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WordGrinder – a distraction free open source word processor

WordGrinder – a distraction free open source word processor

A long time back, when I was writing a novel[1], I discovered WordGrinder, a console word processor that’s designed to string prose together without any distraction. In the creator’s own words:

WordGrinder is a word processor for processing words. It is not WYSIWYG. It is not point and click. It is not a desktop publisher. It is not a text editor. It does not do fonts and it barely does styles. What it does do is words. It’s designed for writing text. It gets out of your way and lets you type.

The author wrote it to have something to write novels on.

Source: http://cowlark.com/wordgrinder/index.html

In my experience WordGrinder is quite as effective as advertised. I certainly managed to grind out many more chapters using WordGrinder than using LibreOffice Writer. There’s something strangely relaxing about typing away into a black console screen without menus, toolbars, widgets, context menus and other GUI distractions. Sadly my novel remains incomplete to this day, but that’s my own fault, not WordGrinder’s.

A screenshot of XWordGrinder on my Debian system

While WordGrinder is deceptively simple to use, just below the surface tucked away in a useful menu, it does expose features like semantic markup[2] and basic character styles[3]. Though WordGrinder uses a native format which cannot be opened by normal text editors, you can export your document to a bunch of useful formats for further processing, formatting or printing. In a way, WordGrinder is reminiscent of old DOS-based word processors like WordStar, but with modern semantic markup to allow clean document structuring. The best part is that, there’s really no learning curve — WordGrinder’s entire feature list is accessible from the menu and can be explored within a few minutes.

WordGrinder is still actively developed — the first release was in 2007 — thirteen years ago! The latest version, 0.8, released on 13th October 2020, not only has bug fixes, but new features as well. There is also a Windows version, though the application was originally developed on Linux. For a one-man open source project, that is quite impressive.

  1. sadly incomplete, long abandoned now[]
  2. heading levels, lists, paragraphs and more[]
  3. bold, italic and underline[]
Collabora Office – a full fledged LibreOffice port for mobile devices

Collabora Office – a full fledged LibreOffice port for mobile devices

A while back, I searched for a decent Office suite for opening and editing documents on my iPad and found Collabora Office, a full-fledged port of LibreOffice for Android and iOS / iPadOS. This is one of the few Open Source office suites for mobile devices around and one of the few that are almost as functional as desktop equivalents — most mobile office suites I’ve found are (a) not open source, (b) feature-limited, (c) not free and/or (d) ad-supported in their free avatars.

You can see from the screenshot that Collabora is LibreOffice, with minor caveats[1] and tweaks for the touch screen. In fact, it features the traditional desktop UI, complete with menubar and toolbar rather than a mobile-centric one, making it highly familiar for experienced LibreOffice users.

A screenshot of Collabora Office running on my iPad

I often make slight edits/modifications to documents within Collabora on my iPad when I cannot be bothered to open my laptop. One minor issue that I found is that the on-screen iPadOS keyboard doesn’t seem as full featured as with native Apple software[2]. With a compatible physical bluetooth keyboard, it might be possible to compose longer documents conveniently.

I’m surprised that Collabora Office doesn’t appear to be popular enough to merit an entry in most top-10 office suite lists for mobile devices that you can find with a simple internet search.

  1. Collabora features the equivalent ports of LibreOffice Writer, Calc and Impress, which I guess is enough for most of us. LibreOffice Base and a few other components of the full LibreOffice desktop suite are conspicuously missing.[]
  2. for example, missing auto-capitalization of the first word in a sentence, unable to type full-stop with two spaces and not working properly with some language keyboards like Tamil Anjal[]
Why mobile games are usually so awful

Why mobile games are usually so awful

Try installing any random game on your Android phone or iOS device and chances are that the game sucks. More often than not, the game is severely curtailed in its free avatar and requires you to make micro payments to advance further into the game. And most likely the “game currency”[1] cannot be earned enough in-game and usually require to be bought using real currency. Even paid games suffer from this to some extent, in the sense that you usually pay mainly to remove ads and enable some content, but unlocking more content/levels require further micro payments. Over the years, this mechanic seems to have become the de-facto norm for mobile games. In “free” games, on top of such crippled gameplay you also get annoying in-game ads interrupting every few minutes that simply takes away any sense of immersion. And then, of course, you have the problem of “games” that are not really games but pure-and-distilled crappy spyware.

Search for “why are mobile games so bad” on the internet and you’ll find that this is a popular sentiment.

From my perspective, the answer is this – there is no market for serious gaming on mobiles because budget to mid-range mobiles are usually underpowered, and mobiles are not ergonomic enough for serious gameplay. High end mobiles which make somewhat decent gaming possible are expensive enough to be a niche market. Most casual gamers are not going to shell out big money for mobile games[2] and mobile game developers probably cannot make enough money to justify developing high-end games, which would only work on the expensive devices anyway. The bigger problem, is that, being primarily touch-operated devices, mobile games have to keep the input and interactivity simple and basic while many serious games require complicated inputs, including keyboard interactions to be ergonomic enough for sophisticated gameplay.

What is more surprising in my opinion is that, there is no real popular open source eco-system for mobile software (including games) similar to the desktop open source software eco-system that developed around Linux. You can be productive in a desktop system with entirely open source software on an open source operating system (Linux) not having to deal with any crapware/adware/spyware, but no such popular open source app eco-system exists for Android that I am aware of.

  1. coins or gems or whatever that are required to unlock higher levels of gameplay/mechanics/content[]
  2. serious gamers who almost never play mobile games simply won’t care[]