This is part of a series on no-frills, focus-oriented writing apps.
Q10 is an app I’ve seen mentioned a few times and, although it’s old as the hills and no longer updated, it appealed. Simple, attractive and with the all-important dark theme, it ticked all the obvious boxes.
I thought it was worth a go.
(Oh, I see, it’s a Scrabble tile. Nice.)
Distraction-free text editor. Plain text only. Reasonably customisable.
- Simple aesthetic
- Distraction-free interface
- Surprisingly feature-rich
- Live character/word/line/paragraph/page count
- Not available on any mobile OS
- Not available on OSX
- Full screen is compulsory
Q10 Installation errors
Trying to install Q10 ‘normally’ results in an error for many users. In order to install Q10, you need to right-click the installer and ‘Run as Administrator’.
To use spell check, you also need to install the app outside of the usual C:\Program Files (x86). Stick the Q10 folder straight in C:.
Teeny tiny. Installable files are 1042kb with spell check, or 400kb without. Portable files also available.
The app opens right away (no lag – hooray for tiny software) in a black full-screen – a slightly alarming experience for those of us who have killed our PCs in the past.
A slight learning curve, as (once you’ve played with the settings) features are accessed via keyboard rather than click-and-drop menu. This is a win for me, but it does mean learning a handful of shortcuts.
You can access a help card by pressing F1 – but be prepared to recheck some stuff on the web page as well.
Exceptional. I’m not quite sure why, but I can write and write on this thing.
The click-clack typewriter sound-effects are hypnotic, and the characters appear on screen in an inexplicably pleasing way.
As the option of clicking out of the app is unavailable to me, I am not bombarded by my monkey brain telling me to go and do something else.
For a piece of elderly freeware, Q10 has a solid range of features and settings.
Spell check (optional)
If you’ve opted for the full, 1MB (gasp) version of Q10 (and installed it to C:\ – see above) then you’ve got spell check – in theory.
Press F7 to activate. This had me stuck for a few seconds, as I’m so used to automatic spell check. The fact that it’s not automatic is actually quite nice, though: common errors can be sorted via autocorrect, and your writing process isn’t constantly interrupted by fixing red squiggles.
Unfortunately, I soon found that Q10 spell check and I were not destined to be together.
Every third correction or so I hit an error (“Access violation at address 77ADE064 in module ‘ntdll.dll’. Read of address 7AF52177”) which scuppered the process.
Some users have had success by installing straight to the C:\ folder (as above), but even this didn’t work for me. Ho hum.
- I like the default style: the mustard-yellow text colour is easy on the eyes and seems to ‘blur’ less than green
- The obligatory Courier New is as readable as always – and easy to change if you disagree
- Wide margins allow for easy scanning (and the pleasing illusion of having written more than I actually have). These can be altered: good if you write for print media and like to work by line count.
- The info bar can be customised, or toggled for true full-screen
- Of course, the dark background means that I won’t get a headache in the next few minutes
- Line spacing, paragraph spacing and paragraph indents are all adjustable (pro tip: if you’re writing in markdown, set the paragraph spacing to 0, or you might forget to double-tap enter/return).
Live character/word/line/paragraph/page count
You can also set custom partial counts to track certain sessions.
Easy to set (ctrl+t). Good for the Pomodoro technique, or calculating words typed per minute/hour – it shows the results when the timer’s up.
Set your desired output and work towards it. Standard.
Can be set to autosave after X minutes or paragraphs.
Exporting your writing
Ctrl+s to save (or ctrl+d to save with a new name) as a .txt file.
Save to your Drive or Dropbox account if you want synced work.
Opening files from other apps
Ctrl+o. You can open .txt or .rtf, but the latter will lose its formatting and appear as plain text.
Autocorrect is a pleasant surprise in such a simple app. As well as a couple of defaults (e.g.
- - to -) you are free to add unlimited custom autocorrect options.
That gives you a whole world of options.
I started by telling Q10 to turn “in@” into “firstname.lastname@example.org” (I hate typing out email addresses. Hate it.)
The input is single-line, so blocks of text are trickier. I got around this by using paragraph tags, which are picked up by a markdown converter.
Quick text is, as far as I can tell, redundant next to autocorrect.
The input box is also single-line, so it doesn’t have the obvious advantage.
More importantly, I can’t figure out how to work the damn thing. I can expand from the first letter with ctrl+J, but there doesn’t appear to be a way to cycle through several options.
…If you start a line with two full stops (periods), Q10 creates a note.
…ctrl+H to view and filter.
…This can also be used as navigation in a long document.
The developer took typewriter sounds from the film Amelie and stuck ’em in the programme. Optional, obviously (settings > misc).
- The install’s not hard to fix once you’ve found the right forum thread, but it’s a bit of a pain
- Spell check is, for me, unusable. As I’ll be formatting and proofreading elsewhere this isn’t an app-killing bug, but it’s a shame
- Replace can be buggy – occasionally it can’t locate strings that Find easily pinpoints
- I can’t imagine that quick text is meant to be this limited
I had to root around to find some of the app’s functionality, as the single Q10 webpage is sparse in info. E.g.:
- alt + arrow down to minimise Q10
- alt + starting letter to expand quick text
- esc key takes you to the end of the document (on a new line)
Notepad doesn’t like the files
Opening a Q10 .txt file in notepad removes all formatting, including line breaks.
Apparently this is due to a more complex form of .txt being used in Q10 – I didn’t even realise that this existed.
You have to open your Q10 file in a more complex programme (e.g. Word, Wordpad, OpenOffice).
Not available on OSX
Boo, hiss etc.
(Note: it does, apparently, work under WINE, but I’m still traumatised from hours spent trying and failing to play AOEII.)
Not available on mobile
Obviously. Still a shame, though. I like my apps to be omnipresent.
Full screen obligatory
Full screen is not optional. This is a feature as well as a limitation, as it blocks off some paths to distraction.
Sadly, it means that I can’t use Q10 for stats-heavy articles, where I often have my writing in a small window while I click between several sources.
No printing from document
I can’t say that this is a problem for me (proofreading is done elsewhere), but some people seem to find it annoying.
Despite the age-related limitations, I’m genuinely enjoying this app. It’s very effective for focus, and just customisable enough to be enjoyable while not straying into “let’s spend three hours fiddling with the controls” territory.
I easily get this review typed out with barely any pause – and then use Q10 to write a couple of freelance pieces while I’m at it.
I wouldn’t use Q10 for heavy editing – but then I wouldn’t use any dark full-screen app for that kind of work. They don’t suit that chop-and-stick mindset. Simple apps are for straight-up creation.
I would happily use the app for ‘just get these bloody words onto the page’ jobs. I will probably do so on my Windows-based travel notebook.
I’m slightly heartbroken that it is not (and never will be) available on OSX, where I do most of my work. My search for writing nirvana continues.
Support forum – still posted in from time to time.