How The Focus Project Plans to Enhance Distraction Free Writing in WordPress

Focus Project Featured Image

One of the feature plugins under development for possible inclusion to WordPress 4.1 is called Focus. Focus enhances the Distraction Free Writing mode in WordPress. Janneke Van Dorpe is the lead developer for the project with Mark Jaquith and Andrew Ozz contributing as well. Unlike DFW mode in WordPress 4.0, Focus keeps the meta boxes, admin bar, and left hand menu just a mouse swipe away from view.

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Although the interface surrounding the editor disappears, users can access the admin bar without the surrounding interface showing up. The admin bar and meta boxes below and to the right of the post editor fade away while the menu on the left moves out of view. I don’t find the animation to be distracting and the menus come back into view quickly.

According to Jaquith, Distraction Free Writing in WordPress has a few issues. He outlines three primary reasons for the changes.

  1. The transition to and from it is distracting. It’s a separate editor and it makes you lose your place.
  2. You don’t have access to the same editing tools, so you would feel like you had to keep switching back and forth.
  3. It’s not very discoverable in the first place.

“Combine those things, and it just wasn’t compelling. Now, it engages when you type (fixing discoverability), its transition is seamless, but you still have instant access to all the same editing tools and all your regular meta boxes. It’s the best of both worlds,” Jaquith told the Tavern.

I rarely use DFW mode in WordPress but after using the Focus plugin, I’m willing to give it a try. I like the fact that meta boxes and the menu are quickly accessible despite being hidden.

Needs Approval

John Blackbourn, who is leading the release of WordPress 4.1, has to determine whether the project is at a point where it can be merged into core. If it’s approved, those who update to WordPress 4.1 will see the enhancements currently in the Focus plugin. Once it’s merged into core, the plan is to use a feature pointer to let users know of its existence.

Since disabling DFW mode is as easy as pressing a button in the editor, this is a calculated risk. People who see the editor for the first time might make it their primary means of writing content. This in turn would lead to more users and possible improvements down the road. Even with using a feature pointer, I’m curious to see how users react to it being enabled after updating to WordPress 4.1.

How to Contribute to Focus

If you’d like to test drive the new DFW mode for WordPress, you can download it from the plugin directory. If you encounter a bug, you can report it via the plugin’s GitHub page. Alternatively, if you want to provide feedback in real-time, the team has a channel on Slack that is actively monitored.

Are you a fan and active user of Distraction Free Writing in WordPress? If so, what do you think of the changes? If you don’t use Distraction Free Writing, will you consider it due to the changes outlined above?

Would you like to write for WP Tavern? We are always accepting guest posts from the community and are looking for new contributors. Get in touch with us and let's discuss your ideas.

6 Comments


  1. Since it’s election day, I vote – INCLUDE!
    Great idea and I fully support it. Let’s not chicken out this time (like with the post formats)!
    Sure I bet there will be a couple of mistakes, but that’s why there will be v4.2, 4.3, etc.
    Like you wrote, it’s easy to disable.

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  2. I really feel that this needs more eyes and more testing. This feature was just started five weeks ago. I also thought that features introduced on the same release cycle had to wait until the next release cycle to get the go ahead to be merged. It’s a great improvement, but I don’t think it’s ready for prime time.

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