November 23, 2004

Fullscreen for writing

Merlin recently posted a description of Ulysses, an OS X text editor targeted at creative writing. I don’t do much writing anymore (can you tell?} but I went to the site anyway for a quick looksee. One of the features that struck me was fullscreen mode. Maybe it’s that the background and text colors are different than the GUI-screen version, but it strikes me as very different. Sure, Word has this, OpenOffice has this, but AFAICT both are just GUI versions that obscure other windows rather than just-text fullscreen versions – you still see bolded text, styles applied to headlines, headers and footers, etc. It’s also easy to get this fullscreen just-text behavior in XEmacs (and presumably Emacs) as well.

But it's more likely the fullscreen + different background tickles some nostalgia for WordPerfect 5.1/DOS, which apparently still has a community around it, cool. I used this WP51 extensively in my first three jobs after college (all FT writing jobs) and was quite proficient at it -- I even won a t-shirt from WordPerfect magazine for a macro that created a checkerboard on the screen. (Whoop-de-do!) All that knowledge is long gone, but the feeling that GUI word processing programs are massive overkill for writing big blocks of text remains. Is there a term for this bare-metal nostalgia?

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