Jack of Many Trades

Review: Ilys

Originally posted: 2015-01-13

Today I'm trying a new piece of writing software, a web app named Ilys. Ilys is designed to keep you flowing by making sure you can't edit or go backward at all. In fact, all you can see when you type in Ilys is the last letter you input. You can even turn that one letter off. There are no corrections, no looking back to review, no options at all.

There are two ways to use Ilys. One is the older "classic" version, and the other is a newer version that allows you to sign in and has a few other features. The newer version requires you to pay-to-play after the first ten thousand words, but that should be enough for anyone to get used to the software and decide if it works for them.

I found a few things about the software drove me nuts. First, when I was using the classic Ilys and unable to eliminate the current letter, I found it very detrimental to my typing. A single, large letter was very hard to ignore when I was trying to think the next word.

When I tried the newer version, my typing habits worked against me. I instinctively go for the back button when I realize I've made an error. In the sign-in version if Ilys, if you hit the back button, there's an annoying- and distracting- buzzer noise. It's incredibly frustrating because if I am trying to avoid that noise, when my brain processes that I've mis-typed a word, I have to consciously make myself stop and not hit the back button.

In other words , both versions of Ilys have a feature that I cannot turn off that makes it nearly impossible for me to concentrate and get in the flow that the software is designed to create.

This may not be as much as of an issue for some people as it is for me. I have symptoms much like a mild aphasia and this can carry into my typing, where my brain and fingers conspire to put down the wrong word before I correct myself and type the right one. I'm quite used to this kind of self-correction and am adept at keeping up with it most of the time when I'm writing , even in "live" sessions like gtalk or chat rooms. However, being forced to stop and not correct each of those errors- to have to think about each one consciously and not use the backspace- is both distracting and disheartening. It takes some of the fun out of writing. For someone who was a very precise typist, however, I think Ilys would be a lot more useful.

It's very easy to find out whether Ilys is for you. The "classic" version and the pay-to-play version both let you try them out with a minimum of effort . I advise trying the classic first because it doesn't require you to create a log-in.

If I were able to combine the silent back button failure of the classic version and the blank screen of the new version, I think there's a good chance Ilys would work for me. Sure, it requires a great deal more copyediting afterward than my usual writing style, but when my goal is sheer word count, Ilys is a perfect way to achieve that. I may still pull Ilys out again next November for NaNoWriMo and see how much use it is when I have a stringent daily word count and the motivation to barrel through even when I know I'll have to edit quite a bit afterward.