This last year I discovered a gadget that has been one of the best purchases I’ve ever made…and you might want one, too, when you hear how terrific it is!
It’s called a Neo by Alphasmart. It’s a portable word-processor that was originally designed for use in schools, and still are used that way. Because they were made for kid-use, they offer some outstanding features:
- Extremely durable. You can throw them in a backpack, take them with you anywhere.
- Constantly saves your work so there’s never any need to save or backup.
- Resumes right where you left off when you last turned it off (you can set it to have a key lock so you won’t inadvertently bump it and turn it on).
- Has eight files that can hold up to 25 pages of writing each.
- Has a built-in thesaurus, word count, find/replace function, font-size adjustment, and spell-check.
- There’s a handy reference list on the back with commands and shortcuts you need for writing and editing. You can search the internet and download the user manual.
- You can print directly from the Neo.
- Runs on four AA batteries that last literally for years.
- Auto-shut-off after a couple of minutes.
- Uploading files is a breeze—you just use a USB cable to connect to your computer, open up any word processing environment (even a blog post window), and press “Send.” Voila, your file loads, ready to work on. You can then clear your Neo file with a “clear file” button. (Hint: don’t open any other window during uploading where you can add typed information—it’ll switch and start transferring it to there!)
- Never gets hot like a computer so you can just work with it on your lap.
- Here’s a fantastic benefit—no internet! No distractions! Just a pure, simple writing tool to capture your thoughts.
- I thought I wouldn’t like the small 6-line screen, but I find it actually a benefit to focused writing. You can adjust how many lines of type you want to see.
- I love the keyboard touch.
- They don’t need a case to protect them, though you can purchase one. I just got an oversized, padded purse from a thrift store and it works great. Mine also fits handily in my canvas briefcase.
- And one more—cost. You can get these used on Ebay or Amazon for as low as $35. People buy them in lots when schools are upgrading and then resell them. We each got one from Ebay and they seemed new, in perfect condition. (Hint: try to get one that has the USB cable included—though they don’t always list them that way.)
There are a few earlier versions of the Neo available (ex: the Dana), but the only one I would recommend is the Alphasmart 3000, which are usually a bit cheaper. These have a keyboard that is good for those who require a more defined touch. We got an Alphasmart 3000 for my aunt after she had a stroke, and it has been excellent for her hand therapy and fine motor exercises.
There is also a newer, more expensive version of the Neo, the Neo2, which you can purchase directly online here. (Note: the Neo2 is the only one that is currently being produced if you want a new one.)
Neos and Alphasmarts are popular among the writing community. I first learned about them from a writer whose glowing recommendation convinced me I couldn’t live without one. Participants in the annual NaNoWriMo writing challenge rave about way Neos help them meet their daily writing goals. I did the NaNoWriMo challenge this last fall and worked on my files with my Neo while travelling. Be prepared for a lot of questions—people are fascinated with this new gizmo!
So how do we use them? Let me count the ways…
- I take my Neo with me everywhere. As I write this post, I’m whacking it out while we drive to an out-of-town appointment. I keep it beside me in my devotional time, capturing thoughts, writing prayers, or working on Bible study notes. When a blog post idea hits me, I can quick get it down before I forget it. It’s wonderful for journaling. I use it as a planner, list-maker, project & idea brain-stormer, letter writer…you get the idea.
- It’s fantastic for school! SweetPea, computer lover that she is, often prefers her Neo for roughing out a writing assignment. No distractions.
- My honey uses it for Bible study notes when he’s preparing a message for the jail ministry he’s involved in. The immediacy and ease-of-use makes it the perfect study tool.
- Take them camping or on vacation…on airplanes…to the library…to conferences…taking notes from TV or DVD programs…anywhere you’ve got a bit of extra time and two hands free!