Dark Room isolates you and your text

Built off Mac OS X shareware app WriteRoom, freeware Windows tool Dark Room offers a distraction-free environment for writing.

Dark Room

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.

There is a small mailbox here.

OK, not really, but the freeware Windows app Dark Room (based off the Mac OS X 10.4 software WriteRoom) looks a heck of a lot like the classic text-adventure game Zork.

The idea behind Dark Room and WriteRoom is simple: offer a distraction-free application for writing text. Both apps throw out the bells and whistles and provide a lightweight text editor without buttons, menus, or anything else that might disturb your concentration.

It's really that simple. When you first start the Dark Room application, you'll be presented with a completely black screen with a blinking cursor and four navigational arrows. You can either accept the default preferences (black screen, green text, 600-pixel-width page, and neutral highlighting) and start typing into a new document, or hit Ctrl+, to open up the Preferences.

Because Dark Room starts in full-screen mode by default, you won't be able to see the menus at the top of the application. To access the Preferences from the "View" menu, exit full-screen mode by hitting the F11 button, then select "View." From the Preferences dialog, you can change the color and size of your font, the color and size of the Dark Room "page" (the writable area of the screen), and the color and opacity of the background (behind the page), as well as a variety of advanced settings, such as the ability to open documents in Dark Room from the Windows context menu, multiple monitor support, neutral highlighting, and autosaving.

Dark Room with blue text and salmon background
Font size, font color, and page width are easily customizable via the Preferences dialog. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Dark Room does have basic text-editing features like "Copy," "Paste," and "Find," but that's about it aside from making changes by typing. If you need to make a global replacement of "opalescent" for "alabaster," you're plum out of luck. Of course, you could always save your document as a standard .TXT file, open it in NoteTab Light, and then hit Ctrl+R for such cases, but that somewhat defeats the purpose of using a distraction-free text editor.

I'm sure that many writers will find programs like Dark Room and WriteRoom valuable for avoiding the distractions of modern computing, but for most of us who grew up writing with computers, the applications seem a bit like novelties. Of course, that previous statement comes from a writer who's never been able to finish his novel about a gambling addict with a pilonidal cyst and no health insurance who needs to hit the longest shot at the track in order to finance his outpatient surgery...so maybe I'll give it a shot!

WriteRoom for Mac OS X 10.4 has a more polished interface and customization options, but it's also shareware, priced at $24.95. Dark Room for Windows 2000, XP, or 2003 is completely free, though it requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.

About Peter Butler

Peter has been working at Download.com since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for Download.com, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.