I'm writing this review on a nifty little device called the Neo by AlphaSmart. What on earth is it? It's kind of like a word processor, except it's laptop-sized. It's designed for one purpose--the entry of text. Well, maybe two purposes, if you add the transmission of the text to and from a computer to its function as well.
Think of it as a $219 no-frills laptop. It's /wonderful/ if you need a way to write away from your computer, but you don't want to spend the money on a fragile laptop.
I discovered the Neo via Kelly Gay, who is happily using her own Neo as well (and who calls it her "precious"). It allows me to write in the La-z-boy. No more sitting hunched over my computer all night after spending all day hunched over my computer at work. I actually prefer writing this way. My husband is going to get awful lonely in the computer room.
It's tough. Supposedly, it will withstand being dropped, and I believe them. The thing is made of hard plastic. It has a 700 hour battery life. That's right, 700 hours. On 3 alkaline AA batteries. I haven't even put a dent in the battery life.
The file system is a bit strange, but it's quick to get used to. There are eight file positions, each accessed by the push of a button. To get to this file, I push the "file 5" button. That's it. With one button push, I'm working on my novel. And it remembers where I was when I last entered text. Not even Microsoft Word does that. As soon as you enter the text, it's saved.
You can have any number of files at each position by giving them a name. I have not named my files so far; when I'm done with them, I simply upload them to my computer and clear the version on the Neo.
The drawbacks? There is absolutely no formatting. That's why I used slashes above, where I would usually use italics. I also have not found any way to remove some applications on it that are designed for teachers. Also, each file has a hard limit. I found that I need not bother transferring files that have more than 8000 or so words. Otherwise, I don't have room to actually work in the file, which holds about 10000 words, max. You can adjust this maximum file size, but so far I have not bothered. 8000 words seems a comfortably large chunk for me to work with.
It reminds me of the word processors of the 80s, except it transfers files instead of typing them out right away. It emulates all the same key combinations that Windows uses, so you can still copy with Ctrl-C and paste with Ctrl-V. There's nothing like a mouse or a touchpad; navigation is done entirely through keys.
There is another version called the Dana, which blends the Neo with a full-featured PDA, including a touch-screen. However, it seemed to have more functionality than I needed and I really wanted the toughness of the Neo. This thing looks to be as tough as a calculator.
Ok, now I'm going to upload this into Blogger and write about that experience. Ciao for now . . .
Done. I plugged the Neo into my computer using the USB cable, and hit the "send" button on the Neo. It typed the file directly into this Blogger window. That's actually a slow way to send files; I usually just use the software that came with the Neo to just send the whole file as a chunk. But it's kinda cool to watch it type the text onto the screen.
It's easy. It's fun. I'm going to take it with me on vacation next week. I think every writer should have one. Check it out.