OPINION: The search for a simple UI

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Maybe I’m going mad, as evident in the following opinion piece which, to be honest, is more of a statement than a opinion piece, but I’ve recently been loving minimalist UI’s.

I wouldn’t include the Windows 8 Metro UI “minimalism,” which I feel is a little information-overload and wasted space, and is also just not good for desktop-use, but actual distraction-free UI where you get just the basics. No overload, no shiny buttons. Just chrome-less UI that, as Microsoft would put it, is authentically digital.

For my only example, one of my favourite minimalistic UI’s is with text-editors. When you write something with a pen and paper, you grab a clean sheet of paper and just write. But for some reason, over the years, the idea of writing has been transformed to a slow, cluttered and over-complicated mess on computers. It’s like playing Chinese-whispers. Something that can be enjoyable is now a hassle, as seen by the most popular ‘word processers’.

I love writing but Microsoft Word and Google Docs, as well as every other one of these editors, just seem to make it hard to concerntrate with their big, ugly menus and wasted space. Basically, I just want to write without distraction, and nothing from any big companies is doing this, excluding maybe Metro which is still a mistake in the way it acts, not the way it looks. Some people live in Microsoft Word or one of its many clones. But I recently realised that I’ve never actually used many of Word’s functions. I changed to Google Docs because of this, seeing as I love the idea of cloud-editing, but even then Google Docs is still fairly cluttered. It’s still 50X cleaner than Word, but I don’t feel focused inside it. And all I ever use Google Docs for was plain text, excluding some school work.

Which is why I looked around, trying to find a clean, distraction-free text editor. Something that truly feels like a return to the simplicity of pen and paper. No ribbons, no menus, no silly textures (I’m looking at you, Apple): Just pure text on a fullscreen white backdrop with, maybe, a couple of options like font size. And I think I’ve found two amazing solutions.

Right now I’m writing this in Writebox for Chrome. I’ve logged in with Dropbox, so my documents are synced online, and I’ve got it set at size 16 Consolas font. And it’s fun! It’s just made writing fun!

Previously I’ve used iA Writer for Mac (and I think it’s also available for iPad). It’s better than the cloud-editors, because it’s local, but it’s more expensive at around $10 and locked into OS X, an OS that I find rather clunky and weighed down by Apple.

If you want to just write you should definitely check either Writebox or iA Writer out. They’re so nice to use and it’s UI’s like this that are making writing enjoyable again.

And to tie this in with what Windows 8 is doing, I think Microsoft are just taking it a bit too far. See, a text editor should be clean. But not everything can be. There are unanswered questions and too many problems with the new UI that Microsoft cannot fix before a 2012 release. And I feel that they will be stopping changes very soon to polish the OS, meaning that the mess of Windows 8 will be like the mess that was Vista, but on a worse scale. And with the most vocal people on the internet being power-users, then there will be quite an outpouring of anger towards Windows 8 on desktop’s.