WordPress Zen Mode: 5 Compelling Reasons to Turn on Distraction Free Writing

I never used to pay much attention to WordPress’ Distraction Free Writing mode. When the feature landed in WordPress 3.2, I thought I’d never use it. I was so used to the post editor screen as it was that I thought I was able to tune out all the extra noise related to content creation.

But when you spend every day inside the post editor, meta boxes, menus and buttons everywhere eventually start to become a dead weight attached to your creativity. The psychological toll of all the noise can trick you into thinking that communicating your thoughts is far more difficult than it really is. Subconsciously, you may start to find a sense of dread associated with publishing.

In time, I’ve come to love the Distraction Free Writing mode. It’s a place of zen inside WordPress unlike any other administration screen. When you take a side-by-side look between the the two editors, there’s no question as to which screen is going to boost your creativity:


After using WordPress’ Zen mode more regularly, I believe that there are compelling reasons why this alternative editor improves not only your writing experience but also the writing itself.

Zen Mode keeps you from putting your content in a box.

photo credit - cc: el patojo
photo credit – cc: el patojo

When you’re in zen mode, meta boxes are nowhere in site, which means you’re not getting distracted by thinking of how you might classify your post. Tags, categories, SEO keywords – all of these classifications can come later. The regular WordPress post editor has too many visual reminders of the fact that you will need to find tag/category classifications for your post. Zen mode lets you write freely, stay in the zone and classify later.

In Zen Mode, there’s no chance of accidentally publishing.

photo credit: ktpupp - cc
photo credit: ktpuppcc

I am constantly plagued by an underlying fear of accidentally clicking “Publish” instead of “Save Draft.” This has kindled my appreciation for the Publisher Confirmation plugin. It’s something akin to those nightmares people have about giving a speech and realizing they forgot to wear pants.

One of my favorite things about Zen Mode is that there is no chance of accidentally publishing your post before it’s ready. “Save Draft” is the only blue button at the top of the editor.

Zen Mode reduces the pull to administrative tasks.

photo credit: Johan Larsson - cc
photo credit: Johan Larssoncc

The left hand menu is not visible in Zen Mode, so there’s no pull to go moderate comments or jump into administering a different part of the site. WordPress’ little update or comment notifications can’t bother you when you’re in your zen place. The design purposely excludes everything related to administering your site, so that you can focus your mental energy on writing.

No preview button in Zen Mode produces less self-conscious writing.

photo credit: cc - Patty Maher
photo credit: cc – Patty Maher

The first thing you might notice about Zen Mode is that there is no “Preview” button to take you to the front-end of the site. To some this may seem like a drawback, but this missing button encourages less self-conscious writing. When you’re in the flow, it’s no good to constantly check the preview to see how your words will look to other people. There’s no need to constantly fiddle with image placement and formatting when you’re trying to communicate your thoughts. You can tidy it up later. But for now, you’re just writing.

Zen Mode helps you be more productive.


If you’re using the Visual Editor within Zen Mode, you will find that the “Help” button launches a menu of keyboard shortcuts with tips for writing at full speed. Once you get in the habit of using these shortcuts, you’ll be able to write quickly with less switching to the mouse. That’s one of the reasons people find Markdown to be so appealing. The shortcuts keep your fingers flying on the keys, instead of straying over to the mouse.


If you’ve never tried WordPress Distraction Free Writing mode, I highly recommend making it your default for a week. This under-appreciated tool can help you to stay in the flow and write more efficiently. Find your zen place and learn to love publishing again.


5 responses to “WordPress Zen Mode: 5 Compelling Reasons to Turn on Distraction Free Writing”

  1. Your point about ‘less self-conscious writing’ is exactly why I’m a bit wary of front-end editing – which seems en route to be a marquee feature of a future WP core release. Separation of content & presentation isn’t just beneficial for developers.

  2. This is one of the best posts I have ever read about distraction free writing in WordPress. You’ve compelled me not only to write more but to write without distraction.

  3. Well, thanks. I didn’t even realize that WordPress had a distraction free writing mode. Not that I’ve been doing much writing these days, but I generally write my posts in a light weight text editor, like Byword – in distraction free mode…. go figure.

    Thanks for your post.


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