Howto: Use Wordgrinder like a pro

A long time ago, or at least what seems like a long time ago, I used to introduce CLI-based applications in an effort to remind people that there’s nothing to be feared at the console prompt. Real-life issues required that I cut those short, and although I managed to squeeze in a few capsule highlights, I wish I had continued those a little longer.

At the same time, Wordgrinder came to my attention, and while I wasn’t keen on describing how to compile and install it, the fact that it’s included in Intrepid means it’s time to dust off the keyboard, crack my knuckles and make an introduction.

World, this is Wordgrinder. Wordgrinder, world.

Well hey, that’s a rather unusual way to start the day. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was playing nInvaders. And what’s with the munchy teeth-looking lines? ASCII art?

Nope, that’s your cue that you’re up and running. Which is more than you get from some other console-based applications. What you’re looking at there is the top and bottom of your document, or the upper and lower limits of your text, if that’s an easier explanation.

So what next? How about typing some words.

Oh, how … novel. (Pun intended.) Acerbic wit aside, that’s basically the premise behind this entire program: You write. Wordgrinder accepts that as its sole purpose in life, and avoids obscuring your quest to complete the Great (insert nationality here) Novel.

So aside from a terse status bar, a word and page count, you’re not going to get a lot of backtalk from Wordgrinder. Oh my goodness, a program that does what it’s told and doesn’t try to dress it up with lightbox effects and ornate frilly things! Genius!

Interacting with Wordgrinder is a lot easier than some other console-based applications (again think: Oleo), since the bulk of the fun seems to happen at the press of the Esc key.

And here’s more of the beauty of Wordgrinder’s severe simplicity. It’s essentially the same File-Edit-View menu arrangement that plagues the GUI world, following the same drop-down fold-out effect, but arranged to allow for odd terminal sizes, and with little aside from the essential. Open, Save, Import, About, Exit, and so forth.

Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete. Find and replace.

A few font effects. Paragraph styling. Margins and so forth.

Document arrays, in case you have more than one open at a time.

And Navigation, if you need to better control yourself.

One of the things I like about Wordgrinder is that you can re-bind keys to something you’re more used to, or suits you better. And since all the function keys are free of preset bindings, you have an enormous number of options available to you, without stepping on any toes.

Saving files in Wordgrinder allows you to attach several “documents” as a single “set,” and thus keep relevant pages or chapters together, in a particular order. (If this isn’t an appealing thought, you could always just open Wordgrinder sessions separately … since system resources probably aren’t going to be a problem.) Those sets are kind of text files, even though a disclaimer at the top insists they’re not.

Wordgrinder can also import from and export to text and HTML formats, but as far as transcoding your entire six-book fantasy epic from odf, don’t look for it .. yet.

And that’s about it. Printing? No. No printing. Clip art? No. No clip art. Graphs, tables and merge file processing with company address databases with output to report files for printing on envelopes and letterhead? No. No … stuff like that.

So why use it? Why pick Wordgrinder over say, nano, for editing text files? (Don’t talk to me about vi.)

Well, to be honest, you shouldn’t use Wordgrinder for that, because it’s not really meant for that. Yes, you could probably edit your xorg.conf file with Wordgrinder, but that’s kind of like using a paintbrush when you need a typewriter. There’s a tool for every chore, and this one is really for writing.

And that’s where it shines. If you can keep yourself focused and on track you can, in fact, eventually peck out Hamlet, like that proverbial chimpanzee. But as most writers can tell you, distractions are your bane, and Wordgrinder pushes everything to the periphery.

So drag out that Pentium II, put a clean command-line installation of 8.10 on there, install Wordgrinder and disconnect it from the Internet. Then lock yourself in a closet for a week or two and see if you too can …


20 thoughts on “Howto: Use Wordgrinder like a pro

  1. mentallaxative

    It is a nice application for writing indeed. It does double spacing and it keeps the current line at the same level! I had to rebind Backspace though as the default was not recognized.

  2. Dr Small

    So anyhow, I installed wordgrinder with yaourt, and wordgrinder doesn’t start with the “munchy teeth-looking lines”. Anyhow, I can get over that.

    Backspace does not work by default, so I remapped that and then it works. The problem is, the keymap doesn’t hold, because if I go out and open wordgrinder again, I have to remap it all over again.

    Am I missing something (as normal) again?

  3. K.Mandla Post author

    I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for that; the Ubuntu version has a working backspace key so it’s possible that the yaourt version compiles it differently. This might be your big chance for a bug report. … 😉

  4. Leviathan

    Well, to be honest, i use vi…for the fun of it…
    Back in the days when i was young i ve created my own text editor…
    to feet my needs…ancient stuff… and the best of all i made it with
    clipper?!!!!(harbour project now)….nice memories though!!!

    greeetings from greeceee!!!

  5. Onyros

    K., vimtutor yourself. Really! Do it! You’ll either regret it immensely – because you won’t be able to use anything else -, or you’ll hate me for making you lose 20 minutes of your life 😛

  6. Onyros

    BTW, and sorry for the double comment, by vimtutoring yourself I mean using VIM’s integrated tutorial: in Arch, which has the simpler version of VIM installed by default it’s “vitutor” – the VIM package has a lot of unnecessary stuff which I don’t need or use.

    You’ll be hooked by the end of the tutorial.

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    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Wordgrinder has its own format that it saves to ordinarily — it’s something that allows it to manage fonts and text effects, but still output to a human-readable file.

      It will export to plain text or HTML if you want, which makes it good for typing out life stories and then pasting them directly on to the Internet. 😉

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    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I don’t think so. Remember, it’s aimed at writers, so aside from basic editing, I think the author isn’t keen on adding too many features.

  9. achr

    You should also check out PyRoom, very similar and in some respects even more minimal (maybe an alternative for those afraid of the CLI). Have you tried it?

  10. redandwhitestripes

    K.Mandala I have a silly problem that you can help me with perhaps. When I cut and paste my text from a text editor (Wordgrinder or Nano) into a blog or email, it often comes up with a strange layout.

    It might look
    like this for example.

    What am I doing wrong and how can I fix it?

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Not sure; your image didn’t come through. I know I sometimes get unusual stepping effects when cutting and pasting between applications.

      My only suggestion would be to use the cut buffer instead of copy-and-paste; in other words, shift-drag to highlight, and then middle button (or left-and-right-click together) to paste.

      No guarantees though. 😉

  11. Timmy

    My mom and I were both working on documents tonight. I used Wordgrinder, she used Word 2003.
    Me: .
    Her [calling from downstairs, with frustration]: I’ll tell you what! If I didn’t have to keep dealing with this automatic formatting I’d be done already!

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  13. hari

    Here’s a silly question, but surprisingly I couldn’t find an answer to it yet.

    Wordgrinder has cut/copy and paste features, but no obvious way to select text. How does one select text (without a mouse) in Wordgrinder?

    It looks a realy good simple word processor reminiscent of WordStar.

  14. hari

    OK, forget the above question, I found out that “toggle mark” is the way to select text and using the mouse on the xterm doesn’t work.


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