3 Reasons Why I Use The Distraction Free Editor (And Why You Should Too)

3 Reasons Why I Use The Distraction Free Editor (And Why You Should Too)

The distraction free editor is something you can easily miss altogether as a WordPress user. After all, it is accessed only by a rather subtle button on the visual editor toolbar.

And if you do hit that button, it is not immediately obvious why you might choose to use it as a genuine alternative to the visual editor. In fact, its potentially overwhelming minimalism might immediately turn many people off.

But they would be missing out on what I believe to currently be the optimum solution for “normal” WordPress bloggers (i.e. those who do not need advanced formatting features). I think there are lots of reasons to prefer it over the plugin alternatives, and here’s why:

1. Screen Real Estate

Here’s me using the visual editor:

Visual Editor

And here’s me using the distraction free editor:

Distraction Free Editor

In terms of simply having more space to play with, the distraction free editor wins every time. Consider for a moment how often you use all of those extra meta boxes on the post editing screen. In my experience, you don’t use most of them. Any that are left are only used once you are ready to publish the post (e.g categories and tags). At best, they are a distraction. At worst, they are taking up valuable screen real estate.

So for the bulk of my writing time, all of those extra boxes and buttons are completely redundant. So why wouldn’t you get rid of them and allow yourself more space for what is important?

2. Shortcuts

Here’s the thing about keyboard shortcuts – using them takes less time than clicking on buttons. They’re called “shortcuts” for a reason, after all. Although the difference in time taken may seem trivial, you’ll find that those few seconds saved add up quickly.

Take headers as an example. If you don’t use the keyboard shortcut, first you have to click on the button in the toolbar to show the “kitchen sink”. Then you have to click on the drop down box and select your header (or scroll first if the relevant option isn’t immediately available):

Visual Editor
I’m lazy, and that’s too many clicks.

It would be far better for you to learn the simple shortcut required to call headers: Ctrl + 1-6. That’s all you have to do if you want to insert a header folks – two hits on the keyboard rather than having to move to your mouse and start clicking. It may sound trivial, but if you learn the shortcuts for all of the things you do on a regular basis, you will be putting posts together far more quickly.

You might quite reasonably point out that you can use these shortcuts in the visual editor as well as the distraction free editor. But once you know these shortcuts, the lack of options in the distraction free editor’s toolbar becomes irrelevant, thus giving you no good reason not to use it.

For a list of the available shortcuts, click here.

3. Scrolling

This may sound trivial to you, but it’s actually a real bugbear of mine when it comes to the visual editor. I use my laptop’s trackpad to scroll, but this can be somewhat problematic when an element inside a web page has its own scrollbar. Once I have scrolled to the bottom of that element, the browser screen will scroll down too.

This is a real pain in the arse when it comes to using the visual editor, because when I scroll to the bottom of a post, the whole page just keeps on going. I then get a face full of meta boxes that I never use. I do not however have this problem with the distraction free editor – the page scrolls as one independent unit. If I want to go to the bottom of the page, I just give my trackpad a liberal swipe and I’m there. It may sound trivial, but it saves me time and frustration.

Nothing’s Perfect

There are some drawbacks to using the distraction free editor, and I am going to go into those tomorrow, so stay tuned. But despite its occasional foibles (which will hopefully be fixed in future WordPress updates), I consider it to be the superior option for writing in WordPress. At the very least, try writing one post with it and see how you get along.

Creative Commons image courtesy of ronocdh