[SUGGESTION] True Typewriter mode

As I was pulling some keycaps from my Northgate 101, it occurred to me there’s a better way: just disable those keys. Therefore, I suggest “True Typewriter Mode,” which includes ONLY these “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature:”

  • No Backspace; backspace maps to absolutely nothing

  • No DEL

  • No arrows (use a mouse if you really need to move the cursor)

And, if you really want to be Hardcore about it, * ESC maps to Newline (but that’s not required)

And, if you REALLY want to kill the one mistake a word processor can make that a typewriter cannot:

  • Disable Ctl-A*

The idea being to focus on productivity as a writer, and lessen the temptation to simultaneously edit.

I’ve been using Scrivener for over 10 years, and I can’t believe I am just now thinking my problem could be solved with a macro instead of a memory-resident program…or the removal of half a dozen keycaps.

*If you’ve never accidentally hit Ctl-A and kept typing for half an hour before the work got backed up, I won’t be able to convince you this is a feature. Also, the number of us old fuddy-duddies with Control where most kids’ Caps Lock key resides is probably in the single-digits (shoutout to Moses and Plato).

Get yourself a nice programmable mechanical keyboard, and you can remap all of those keys and have the feel of a good typewriter keyboard too :slight_smile:

OK, um…thanks? Question mark?

I have a Northgate OmniKey 101. It has Alps (white) keyswitches that feel like every Underwood and Rheinmetall in my collection. In order to program it, I need a memory-resident program. Both of those facts are in my original post.

I appreciate the simplicity of your response, but let me regale you with commendable respect: the kind of “programmable mechanical keyboard” you mention is in the 300-400 dollar range and uses Cherry keyswitches (not Alps; there’s a massive difference).

So what you’re doing is asking me to pay MORE for a keyboard that is LESS mechanical for the privilege of not asking a $50 piece of software just allow me to choose those options when I’m using that specific program. I don’t need True Typewriter Mode any other time.

I’m sorry, I sound like a jerk, and that’s not what I want to be. I posted in a forum about feature requests for a piece of software, and you blew me off and suggested I spend 8x the software cost on a keyboard that is literally useless to me in every other facet of life except the ability to accomplish what I asked for the way YOU would do it.

In THIS program.

Again: I made a request of THIS program, not a request how to do it At All. There is a difference.

I have had all manner of mechanical keyboards–there’s a Matias on my iMac 3’ to my right and an Avant Stellar on my desk at work–I bought this OmniKey in 1988 and the letters are still crisp and the feel is sublime–and it ain’t goin nowhere, mate. You’d ask me to surrender my favorite tactile instrument in favor of using something lesser in everyday life?

Or are you suggesting I have 2 keyboards, one for Scrivener and my 101 for everything else?

SUGGESTION ABOUT THE SOFTWARE: make it do what I want.
Don’t answer with something that has nothing to do with the software.

I suspect that if a 45$ piece of software implemented everyone’s keyboard requirements, it would be unusable. I have a hardware suggestion.

SUGGESTION ABOUT THE HARDWARE: Purchase just enough keyboards, add a quantity of glue, mix to satisfaction, glue said keyboards together. Problem solved.

Right…so I suggested a similar keyboard that would be easier to re-map. You realize that there’s no real difference between a “memory-resident program” and a macro, right? But you’d rather stick with your Northgate, that’s fine, I understand being attached to the feel of a particular keyboard.

Yeah, you do, and I’m not even sure why. It was just a suggestion, not a demand that you do things the way I would.

What in the world are you so upset about? I wasn’t blowing you off, just suggesting an alternative. Everything you’re asking for can already be done with your Northgate and Scrivener using input-remapping utilities, so I assumed that you were just wanting an easier way to do it, and suggested an alternative that doesn’t require hoping for a feature to be implemented at some point and waiting for it.

OK Your Highness, we all now know that you have decreed that no alternatives to software changes in Scrivener can be mentioned or you’ll flip your lid. Noted.

PS: You posted this in the feedback forum, maybe you should try the wish list forum if you want to focus specifically on software changes to Scrivener.

Thanks for this point, Pelikan, as it reminded me that I wanted to try a remapper out.

