The AlphaSmart Neo: A Word Processing Powerhouse, Lightweight Laptop

The Neo wordprocessor from AlphaSmart is a great device for writing on the go. I wouldn’t suggest that you toss out your desktop or laptop computer. Indeed, you’ll need a secondary computer to comfortably edit that Great American Novel that you wrote on your Neo. The great thing about the Neo, though, is that it does what most of us use our computers for eighty percent of the time: writing. And because the Neo is ultral light- weight, powers up with long-lasting AA batteries and is virtually indestructable, you can carry it with you wherever you go, thereby taking advantage of downtime throughout the day to write, write, write!

Let’s take a general overview of the Neo and its benefits

Easy Does It: unlike your regular computer, the Neo has only a few simple programs and no ‘operating system’ to speak of. What this means for you is, whenever the muse strikes you, just push the ‘on’ button and you’re ready to roll. The opposite is true as well. Since there are no programs or operating systems to power down, you just have to push the off button, your document is saved and your machine is off. Easy.

Truly Wireless: Unlike your average laptop, the Neo runs on three alkaline batteries, which can keep your Neo powered up for 700 hours or more. No desperately seaching for a power outlet at your local coffee shop, no hoping that your battery doesn’t die in the five minutes before you can get down that great line. It’s freedom in computing at its best.

Room to Write: Your document will stay on the Neo until you erase it. You have the option of uploading it to your PC via USB or IR (infra-red) transfer or keeping it on the Neo as long as you like. The Neo has eight separate files, and each file holds about 8,000 words, for a total of 64,000-70,000 words total. Hey, that’s enough for the longest road trip you’d ever take!

Writer’s Toolkit: The Neo’s main program, AlphaWord Plus, has few bells and whistles, but it covers the essentials for most writers. In its toolkit are a word count command, which also counts the number of sentences and paragraphs in your current document, a thesaaurs program, a spell checker, and even a dictionary. There is also a Find command which will allow you to search and replace text within a file. You can also search for text within your current file or within all the files located on your Neo.

Keyboard and Text Formatting: The great thing about the Neo is that it’s basically a keyboard with a display, which means you’ll be able to type with ease. Also, the keyboard can be configured for either QUERTY or Dvorak typing. Surprisingly, the display is easy to deal with, it’s small size notwithstanding. The font can be adjusted to view either one line, or six. Most people find five lines of type the easiest to write with, but I’ve found the six lines to be just as easy. Once you get used to it, which will take all of five minutes, the screen really poses no limitations at all. And ask yourself, how many lines of text can you read at once, anyway?

Overall, the Neo is the writer’s best friend. It’s small, lightweight (just about 2 lbs.) and will last months and months on three small batteries. For traveling writers, journalists, or those who don’t like the encumberance of a laptop, it’s a great option. It’ll set you back about $250.00, but you’ll get your money back threefold in terms of durablility, long life, and ease of use.

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