Do you need a Neo?

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.
  • Instant-on.
  • 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!
So…have I convinced you yet?  I’d recommend doing an online search by product name and you’ll get a lot of information.  Also, the user reviews on Amazon are helpful.  And here’s a thought—these make wonderful gifts!

Happy writing!


  1. Sounds like an interesting machine. Reminds me of the original word processors before computers came on the scene. (I'm showing my age now). :)

    1. Yes, JoAnn...not all 'old' things are bad, huh? :-)

  2. Wendy, It's Gin from Doe Hill--your pal from long ago HSB days. Sorry it took me so long to get over here, but I am really enjoying your blog. (Now following you on GFC, too!)

    This gadget is going on the to-buy list--for me. I confess that I am a bit of a dinosaur in that I prefer the sensation of actually pressing keys to type as opposed to touch screens.

    It's great to connect with you again! in HIM, Gin

    1. Hi, Gin! So nice to be reconnected! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I'm delighted to be in touch again.

      Yes, hope the Neo works for you--I love mine and have found it to be a great help rather than a hindrance of "one more gadget."


  3. Huh, I didn't now I needed one, esp. since I've never heard of it before, but I'll have to give it some serious thought. Perhaps I do NEED one. I could see it being useful for taking notes at Ladies Bible Study-- I'm always taking notes of one kind or the other and I don't esp. like my handwriting -- it's much faster to type something out. Yep, I think I need to look into this. Thanks Wendy!


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