Microsoft's Word and its clones dominate the word-processing scene, but some alternatives are worth a look, especially when they take a different approach. Take FocusWriter, for instance. It encourages focus and productivity with a full-screen view and a pared-down interface and features such as autosave, goal-tracking, formatting, spell checker, and find-and-replace. FocusWriter Portable is a fully portable version of this versatile freeware. You can save it on a USB drive and run it on any compatible Windows PC.
FocusWriter opened with a plain gray screen displaying our cursor. Hovering over the top edge produced a menu bar, while at the bottom we could show a word count, goal tracker, and time display. Clicking Ctrl+M minimized the full screen view. We typed out some text and clicked Save. FocusWriter let us save our document as a Rich Text file (.rtf) or OpenDocument Text file (.odt), both of which opened easily in Word. We tried FocusWriter's spell checker, formatting, search, themes, and other tools and settings, all of which performed well, most with a familiar feel. The only theme we saw was the default setup, but we could easily create themes by clicking Modify as well as import and export themes. Under the Settings, we could set writing goals in minutes or words, enable typewriter sounds, configure the spell checker and toolbar, and set the way FocusWriter counts words and letters.
It's hardly surprising that a tool designed to boost a writer's productivity and focus would start by minimizing the infinite distractions that are just a click or peek away. We like the idea, and also the way FocusWriter focuses on the essentials yet keeps many useful features available for when you're ready for them. Add in portability that lets you run it in airports, bars, and other places writers turn up, and we have a winner.