I found a free one that allowed me to disable Backspace, Arrows, Home, End. When enabled, using Scrivener+keyboard I can only move forward–no edits allowed.

The utility recommended that I did not mess with the Delete key, in case Ctl-Alt-Delete was necessary, so I left it alone.

Thanks again!

I understand the desire to focus on writing and avoid the urge to edit at the same time, which I consider laudable. But … I’m going to try not to sound snarky here, and I’m going to fail … if you want that typewriter experience, why not buy a typewriter and a scanner and go from there?

Hi David,

I’m not sure if your question was directed at me or the OP, but here’s my take on it.

I’m old enough that I used to do my homework on a manual typewriter. My first stories were typed on a humming electric.

My memories of typing bring me no nostalgia. Unlike Tom Hanks, I’m not an aficionado of maintaining or carrying a heavy physical device, changing ribbons, running out of paper, sorting out mechanical issues when the thing jams up, making a racket while others are trying to sleep, retyping my words into the digital realm, etc.

That said, the process of composing on a typewriter had its advantages.

It only did the one thing, so there was no temptation to look up a word, get lost in research, check my mail, the temperature, or what day that package would be delivered. Usually I have the discipline to stay off the internet when I’m supposed to be writing, but on those days that I don’t, I turn off my wireless.

There was no going back and editing on the typewriter, so motion was always forward. I’d get the first draft done, then make edits with a pen afterwards. Breaking the process up like that into drafting vs. revising works for me. Usually I have the discipline to keep moving forward and not spend time wordsmithing a first draft, but on those days that I don’t, I’ll be enabling that keyboard remapper I mentioned upthread.

Have you seen this?


It’s not for me, but it’s sort of a middle ground between word processer and typewriter.


JimRac, do you know about the AlphaSmart word processors? They are actually better than the Freewrite and you can get one for $30. I started on typewriters myself and it really offers that experience, in a very convenient package. They were originally made for education for teaching keyboarding skills, and they have excellent scissor-switch keyboards (similar to ThinkPads). I have a Neo2 myself, I don’t really use it for the lack of distractions and editing functions, I just like the convenience and great keyboard and near-infinite battery life.

I know you said that the Freewrite isn’t really for you, but the AlphaSmarts are so good and cheap that you might want to give it a go if you want a portable simple word processor. They’re fantastic on the go, although the form factor is a little bulky despite being under two pounds.

As for the actual typewriter option, I’ve been sorely tempted to go that route myself. When I was a teenager it was my dream to have an IBM Selectric, but they were so expensive that it was about as likely as me getting the Porsche 911 I wanted at the time. A few years ago I nearly bought one to use for writing, but decided against it in the end because it would mostly just be an achievement point for a childhood dream rather than a practical writing instrument, and I really don’t want to have to re-type my drafts into a word processor. But I still kind of want one and may pull the trigger at some point, there’s something magical about those keyboards.

Edit: here’s an article about how useful the AlphaSmarts are for writers: kadavy.net/blog/posts/portable-word-processor/

Hey Pelikan,
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve heard of the Alphasmarts, but I’ve already got an iPad and a mech keyboard which I use when I want to be off the laptop.

I run Scrivener and Hanxwriter on the iPad, and the keyboard is a Filco Majestouch MINILA Air, which is a great little bluetooth Cherry MX keyboard–its name is bigger than it is!

And when I really want to go minimalist when writing first draft, I do it on my iPhone 7 with a bluetooth keyboard. That can be surprisingly productive, and with the tiny screen is probably similar to working on Alphasmart or Freewrite. :mrgreen:

As they’re so inexpensive, I may try out an Alphasmart someday, but for the time being I have choices!


JimRac, I was in fact addressing the OP; I should have made that clear. I’m of the same general experience range as you. I started out typing on my mom’s 1940s Underwood. In grad school, I typed a complex dissertation requiring a good deal of Greek on an IBM Selectric, swapping out a Greek ball for the English one. That’s one reason I’d never go back. My particular work often involves multiple languages, and ain’t ever happenin’ on a typewriter. But it does require discipline (an article in short supply between my particular ears) to keep going forward, not down all the sidetracks. I’ve noticed that word processors offer the illusion that perfection is possible. I will spend more time struggling 4% toward that illusory perfection than on the 95% of the basic text.