Tag Archives: simulated coffee shop

Introducing Frost Writer 4.0

Remember that one time you sat down at your writing desk, loaded up your writing app of choice, then scratched your head because you didn’t know what to type? Yeah, I know. Yesterday. What about the time before that? Yep, two days ago. Been there. How did you handle it? Went on social media? I get it. Walked the dog? Someone has to. Did your taxes (in August)? Okay, I think we have a problem here.

I don’t think the problem is writer’s block. I think the problem is with resistance. Writing is hard. It requires you to both imagine and think. That’s almost as bad as walking and chewing gum at the same time. No one’s that coordinated.

But what if you had the ability to write your story in an app that could minimize the need for imagination and thought by putting you in the zone? And by “zone,” I mean “mood.” What if you could trim out your distractions, put on mood-setting music that’s appropriate for your style, genre, or scene, and even set a writing canvas that resembles in some loose way the scene you want to paint?

The good news is that such an app exists. The better news is that I’ve already covered it once upon a time. But the best news is that such an app (we’ll call it Frost Writer, because that’s what the developer calls it) is getting an update today. That app, Frost 4.0, has just added new backgrounds, music, and features to make writing that story about dogs and cats living together fun again.

Frost Writer 4.0 “Baroque” theme, Paris background.

With Frost 4.0, there’s no need to complain about writer’s block. Just sit down, pick your favorite theme (which may include a new Parisian style theme called “Baroque” or a desert adventure theme called “Dunes” to name two of the latest additions), and get writing.

What are the limitations, besides your imagination? Well, it’s still primarily a drafting tool, not an editing or finalization tool. There’s still no special formatting in Frost 4.0. Need to italicize a word? Tough. Do it in post. Maybe you need to spell “café” with that accent? Not in Frost you don’t. Fortunately, when your writing session ends, you can export your text to a text file, then copy it into the formatter of your choice. Prefer Microsoft Word to Scrivener? Okay. Prefer Scrivener to Microsoft Word? Sure. You can export your work to either of them because it’s just a text file. No style. Just words.

Of course, you may be wondering why you should bother using an app that just lets you write unformatted text. Well, the short answer is that the inability to edit as you go means you can just get words written and not look back. But the better answer is that you can write distraction-free while also listening to appropriate music while also looking at appropriate backgrounds.

And now that those backgrounds are also dynamic? I mean, now you’ve got all you need to get that story started.

Note: If you have no idea what I mean by “dynamic backgrounds,” well, in practical terms, it means that the backgrounds “move.” In other words, you don’t have to stare at static images all day. If you want to write your holiday story with an active snowfall in the background, well now you can! With dynamic backgrounds, of course. Frost 4.0 has that feature, too.

Frost Writer 4.0 theme selection.

Overall, I think Frost 4.0 is worth your time. For one, it’s free. But also, it does what it promises. Distraction-free writing that puts you in the mood. What more do you really want in a free web-based writing app? I mean, besides the ability to do everything that the premium apps can do?

According to the developer, the new update will go live on August 26th. I don’t know what time, so you’ll have to keep checking the link until you can get in. But once you’re in, I think you’ll like the newest themes and the new site design. Plus, you’ll get to maneuver through the themes and soundtracks via hotkeys this time. Just hold Alt or Option (depending on whether you’re using Windows or Mac), then press “S” for a new background, “F” for full screen (great for distraction-free writing), “L” for Dark Mode, and left or right arrows for switching music. And if you need to cancel anything (like full screen), just hit ESC. It’s pretty straightforward. Bear in mind that the developer also recommends that you use Chrome or Safari for best results.

And if you’re wondering, the latest themes are:

  • Baroque
  • Lover
  • Dunes
  • Nightfall

So, that’s Frost Writer 4.0 in a nutshell. Have you used it yet? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments below. You can also check out my hands-on preview in the following video.

