During a 4.5hr flight to Tenerife I wrote 6500 words on my new work in progress. I rested the post it note plan underneath the Neo and the Neo on my lap. It was light, and easy to use on my lap during the flight. The time flew by and I was pleased to see how many words I wrote during the time.
The man sat next to me asked if I was working. I explained I was writing a novel. He asked what the Neo was and I said a word processor and that was it. It didn't connect to the internet which in itself was a boon. It's interesting in this day and age that people assume everything *must* connect to the internet, but sometimes, when you want to focus on one thing, and one thing only, it is actually better to not connect to the internet.
In terms of what it's like to write on, it is as near to writing with pencil and paper as you can be, and still be electronic. There's no menus, or operating system, or booting up or any of that jazz; just you and the words on the little screen.
Trial one of the Neo and it passed with flying colours. It fits in my laptop case nicely, along with my writing notes and plotting papers.
My next trail will be to see if I can type with the Neo on my lap on a tube train, and on a mainline train. It should remove the power cord anxiety I have on mainline trains, and also be much less intrusive than a laptop. It is much harder to see what is written on the screen than a laptop.
I would like to see what the maximum word capacity is of one file, to work out the full word capacity of the whole machine. The pages displayed on the Neo do not correspond to the number of pages when it 'types' the text out on a word document, so I'm paying less attention to the page numbers and more to the word count – something writers use more commonly anyway.
Future things to test on the Neo
- Writing outside in sunlight - easily works
- Writing on tube trains - to follow
- Filling up one file - approx 19500 words per file (the Alphasmart Neo has 8 file slots)
- Comparing whether first draft fiction is noticeably different from when I write it either on my laptop, or hand write on a notepad. - to follow once I've written my whole Nanowrimo novel on the Neo and self-edited it.
Today I am sat outside on the breakfast terrace with morning sun – it is 9.50am. I am writing with the Neo rested on the table, with a tray of tea next to me. The screen has full sun on it and I am wearing sunglasses. Pleased to report that the screen is easily visible in full sun. How long I will stay outside in full sun without sun cream on, is another matter!
Writing on the sofa
Last night, I sat in the living room, with the Neo on my lap and my post it notes to the side of me on the sofa and easily wrote 3000 words. It was much less intrusive than getting out my laptop, opening up its screen, finding a plug point and adaptor (we're in Spain) and trailing the lead across the room. It was as intrusive and as simple as writing with a pencil and notepad.
Living with the Alphasmart Neo 12 November
Total file capacity
I have just filled up file 2 on the Neo, it took 19631 words, which is near enough what my estimate was. This means the full capacity of the device would be about 157,000 words. I'm paying less attention to the page count, as that didn't correspond to pages when I sent it to my laptop. I'm sticking with the word count as that's a standard measure for authors, and doesn't change depending on spacing and typeface.
The file take slightly longer to open and count the words as it's more full, but the Neo still switches on, back to the last point I wrote within 2-3 seconds.
Editing on the Neo
To be honest, this isn't great. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's pretty terrible. It can scroll around with the cursor keys – something the Hemingwrite doesn't have – but scrolling through pages and pages of 4 lines of text is pretty tedious.
It does have a spelling function, but I can't be bothered to go through to fix spelling when I'm going to need to tidy up some formatting and take it from first draft vomit on page, to second draft presentable anyway, using my laptop, so I won't be using spelling on the Neo. It also has a thesaurus too – same as the above. If I repeat a word too close in the first draft I'll leave it in – as I would for any first draft – and I'll fix it in second draft clean up mode, on the laptop.
I think of the Neo as an electronic pencil and notebook – I wouldn't try to edit on that, so I won't try to edit on the Neo either.
Comfort for typing
It is comfortable writing with it in my lap, as a laptop. It is equally comfortable writing with it resting on a table in front of me – as a laptop. I rest it on a tea towel as it sometimes rocks while typing.
It is completely silent except for the keyboard tapping. It makes no heat as it rests on my lap.
To be honest I've not exactly measured time taken and words written. I'm on holiday all right! However, I know that the whole time I'm on the Neo I am writing, because there's nothing else I can do, because, it doesn't do anything else. When I find myself wondering off, making tea, checking the internet on my phone I know I've probably passed concentration and so put it to one side and do something else – just as with anything the human brain peaks and you have to listen to when it's time to give yourself a rest.
Living with the Neo 14 November
When I returned home from holiday, I connected up the Neo to my laptop and 'downloaded' all the files I'd written into Word docs. Always good to back things up, I find. I say 'downloaded' but it's actually a bit more old school than that with the Alphasmart Neo. You don't 'download' files, you 'send' them to the laptop.
- I connected the Neo to the laptop's USB port, selected the file on the Neo I wanted to 'send'
- I made sure the cursor was ready to take text on my laptop, in the new open Word doc
- I pressed 'send' on the Neo and it types the document for me. The laptop sees the Neo as an external USB keyboard and the Neo types the documents from start to finish. The words appear on the screen one letter at a time, while you sit and watch.
- It types at about 270 words per minute (I worked it out when it typed up my first file). A full file of almost 20k words took 1hr 10mins for the Neo to type out.
- You can't use the laptop for anything else while the Neo is typing onto it. Even clicking on Page Down on the keyboard moved the cursor which meant it was then typing the text into the middle of the previous page, rather than to the end of it. I stopped the Neo typing, deleted the text in the Word document and started the process again. (The text stays on the Neo's files until you click 'clear file' on the Neo) Although this typing up sounds boring, it is so much easier than me having to type up hand-written notes. I did this a while ago and managed 12,000 words per day until I got wrist cramps. Based on that, it would have taken me more than 2 days to type up the notes the Neo typed up in about 2 ½ hours.
- This typing up as it goes method is a bit steampunk really, but once I got my head around it, I simply left the Neo and laptop doing their things alone while I got on with my life, checking them periodically to move to the next file on the Neo.
- It always starts typing the files on the Neo from the start, so if you've saved more than one thing in one of the Neo's files – I had a Romantic Novelists' Scheme New Writers Scheme report, a blog about my friend Ralph, and then some stuff about using the Neo, all in file 1 slot on the Neo – you have to wait for it to type the earlier stuff first, then if you already have it saved somewhere else, delete that from the final Word file, and keep what you need.
- Start a new file to continue the same project once you've downloaded part of the project to laptop. For instance my Nanowrimo novel has filled file 2, and has half filled file 3 on the Neo. I've downloaded both of these to my laptop. So when I continue writing the Nanowrimo novel, I will start from file 4.
Liam Livings xx