Review: BlankPage distraction-free writing app

A lot of writers swear by distraction-free writing apps to help them get their work done. I’ve never tried one before, but probably should have, given how often I accidentally click away to Facebook in the middle of writing a story. (How did I end up watching cat videos for the last half hour again?)

So I was interested to see today that AppSumo is offering lifetime access to BlankPage for only $25. [This deal is now over, but you can still subscribe on the BlankPage website.] Access to the app usually costs $10/month. I decided to check it out.

I played with BlankPage a little this morning and here are some of the things I learned.

 

BlankPage has a cool outlining feature.

Outlining is something I should do more of. And BlankPage’s outlining feature is pretty easy to use. You create a list of the different beats or plot points you want to hit, each in its own box.

If you want to add a new outline point, click a button above the outline that says “Add another piece.”

If you later want to change the order of your outline, just click and drag to rearrange the pieces.

Here’s what my first BlankPage outline looked like:

Visual of what an outline looks like in BlankPage app
Note: This image and the images below are of my browser window, not of my desktop. BlankPage does not automatically hide the desktop and other open applications. However, you can easily stretch it to fill your screen by enlarging the browser window. In Chrome, you do this by selecting the View menu and then Enter Full Screen. You leave Full Screen mode by pressing the Escape (or Esc) key on your keyboard.

 

BlankPage’s typing area is very plain

When you’re ready to write, click on a plot point to flesh it out. Below is the screen I got when I clicked on my first outline piece, “Wake up on a different planet.” It’s pretty much just an empty text box waiting to be filled. BlankPage means it when it says “distraction-free”:

Image of blank document in BlankPage

 

I would expect the outline beat “Wake up on a different planet” to automatically insert itself as the page’s title (the blank above the text box), but it doesn’t. Maybe most people write outline beats that are too long to fit into the “title” area at the top of the page. So you have to enter a title at the top of the page yourself—and you probably should, so you can remember which part of the story you’re in.

I didn’t, though. Update on 6/15: In the comments below, Jesper from BlankPage offers this tip: “if you press Tab while writing, the outline [piece] pops in on the side. So you don’t have to remember it all, if you don’t want to.” Cool!

I just started writing:

 

example of text entered into Blank Page document

 

Update: Here’s what it looks like after I hit the Tab key:

black sidebar on right features the text of the relevant piece of the attached outline, in this case "Wake up on a different planet." In the center of the browser is a test box where the author has entered prose expanding upon the outline piece.

 

Writing in BlankPage was a lot more satisfying than writing in a Word document for some reason. Maybe it’s the large font or the clean interface. Maybe because it’s new to me, and primates love novelty.

I’m not sure, but anything that helps me feel happier while writing is something that I want.

There aren’t a lot of fancy formatting options.

But you can use key commands like Control+i for italics and Control+b for bold.

BlankPage exports to Word

Once you’re ready to edit, you can export your work as a Microsoft Word (.docx) or Plain Text (.txt) document. I tried both, and each worked fine. They pulled all the text I’d written under each outline point into one document. The names of my outline points (“Wake up on a different planet,” “Discover an alien civilization,” etc.) did NOT appear in the download—only the content.

BlankPage tracks your word count

There is a word count tracker at the bottom of your page. The default word count goal is 250, but you can set it higher or lower on your Settings page. There, you can also ask for daily emails to kick your ass inspire you to write:

BlankPage settings page

 

BlankPage integrates with NaNoWriMo

I participate in NaNoWriMo fairly often, but find it’s a pain to log in every day to track my word count when I need to spend as much time as possible writing. If you let BlankPage know your NaNoWriMo ID, it will update your word count for you. Woohoo!

BlankPage works online or offline

BlankPage is browser-based, but if you get disconnected from the internet, it will continue to save your work. Update 6/15: BlankPage is also working on an app that works completely offline.

BlankPage saves every word

If you’re someone who accidentally closes documents, have no fear! BlankPage saves each word as you write so that your work doesn’t get lost.

I tested this by clicking backward in my browser, closing my browser page, and coming up with every other sort of mischief I could devise. The only way I succeeded in deleting any work was by hitting the Delete or Backspace buttons on my keyboard.

Conclusion: Two thumbs up!

BlankPage isn’t complicated or rich in features, but that’s the point. It helped me focus on the task at hand. Other than wishing that BlankPage automatically pulled outline beats to populate the title of each document section, I couldn’t find fault.  Update on 6/15: Since learning that pressing Tab reveals the outline on any content page, I think the app is pretty much perfect for my purposes.

And now I need my thumbs back so I can hit the Space bar. Thanks!

Want Blankpage? Here’s the link to the BlankPage $25 lifetime deal. If you use my link, I’ll get a coupon from AppSumo for money off on future purchases. Or you can sign up for a free trial at the BlankPage website.

Happy writing!


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8 thoughts on “Review: BlankPage distraction-free writing app

  1. This is a good review!

    Do you have more than one monitor? I’m wondering if it also makes the second monitor blank.

    • I should have labeled my screen shots better! All the screen shots were only of my browser window, not of the entire desktop. I’ll label them to make that clear.

      That means the app *doesn’t* make the rest of the screen blank — although you could enlarge your browser window to cover your whole screen. The “distraction-free” aspect is referring more to the fact that it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a regular word-processing program to draw your focus away from writing — fonts to play with, tabs that won’t line up properly, and so forth. Also, the visual interface is easier on the eyes, which helps you concentrate.

      Your question got me curious about whether any of the distraction-free writing apps cover the entire screen. I looked through all the ones in this article and didn’t find one that does.

      To get everything off your desktop (or hidden), I would close all other browser tabs/windows and enter Full Screen Mode. (Chrome has this setting under the View menu.) And to make sure nothing could distract me, I’d also make sure notifications for all my email/chat apps were turned off. An extension like StayFocusd could also help. I think you’re the person who introduced me to StayFocusd, but in case you aren’t, here’s an article that explains it and similar extensions: https://topalternatives.com/google-chrome-extensions-that-help-block-time-wasting-websites/

    • P.S. Another option is to disconnect from the internet. You open BlankPage with the internet connected, but then can turn off internet and continue to work, and it saves your work.

      I talked to their help desk this morning and they’re also working on an app that works completely offline (so you can open it without being connected to the internet).

  2. Hi Dale,
    Thanks for a lovely review! I thought I’d just let you know that if you press Tab while writing, the outline pops in on the side. So you don’t have to remember it all, if you don’t want to. 😉

    Enjoy your writing!

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