A writing program or app that won't delete ANYTHING
December 9, 2018 8:11 PM   Subscribe

I heard about RoughDraft and knew I needed it. But it looks like 1. it's discontinued and 2. even so, it was for Mac or iPhone only. I need something like it; a bare-bones word processor that won't let you delete anything (doing strikethrough instead is fine) but will eventually let you export the document.

I need this partly because I am always second guessing myself and often delete things I wish I'd saved later-- and also I often accidentally hit something that deletes a whole paragraph or sentence.

I don't want anything fancy or flashy or distracting. Cute "typewriter simulators" I'd rather avoid.

I use both my phone (with external keyboard) and my HP Pavilion for writing, so an app that would work on both would be ideal.

I do NOT want any of the "Write And Don't Stop Or Your Text Gets Deleted" apps. I specifically request the opposite of this, please. Thank you!
posted by The otter lady to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, as a user of a free wordpress.com site, I find the inability to disable its history "feature" frustrating beyond words, but it sounds it was made for someone like you. That's all I know, I've never tried to export or make use of it in any way.
posted by sageleaf at 8:23 PM on December 9, 2018

I've asked about this before. I don't have Mac/iPhone and I am still using Rough Draft to this day on Windows 10. I have no idea if it would work on a phone and I'd guess not, though. I've occasionally used One Note but not for writing projects so far.

Anyway, that link has other suggestions.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

That "Rough Draft" program seems to allow you to delete like any normal word editor... the version I saw literally would not delete things-- it would strikethrough, if you used backspace, but it didn't delete.
posted by The otter lady at 9:07 PM on December 9, 2018

Is it Earnest?
posted by greermahoney at 9:15 PM on December 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

(I don’t see an export function, but since it’s all in a web form, er, select all/copy/paste it somewhere else?)
posted by greermahoney at 9:18 PM on December 9, 2018

I was about to ask if it's possible you're remembering First Draft, but I see First Draft became Rough Draft which, as you note, is no more.

I was sure I remembered a few different options that had strikethrough-but-no-deletion modes like this, but most of them (JustWriteDammit, llllll.li/typewriter/) are defunct. I know that Write or Die had a no-deletion/no backspace mode up through v2, at least, but it's a nightmare program that causes more stress than it's worth.

But you may want to check out the following options because even if they aren't what you want, searching for "programs like" these on Google or using ProductHunt to find comparable programs may help narrow your search.

Write Only -- sadly iOS only
Earnest has no delete key, but it's browser-based and saves locally, which may be good on your computer and not so good on your phone.

Finally, I seem to recall that Open Office had a setting, something like Edit>Changes>Record or Edit>Changes>DoNotRecord where it would strikethrough instead of delete when you hit the delete key (but could then allow you to toggle it to make the deletions at some later point). I don't know if that helps you.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:03 PM on December 9, 2018

This is kind of a ridiculous workaround and I feel strange recommending Word over another program, but! If you don't find a better solution, you could bind the delete key in Word to a macro that moves back one space and formats the previous character to strikethrough (or whatever).

If the strikethrough isn't important, you could also just remap delete as enter/newline, or remove its functionality altogether.

Edit: sorry, I missed that you'll also be working on your phone!
posted by trig at 5:25 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but I used to have a thing set up for writing in Emacs, where I had the emacs auto-save hook bound to Git, such that each time it would normally auto-save (every few minutes), it would create a new Git version.

Drawbacks are using Emacs (arguable) and also that you'd need a separate interface to see removed text and changes over time. There are lots of tools for this but most are geared towards programming. I use an old version of Sourcetree, personally.

A quick search suggests that my way of doing things (binding to Emacs auto-save) is probably not a great method and something like git watch is really the way to go, and removes the need to use Emacs instead of your editor of choice. However, binary files (e.g. Word) won't be easily diffable so I would avoid them and stick with writing in plain text if you can find an editor you don't hate.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:46 PM on December 10, 2018

My first thought was to use Microsoft Word but have it to default to track changes always being on. That way there is still a record of anything you delete.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2018

You may want to have a look at Draft. It does versioning, so you can keep track of your changes, and syncs to Dropbox, I believe. You can also activate "Hemingway mode", which I think is the generic term for not being able to delete what you are writing. Googling "Hemingway mode editor" may turn up more options!
posted by 3zra at 3:16 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

My first thought was to use Microsoft Word but have it to default to track changes always being on.

I thought of this too, but a quick test suggests that it doesn't work this way if you are working on content that you added yourself.

E.g., if you turn track changes on and type something, then press backspace, it will actually delete the text, not strike it out. To get the strikeout/tracked-delete, you need to be deleting something that was added before Track Changes was turned on, or someone else's changes.

There doesn't seem to be any way to change this behavior and have it truly track all changes / make deletes impossible.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:49 AM on December 11, 2018

Thanks! Earnest seems just about right, plus I like being able to say "I am going to start writing in earnest"
posted by The otter lady at 10:52 AM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

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