New Projects - Fresh from the Labs
If you're the kind of person who's been using Blackbox and its derivatives for the past decade, the kind of person who has just a single CD in a spotless but stylish car, the kind of person who likes minimalism but with effortless style, then boy, have I got a project for you. To quote the marave Web site:
Inspired by ommwriter and other similar projects, marave (it means “nothing” or “it doesn't matter” in guaraní) aims to be a simple, clean text editor that doesn't distract you from your writing.
You can have a nice background, or just a color. You can have a real-time spellchecker or not. Syntax highlighting or not. You can have background music, keyboard feedback or silence. marave will try to be the way you want it to be.
Project maintainer Roberto Alsina is hoping to integrate marave into most distros soon, but for now, the only packages available are for Arch Linux and Fedora. If you use another distro, your only option is the source, but that's okay, because installing the source is pretty easy.
In terms of requirements, the documentation says you need the following libraries:
Assuming you're going with the source, head to the Web site, grab the latest tarball, extract it, and open a terminal in the new folder.
If your distro uses sudo, enter:
$ sudo python setup.py install
If your distro doesn't use sudo, enter:
$ su (enter your password) # python setup.py install
Once that's done, run marave with the command:
The first thing you'll notice when you're inside is that the entire desktop has disappeared and you are in a single full-screen program. This is unabashed full-screen editing, designed to immerse you and cut out distractions. As if to reinforce this ethic, the few existing GUI elements on the side disappear until you move your mouse again, leaving you with only your text, a blinking cursor and a scroll bar.
But, enough of the straight minimalism. What really impresses me is the look of the thing. It's a sleek and undeniably gorgeous environment in which to work. An amusing touch for those who like a bit of flair (and have possibly been watching too many Hollywood movies) is a click noise for whenever you press the keyboard, adding a bit of romance to the otherwise dreary world of typing.
As for some of the other features, it's time we explore those GUI elements that usually are hidden away to the right of the scroll bar. The first button at the top allows you to change the font, as well as the color. The magnifying button has a submenu to zoom your text in and out, which is actually one of my favorite features of this program. The blank sheet of paper button has a menu with all the usual functions of loading, saving and so on.
Further down is an icon that looks like a camera. The left and right buttons switch between desktop backgrounds, including various snowy nature themes and what appears to be a Debian background. The color wheel at the right also allows you to adjust the background color and get rid of the background picture completely, if you so desire. The next button gives you amusing control over what sort of keyboard click noise you'd like (or whether to disable it). Next up, there's a music button that lets you play what I think is streaming music (as well as turn it off). I'd go into this more, but space and documentation are kind of lacking.
Second from the bottom is a button that looks kind of like a cricket bat, which appears to bump the text around, but I'm not sure I can elaborate much further on it. I found there are a number of GUI customization options to move around all of your working elements, such as the text area size and placement, but I also ran into some confusion (I deleted the config file to reset in the end, after getting myself into some UI trouble). And as I already mentioned, documentation still is lacking.
Something that really impressed me was marave's handling of foreign characters. A file of mine that had both Japanese and Greek characters mixed in with the Latin alphabet displayed without the slightest hiccup.
I can't help but feel that with a bit of modifying, marave also would make a brilliant ebook reader if it could handle files such as PDFs. Perhaps if in the short term, someone tacked on some code that would use a PDF-to-text converter, such as pdf2ascii, and then just piped the output to screen? An environment as cool as this one, with a full-screen interface, no intruding GUI elements and zooming text, easily would dissuade me from getting a commercial ebook device in favor of simply using marave on a basic Netbook.
What ultimately draws me to the project is that it doesn't just have minimalism and simplicity, it has minimalism and simplicity combined with beauty and a palpable design ethic. marave has soul, and I love that.
John Knight is the New Projects columnist for Linux Journal.