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The Chill Writer: Using Frost Writer and Virtual Cottage

Do you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the bells and whistles that Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or other countless writing apps throw at your feet? Do you wish there was a writing app out there that could strip away the distractions and just put you in the mood for writing? Do you wish that such an app was available to you for free?

Well, there is.

Last week, thanks to an article by the Reedsy blog listing eleven apps and programs for writers, I discovered my new favorite writing mood app, Frost Writer. And now it can be your favorite, too.

What is it, exactly?

Well, it’s a website that can store your writing in the cloud. All you do is show up, pick your theme, select a music track if you want background ambience, then get to writing. There’s even an option to save your work as a text file to your Downloads page if you want to transfer your work to another app for formatting once you’re finished or want to start a new project in the same theme.

Image of Frost Writer 3.0's "Room" Theme, with a sample writing.
Screenshot of Frost Writer 3.0, using the “Room” theme.

It’s really as simple as that.

But what it can’t do is store your entire project in any meaningful way, or retain formatting of any kind, at least not as recently as version 3.0. Therefore, my advice is do your distraction-free scene or section writing in Frost, save to your drive (via text file) once you’re done with your current session, then open your note in MS Word or whatever formatting/editing tool you use for revision and storage, make your quick edits to retain your style and/or emphases (italics, bold, etc.) while you’re thinking about them, then go back to Frost, delete the session, and start over again with the next scene or idea.

Or, maybe just copy/paste your Frost writing to your MS Word document or whatever you use for formatting, since saving to a text file will also eliminate your paragraphs, which you probably won’t want to do. You could save to the text file as a backup or if you’re using Frost only to write your tweets before sending them.

It may not be the most efficient way to manage your work, but it’s a darn good way to make sure the work gets done. The music that comes packaged with Frost Writer will get you in the mood every time. Even if you write in your app of choice but leave Frost’s soundtrack on in the background, you can still get in the mood. However, the advantage of writing inside of Frost is you get to use its specialized thematic backgrounds to keep you in the mood. Are you writing a historical novel and need to write directly on the vellum page? Then Frost Writer’s “Vintage” theme is your choice. Or are you crafting your romantic scene and you’re about as romantic as a tree stump? Then select the “Love” theme and discover your attractive side with the pastel shades and romantic comedy score that makes you forget just how bad you are at romance.

I mean, if it works for me…

There’s even an RPG theme called “Room” that gives you a study room background and your choice of four individual or combined sound effects: coffeehouse background, grandfather clock, thunderstorm, and fireplace. Pick one, or pick them all. The choice is yours.

But Frost Writer isn’t the only free app available to those of you who want to write or study in the mood. There’s also a program called Virtual Cottage that you can find on the gaming sites Steam and Itch.io.*

Image of Virtual Cottage, showing how to set up the timer and intended session.
Screenshot of Virtual Cottage, at the project planning stage.

Virtual Cottage is not like Frost Writer. There’s no writing involved here. It’s strictly a background program that sets a timer and plays music while you study, read, do the laundry, or whatever you’re doing that you’d normally find boring or otherwise unappealing. Once the timer expires, it plays a sound effect, telling you it’s time to stop (provided you check the box, which I forgot to do for the screenshot).

The nice thing about Virtual Cottage is that you set the parameters and make yourself accountable to them. Do you want to read for 20 minutes? Then say so on the project page, adjust your timer, and hit “Start.” Don’t stop until the timer rings. Do you want to study during a rainstorm? Then select the atmosphere button and listen to the pitter-patter of raindrops as you hit the books. Do you want 90 minutes of uninterrupted chill music (or is it 15—I can’t remember now) while you organize your filing cabinet? Then click the music note and submerge yourself into that sweet coffeehouse vibe.

And you can do it all for free.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what you really want in a productivity app?

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used these apps and how they’ve helped you improve your productivity.

Oh, and if you want to see these in action, I’ve featured them in this week’s video review. Check it out.

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Thanks for reading.

*To run games and apps on Steam, you need to first download and install the Steam App. Consult the header on its store page for more information on how to do that.