How I Love Thee, Neo2.

Let me count the ways. ♥

But first, a side trip.

News (at long last!) of Scrivener for iOS in beta was greeted with enthusiastic joy for Mac-based devotees. And it is great — hands down, Scrivener is one of the few writing tools that really does it all. Does so much, even, that maybe you get the feeling that you’re not using the program to its full advantage. Nevertheless, in the nearly ten years since since its release, Scrivener become the tool that you either swore by or never understood all the hoopla. Some writers like the linearity of Word but for many Scrivener’s ability to break down a large document into smaller chunks, store related files and the cork board features are among the many reasons why people love this little program. (My first Macbook was bought basically for Scrivener and I’ve been using it ever since.)

When the iPad came along, Scrivener users were stoked about the possibilities. A mobile writing solution that could sync with a service like DropBox? Write wherever, whenever, with all your files handy? Developing that kind of an app is no small task, but it looks like we’re closer than ever. Scrivener for iOS looks like it might drop this year.

But it might be too late for me.

I know! I can’t believe it either! Scrivener for iPad was going to change everything and then, as the years went on and app ended up getting delayed a few times, I figured that when it finally arrived I could rationalize an iPad upgrade. That said, while the latest iteration, the iPad Pro is a beautiful monster of a machine, it’s out of my price range. (Though Scrivener for iOS is supposed to run on any mobile Apple device running iOS 9 or above, which my creaky iPad 3 can more or less handle.)

Great news, but … still too late for me. I haven’t abandoned Scrivener, but there is a new love in my life, the AlphaSmart Neo 2.

One of the issues I’ve had since my first iPad has been that writing on it was always a better idea in my head then it was in practice. My experiences writing on an iPad experiences were always frustrating ones. Handwriting was awkward, imprecise, slow. Keyboards were too cramped and had key symbols hidden behind unfamiliar hotkeys. It was a barrier to entry when I sat down to write, and worse, these barriers made it even easier to, in a moment of frustration, pop over to check Twitter, Facebook or Email and start running out the clock on socializing or outright time wasters. While the Pro appears to ameliorate some of the technical issues, we’re back to that sticky price point problem. And the temptation to multitask or just outright distract myself? Unimpeded. Possibly even improved upon by having a better processor built into the iPad Pro.

On the AlphaSmart? No program switching, no distractions because all you can do is type. It’s lighter than my iPad 3 by a wide margin, has a near-endless battery life and a full keyboard, one with deeply satisfying, chunky keys.

I can edit if I want to, and sure, I catch the odd typo, but there are no little red squiggly lines nagging at you. You don’t end up staring fixedly at the last page of text your wrote, wondering, grumbling, because it’s already scrolled up and away. Editing happens later because it can’t happen now.

It means that all you can do, six lines at a time, is write.

When it’s time to get my words into Scrivener, the USB printer cable plugs into my iMac and the words spit out like magic, like someone else wrote them. When I see them now on the screen they are different enough to feel fresh and be malleable in ways that a draft of anything written directly on a computer does now.

And my output? Holy hell, it’s leveled up and leveled up hard. I routinely get 500 words within fifteen minutes. Are they perfect words? No, but they are decent draft quality. Something I can work with.

My only complaint, and it’s very minor, is the display screen. I wish it was angled a little bit more. Sometimes there can be a weird back-glare effect, and in dimmer light the screen can wash out a bit, but that’s easily fixed by moving around or getting the light in the right position.

This is by far the most pleasurable device to write on than I have ever had. It is the unitasker I need, with the speed of a typewriter and without the time required to manually retype it. I’ve known about the AlphaSmart for years, but it was never really a thing in Canada and I thought, do I really need another device?

I did, and I do. Thank you to K. Tempest Bradford and her podcast, The Write Gear, for the push. (I may even buy a backup AlphaSmart.)

I’ve often wondered if, had I been born in the 50s or 60s or 70s, where there was just a typewriter, just paper and pen, if I would not have been more productive and focused than a child raised on the computer – which from a very early age was tool and game and telephone all at once in the best and worse ways.

With the AlphaSmart, I get to find out.

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