The race to the cloud continues, with more and more services moving online, enabling users to access and utilise them from nearly anywhere. When writing is one of those tasks you'd like to accomplish from anywhere, at any time, on virtually any device, the free web app and Chrome app Writebox offers a quick and elegant solution by saving anything you write in its distraction-free text editor to a connected Dropbox account.
Writebox has a minimalist interface and very little else, but that's by design. By necessity, distraction-free writing apps strip away all manner of excess features to keep you focused on your words rather than how they look on the page, and Writebox delivers on that promise but does add a few essential customisations.
When you first visit the Writebox site or launch the Chrome app, there's a button at the top to sign in. I thought it would make me create a Writebox account, but instead, it's a Dropbox sign-in that authorises the two services to connect. Any time you use Writebox, you can just sign in with your Dropbox credentials and not worry about creating another login – and that’s commendably simple.
In the window is a small top-line menu bar with three buttons on the left – New, Open, and a clock-face icon for "recently opened" items. There are also three buttons on the right – a trash bin, Account, and Options. You'll also find a Sync button to force your document changes to Dropbox, and an info button with some details about the app.
Other than that, you'll see a big, blank screen, where you can type. At the very bottom of the screen are real-time counts for lines, words, and characters, which you can turn off if you like. The customisation options are minimal, but some quite necessary, like being able to change the colours of the text and background, increase or decrease the point size and line spacing, and adjust the typeface.
Hooked up with Dropbox
From the Open button in Writebox, you can navigate your entire Dropbox folder structure, but only .txt files will appear, as it's the only file type supported by this simple app. My data primarily include Word docs, images (JPGs, mostly), PDFs, and Excel files, and I could see none of them.
While typing in the text editor within the Chrome browser, the menu bar at the top disappeared, creating a wholly distraction-free environment. You can boost the view even more by hiding your browser's address bar or otherwise maximising the window. Mousing back to the top of the page causes the Writebox menu to come back into view.
The app claims that it automatically saves every keystroke as you type, but you do have to hit "sync" or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + S to push changes to Dropbox.
Although the web and Chrome app are free, iOS users have to pay £1.49 for an installed app on their devices, and an Android app isn't on the menu at all. While some might be peeved to pay for an app that's otherwise free, at least the price is reasonable and in line with other apps of its ilk, such as PlainText (which is £1.49 for the ad-free version).
As far as distraction-free text editors go, Writebox certainly holds its own, although it would be a much more useful app if it supported the .doc format, as well as more syncing and storage options in addition to Dropbox. Still, you can’t argue with the price – nothing – when it comes to the Chrome and web versions.