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working with the web

Write or Die!

In my never-ending quest for productivity-enhancing tools, I came across an application called Write or Die. The very title very much appeals to my no-nonsense approach to getting things done (both the capitalised and non-capitalised versions, for the fans of David Allen’s productivity system of the same name).

The concept is simple: give Write or Die a target number of words and a time limit, and it will, depending on how severe you have the options set, “yell” at you if you’re falling behind the target number of words per minute. You can set it to simply change the colour of the background to an increasingly angry red (surprisingly effective), or set it to pop up and nag you if you’re getting behind (I find this a bit annoying, and not in an effective way either). Or, you can let it get nasty: disabling save until your goal is reached; disabling backspace; forcing full screen or always-on-top; or, if you’re a serial procrastinator who believes in tough love, you can set it to start deleting words (the so-called “kamikaze” mode).

I generally find the progress bars at the top of the writing space (one bar shows the number of words, while the other shows the elapsed time) with the reddening background is enough to keep me typing and not allowing myself to check email/Twitter/feeds/Facebook/the real world until I’ve reached my milestone. But I can easily see that some other people would really need the more hardcore options.

There’s a free online version, but it seemed like so much fun I quite happily shelled out $10 in PayPal for the full version, which is an AIR app. It keeps stats – the number of words written, the amount of time, average words per minute and per session, etc. There’s even a game built in as well, where you can pit yourself against other Write or Die users.

I drafted this blog post in the application (I set myself for 400 words in 15 minutes, although I stopped the session and pasted it into Live Writer to finish off before I’d got to the end. One feature that would really make it great for me would be spell-check – just the red-wriggly-underline type checking like in Word and Firefox. But then again removing all distractions to you just hammering out words – especially ones that appeal to the obsessive-compulsive – is the whole point of the tool.

If you’re a geek like me and making things into games helps to motivate you, Write or Die is highly recommended.

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