommend a high-quality, fairly large-capacity flash drive. As I mentioned, the app itself isn’t very big—1,745 kb—but if you use it for a lot of writing and across multiple projects, you’ll need a flash drive with plenty of room to spare.

What I Like

This is neat app. I had no trouble downloading or installing it. It took a little exploration and experimentation to figure out how to set the timer, but once it was set, writing on the app was just like writing on LibreOffice (or any other word processor).

By default, no live stats show, so you can’t tell how many words you’ve written or how much time is left if you’re doing a timed writing. If you want to see those things, position your cursor at the bottom of the screen and a task bar appears. Word count shows on the left and the digital time on the right. Next to the time display is a little clock icon that shows in pie-chart form how much time is left.

What looks like the most helpful tool of all is a goal setting option. You can set word count goals or time goals by the day. Since I write whenever I can for however long I can—even if it’s just a few minutes—this is ideal for determining when I hit daily time and/or word count goals if I do all of my writing in the app.

The default appearance for FocusWriter is a piece of paper on a wood desk background. You’re writing appears in the area represented by the piece of paper. You can also choose a solid color background with no fancy appearance or a black background with green DOS style formatting.

FocusWriter Default Appearance

But you can also upload your own images and choose your own formatting. I’ve even set up several templates—one for timed writings (shown below) and one for each of the three novels I’m currently dabbling with. I chose a background image suitable to each and text colors and fonts suitable to the images.

The taskbar at the bottom is showing in this illustration.

FocusWriter Timed Writing

What I Don’t Like

So far, I’ve found only two things I wish were different.

While you can set daily goals and track those goals with FocusWriter, you cannot currently set individual goals for each project. As already mentioned, I have four projects set up in FocusWriter. If I set a daily goal of 30 minutes, every minute I work on that project counts against the goal whether I want it to or not.

Second, there is no pause function—at least not that I’ve found. If I step away from writing, I have to close the app or it continues to count time against whatever goal I’ve set.

Granted, neither of these wish-list items are a deal breaker. I’ve already found work arounds for them. And given that FocusWriter is free and very flexible, I’m satisfied with all the cool things I did get.


If you are looking for a totally free, totally downloadable app that works off-line and you want to do free writing, timed writings, or any other type of writing, give FocusWriter a try.

I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

You might even find your productivity spiking.

I have!

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