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Zenware: Software That Helps You Get, and Stay, Focused

Zenware means zen software, software that helps you get focused, achieve the ultra-productive cognitive state known as flow, and stay there.

The goal of zenware is to disappear, supporting you when you need it but staying out of your way as much as possible. You should forget the software is there at all.

When you use zenware, you are totally immersed in your task. You lose track of time, and might even forget to eat or go to the bathroom.

Words that usually describe zenware are simple, little, quiet, invisible, minimalist, sweet... it's software that just works.

A reliable companion, zenware gets you, it supports you and helps you be the best that you can be. It's no wonder people sometimes fall in love with zenware applications.

At Balsamiq, we try really hard to make our products belong in this most noble class of software.

This page highlights some software tools that, in our humble opinion, have reached the elusive enlightened state of zenware.

You should try them, your day will be better for it.

FYI, we're not affiliated with any of the tools below, we just love to use them, that's all.


OmmWriter might be the best example of zenware available today. This gorgeous word editor makes you want to write a novel just so that you can spend all day in it.

The background textures, the auto-generated music, the soft clicking of the keys when you use it... ahhhh.

It even integrates with Growl to stop all of your notifications while you use it.

I start all of my blog posts in Ommwriter, then copy and paste into WordPress. Try it today.


Writeroom is what I used before Ommwriter came around, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ommwriter was heavily inspired by Jesse Grosjean's work.

Black screen, green text. That's it. You and your text.

Misspell a word though, and Writeroom will add a little wiggle under it, just like Word does.


Typinator is how we are able to support a lot of customers with a handful of support people.

You set up a table of abbreviations, and Typinator simply sits on your menu bar waiting for you to type one of them. Whenever you do... click! and the code you typed is replaced with whatever you specified when you created it.

Another beautiful little feature of Typinator is that it includes the most common English misspellings, so it fixes your spelling as you type, no matter what software you're in.

If you work on multiple computers, save your abbreviations set on DropBox. If your job involves answering a lot of email, you simply MUST use this software.

Hat tip to Guy Kawasaki who tweeted about this software years ago. is the simplest screen-sharing software I've ever seen. If you're doing a one-on-one chat, Skype screen-sharing is the way to go. But if you need to show your screen to more than one person, we suggest you go to, click on share, and install the little plugin (you'll only have to do this the first time).

You'll get a short numeric URL (easy to read over the phone or paste into a Skype chat), and keep working. People will log on and see your screen, just like that. It just works. It does one thing, and does it really well.

Notational Velocity

Notational Velocity is my do-it-all notebook. It functions as my commonplace book and stores ideas and notes I want to recall later. I love this tool above all other note-taking tools because it's a minimal text editor with virtually no interface — the flow from launch to search/open or create/edit is a seamless text-only experience. It syncs with Simplenote, so I can access/edit on my iPhone and iPad. The nvALT fork lets me use Markdown when I want to start a web page or blog entry draft, and exports the content as valid HTML.


Alfred is a heads-up-display application launcher, and much more. Quicksilver was my launcher for years. Alfred has replaced it. Minimal and there when I need it, and does much more than I expect it to.

Have an opinion on the software above? Have a favorite piece of zenware you'd like us to try? Let us know and we'll review it!

By Peldi Guilizzoni
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