There must be a reason the Mac App Store and iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad have so many different writing and notes tools available. People love to write (or, maybe they hate it, but have to write anyway). At the high end is Microsoft Word which comes with nearly every feature imaginable. At the low end is OS X’s built-in TextEdit app which you might dismiss as being somewhat minimalist in nature, thin on features, but priced right.
If you’re a writer who prefers minimalist then TextEdit truly is anything but. Compared to Zen, TextEdit takes a full semester of instructions to master. Zen may be the easiest writing tool you’ve ever used. Ever. The real question is, “Should I use Zen to write anything?” Fortunately, there isn’t much to learn, so there’s less to forget when you stop using Zen, and I predict you will. From the app’s developer:
Zen is a minimalist writer’s tool. I hesitate to call it a word processor, because it’s not really processing anything. There’s no toolbar, no way to format anything except fonts. Size. Color. Background. That’s it.
Zen is so bare, so spartan, so less than whatever is lesser than less, that it’s surprising it even has a Preferences setting, and all that does is let you change the font size and color, change the screen background, and use a simple slider bar to adjust visibility.
Wait. Zen comes with Fullscreen mode, right? That’s all the rage these days. Actually, Fullscreen mode is built-in to OS X. Just click the green button in the top of each app screen (most apps can go full screen these days).
One must assume that the zen in Zen is for simplicity, elegance, and an absence of distractions, though you’re likely to be somewhat distracted by trying to find and use additional features that most writers expect. Don’t bother. Zen adheres to the less is more, small is beautiful mantra, especially where minimalist is a euphemism for no features. Alright, if TextEdit is just too complicated for you, and you find the toolbar and options to be an over the top distraction, Zen might be just what you need and you’ll be willing to part with 99-cents (a better price tag would be free, or maybe a $5 contribution from developer to user).
If you truly need a spartan writing utility but with truly useful features that don’t distract, may I suggest you take a look at my friend Barbara Marie Brannan’s review of Simplenote. It’s free, much simpler than TextEdit, there’s a version for iPhone and iPad, and it syncs notes and writing projects between devices.
Did I mention it’s free?