Monday, August 06, 2007
No, I'm not talking about the Matrix.
Many people have asked about my favorite writing tool, so I thought I'd finally get around to blogging about it.
It's a lifesaver for me. Without it, my last two books wouldn't have been written nearly as quickly as they were. It's how I squeeze writing into the daily chaos that is family life. It's also how I can sit beside my husband in the evening as he's watching TV without abandoning him for the computer (but still get some writing in).
What is it? It's my AlphaSmart NEO.
Begun as a way to teach grade school students how to type without the enormous cost of lots of computers, the AlphaSmart quickly found a cult following among writers, and for good reason.
At its most basic, an AlphaSmart is a portable word processor. It's got a sturdy shell, a small screen that holds 4 lines or so of text (depending on your model and the font size), and a full-size keyboard. It uses so little battery power that my rechargeable battery gets charged maybe three times a year. There's no saving involved. Once you type something in, it's there until you delete it. And there's no boot-up time, either. You push a button, and it turns on. You push it again, and it turns off (or just wait a few minutes; if you don't type for a while, it'll turn off to conserve power).
The earlier versions (the AlphaSmart 2000 and 3000, no longer available) had slightly clunkier keyboards and design than the NEO, which is sleeker and requires a much lighter touch to type with. As a result, I can type much faster on the NEO than I could on the 3000. The NEO also has a word count feature, which I really missed on the AlphaSmart 3000 I owned before.
It has 8 files you can write in, and each one can hold something like 32 single-spaced pages worth of material. I've never yet filled a file, but I like being able to have several things going at once. New with the NEO is the ability to remove (but save) a file from being active and use that spot for another work, essentially giving you several times more than 8 files to work with. I've never needed to use this function, because I always transfer my work to my computer pretty quickly after writing on the NEO.
The DANA version has a few bells and whistles, but also a few drawbacks, like how you have to save, and I know of DANAs that have had problems like fatal errors, things I've never heard of with a NEO.
If you're looking for a high-powered laptop, this isn't it.
But if you're looking for something light-weight, easy to transport, easy to turn on, that won't lose power after hours and hours and HOURS of writing, that keeps your work without any effort on your part, something that costs a fraction of a decent laptop, this is your toy.
I mean tool.
Mine has been dropped and stepped on (this happens with four children running around), and it's taken the abuse. I use it all the time.
We inherited a 2000 recently, and I passed it on to the kids so they'd stop trying to use my NEO. They love writing their own stories, and with 8 files, they each get to "own" two of them. It's perfect.
When it's time to transfer my work to the computer, I just launch the "get" utility program and push the "send" button on my NEO. The infared does the rest.
I can also transfer from the computer to the NEO, but since the NEO is best for drafting rather than revising (at least for me; that little screen is tough to revise on), I rarely send anything the other direction.
My NEO has let me draft on car trips, in hotel rooms, in the lobby of the dance studio, in the doctor's office, on the deck swing as the kids play outside, poolside while the kids are in swimming lessons, on a bench at the park. Without it, I wouldn't get nearly as much done.
For more information, here's their website.
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