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Zenware

As an addendum to last week’s discussion of writing workflows, I offer a quote — cribbed directly from Matt Wood at 43 Folders — which is in turn taken from Jeffrey MacIntire’s The Tao of Screen over at Slate. How’s that for connectivity? To wit:

There’s an emerging market for programs that introduce much-needed traffic calming to our massively expanding desktops. The name for this genre of clutter-management software: zenware.

The philosophy behind zenware is to force the desktop back to its Platonic essence. There are several strategies for achieving this, but most rely on suppressing the visual elements you’re used to: windows, icons, and toolbars. The applications themselves eschew pull-down menus or hide off-screen while you work. Even if you consider yourself inured to their presence, the theory goes, you’ll benefit most from their absence.

This explains, perhaps, the sudden interest in stripped down word processing environments for professional writers (like Scrivener, which is gradually becoming the easel of my intellectual life). It also explains why I was so happy — and dare I say productive — using the the BlackBox window manager on Linux for the better part of ten years. Something about its spartan landscape made me want to sink into the eremitic confines of words and code. When I see “iconistan” (McIntire’s phrase) on someone else’s desktop, I sometimes wonder how they manage to get through the day.

It strikes me that the Zen interface does not necessarily mean the simple interface. The Linux command-line (or is that “koan-line?”) is hardly simple, and yet it continues to fill me with pleasure (or is that “satori?”) — in part because there’s nothing to do there but work and think.

I’m hiding everything from now on.

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