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5 Essential Linux Applications for NaNoWriMo Participants

It’s been a couple of days since NaNoWriMo began. For those living under a rock, NaNoWriMo is an annual creative contest wherein participants have to churn out a 50,000 words novel in a short span of 30 days. The event, which had over 200,000 participants last year, has gained a huge following among professional writers as well as aspiring ones. In case you’re a Linux user who is taking part in the contest, here are 5 essential applications that will help you get closer to your goal.


FocusWriter is a simple, distraction-free writing environment available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. The open source application takes away all the distractions letting you focus just on the writing. Though a minimalistic application, FocusWriter does come packed with a lot of powerful features. The free application has all the essential features you’d want from a word processor; for example, spell checking, auto-save, sessions, multi-document support, basic formatting, search and more.

Once you start FocusWriter, it takes over the whole screen leaving you with just a blank page. If you move your mouse over to the bottom of the page, a statusbar will pop up showing you statistics like word count, number of pages written, and the current time. For the less disciplined writers, there’s also an option for setting daily goals. You can set a daily goal in minutes or in words. So, to make sure that you reach the target of 50,000 words by the end of November, you’ll have to set a daily goal of 1667 words. To keep tab of your goal, just move the mouse to the bottom of the screen and the statusbar will show your goal progress in percentage. If you want, you can also remind yourself to take a small break by setting a timer ( Tools > Timers).

Another thing I love about FocusWriter is that it allows users to theme their environment. You can create your own themes with custom colors, background images or fonts. Also for those who miss the good old typewriter, FocusWriter comes with an option to enable typewriter sounds, a feature that I personally adore.

Finally, once you’re done writing, you can save your file in RTF format or open document format. For NaNoWriMo, the final document has to be in .txt format; so, make sure that you convert that when you submit your copy. Overall, FocusWriter is one of the best applications not just for NaNoWriMo participants but for seasoned writers and bloggers as well.

Download : FocusWriter

PPA for Ubuntu users :
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gottcode/gcppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install focuswriter

LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice Writer is the best word processor available for Linux right now, and even though the interface is not as beautiful as MS Office or Calligra ( formerly Koffice), it’s still the most powerful writing tool around. For NaNoWriMo participants, LibreOffice can be the perfect tool if tweaked a little. Here are 3 tips on how to do that:

1. Clean up the interface: First of all, you’ll need to clean up the interface and make sure that it doesn’t distract you. To do that, you can follow a guide we wrote earlier about giving LibreOffice a minimalist makeover.

2. Install Writer’s tools extension: Writer’s tools is an extension for LibreOffice that will add some great functionality to the application. You’ll be able to lookup words, translate (using Google Translate), and markup right from the menubar. There’s also a handy visual word count tool that will help you keep track of your daily goal. Enter your goal, which is 1667 for NaNoWriMo, and a small window with a visual progress bar will appear letting you keep track of your goal.


For all the sprint writers out there, there’s even a timer functionality which you can access from the menu bar. To install the extension, just go to this link and download the zip file. Unzip it, then go to LibreOffice. There, go to Tools > Extension Manager and locate the oxt file. Restart LibreOffice and a new option called Writer’s Tools will appear in the menubar. More instructions here.

3. Install After The Deadline extension: If you regularly fuss over grammar and style, then you should try Automattic’s After The Deadline extension. Once installed, it will check your writing for spelling errors, misused words, grammar errors and style problems. Not only does this open source extension save you from embarrassing spelling mistakes, it also helps you weed out any redundant words that might confuse your readers. To install it, go to this link and click on the download button. From LibreOffice go to Tools > Extension Manager and click Add. Find the atd-openoffice-XX.oxt file and click OK. Then restart your browser and keep writing as would normally do. The extension will underline any spelling or style mistakes you make.


For writers who frequently need to jot down their ideas, there are a plenty of tools out there. On the web, there is Evernote and Springpad and on the Linux desktop we have Tomboy. Though not as feature-packed as Evernote, Tomboy does come in useful when there’s no internet access.


Also, the ability to access the application from the tray/indicator menu makes it even more convenient. If you want to make the most out of Tomboy make sure you check out our earlier post which will help you tweak the application to the max.

Download: Tomboy


To ensure that you don’t procrastinate, you’ll need a to-do manager. If you’re looking for one on Linux, then Tasque is a perfect choice. The open-source application syncs perfectly with Remember The Milk and sees to it that you don’t slack off. Though still in development, the latest version of Tasque is pretty stable and you can download it from the website right away.

Download : Tomboy

UbuntuOne or Dropbox

Now that you’re busy churning out that epic novel of yours, do make sure that you’ve backed up your copy to the cloud. UbuntuOne and Dropbox are two perfect applications which will help you do that without breaking your flow. If you are on Ubuntu, make sure you save your file to the UbuntuOne folder and then sync it to your 5 GB cloud account.

If you are on another distro, then you can try out Dropbox, which will also let you sync your files between other operating systems like Mac and Windows. Another great alternative to these two services is Minus, which we reviewed in depth earlier.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.