AlphaSmart (the opposite of the iPad)

I’m rather excited because I have a new toy - an AlphaSmart Neo2. It’s kind of the opposite of an iPad, being all keyboard and very little screen, and it’s about as old-school as you can get - it’s essentially the sort of word processor you could buy in Dixons twenty years ago, with a calculator-like screen showing only four lines of text. But I still have fond memories of using the old word processor I used to have before moving to a computer - something about not seeing all of my text in front of me as you can on a screen forced me to concentrate on the sentences I was writing. The AlphaSmart, however, weighs less than a pound and can run for over seven hundred hours on three AA batteries (or so they claim, and reviewers have talked of using it for over a year without needing to change the batteries).

I love the idea of typing on this thing and just sending the text into Scrivener, especially when I’m on holiday in a few weeks’ time.

Does anyone else use an AlphaSmart? And if so, how does it fit into your workflow?

All the best,

Here. Alphasmart 3000 even (the granddaddy of the Neo). Indispensable.

I use it for writing when I travel, or when we have enough sun here that I can sit behind the house in the bright sunlight, typing away. 8) Normally, I write much faster on the Alphasmart because of its wonderful keyboard (the best I’ve found ever) and because of it’s main advantage: zero distractions. No internet, not even another application. Eight files, and that’s it.

Later, I send everything I’ve written via USB to my desktop computer and fiddle it in place.

Me, me, me! :smiley: Well, the earlier version, AlphaSmart Neo, to be be exact. I think there are a few AlphaSmart users in the Scrivener forum – I got some really useful tips here when I was dithering about buying mine.

I love it! I don’t use it at home, but it’s really handy for going out and about (for example, on holiday, or when hanging around waiting for children at activities, or when taking notes at tutorials). From the comfort of my cushioned existence, I like to imagine how useful my AlphaSmart would be, were I ever to become a rugged, rufty-tufty war correspondent, or vulcanologist, or jungle explorer.

I’ve got the neoprene case, and would recommend getting that if you haven’t got one already. My version is really economical on batteries: I haven’t changed them yet, and I’ve had the machine for almost two years already – this thread is a useful reminder to pack spares into my suitcase.

Low-tech is brilliant sometimes! Good luck with it :smiley:

I hated it. :smiley:

Well, I thought was exactly the kind of customer they had in mind with the Alphasmart. But I quickly found out that I need the whole bunch of manuscript at my fingertips. In my workflow I keep revising and shuffling my scenes while I write the text itself. And with an Alphasmart I hesitated to write because … well … it lacks the binder. :wink: I need this big picture and tried to print out the Synopses to take them with my, but hated fiddling with paper alongside the Alphasmart - especially on long train rides.

I know it’s just a tool to write without looking back. And it may be perfect for others. Not for me.

The best thing about the Alphasmart (I had the 3000 with the really small display) were the puzzled looks of bystanders: ‘Why is this guy hacking away on a keyboard without a display?!’

Sold it after 2 weeks, bought a Macbook. And just recently got a little nervous about those rumours concerning a 11.6" Macbook Air, which is EXACTLY WHAT I WANT, DAMMIT!

i have an alphasmart 3000 that i bought for loose change on ebay. i got it because of things i had read on this forum.

i liked it so much, i ended up buying a new neo. i tried to get a neo on ebay, but the bidding wars kept pushing the price too high for a used item. my alphas are ugly, unassuming, lightweight, distraction-free and eminently useful little devices.

i use my alphas for drafts of just about anything i write, including work-related docs. i also use them for a place to think things through and mull them over. this is especially important for my job, which often requires me to make difficult decisions.

i find that alphas are better for carrying around than anything i’ve tried. you can transfer drafts into scrivener using usb, and scrivener formats the text as it comes in. it works like this in any word processor i’ve tried it with, including mellel and word. i can also transfer outlines or other files i might need for reference to my alpha by usb.

i wouldn’t edit with it. other than taking notes, it’s useless for research. but the batteries last for months and it’s great for helping you find that alpha state where writing flows.

@AndreasE and typo: Is or was there a Alphasmart 3000 with a German keyboard? The Neo and Neo2 only have an international or the UK keyboard.

Or do you know of a way to install a German keyboard layout so I could enter umlauts, the ß etc.? I do not need the “Y” and “Z” to be printed on the correct key :slight_smile:

Dankschön schon mal im Voraus, Franz


I just received an answer from the Alphasmart support team: There is no way to install a software driver on the Neo2 in order to re-map the keys.

I quote:

“However umlauts etc. can be produced by using various keystrokes although this process is not very

Too bad.


Yes, my Alphasmart 3000 has a German keyboard. (I never touch other layouts.)

Thanks Andreas.

That means: Keeping my eyes open and waiting till someone offers a German Alphasmart on Ebay.

Herzliche Grüße, Franz

Another happy AlphaSmart user here! Mine’s a secondhand Neo bought on eBay a year or so ago. I still haven’t needed to change the batteries BTW. The only thing that compares with it is a large Moleskine notebook.

I use it in the garden in sunlight, but more often indoors when I’m bogged down in over-detailed rewrites. It doesn’t get hot and burn my knees or cut off the circulation in my legs like the laptop. I can’t do anything on mine except write, which I do in 25-minute Pomodoro bursts. On the lovably ugly AlphaSmart I knock out more than 700 publishable words in that time. Can’t think why I don’t use it more often.

Oh, that’s right: I suffer from Scrivener Deprivation Syndrome after the first hour.


I have an AlphaSmart Neo. I have had it for two years and the battery is only 1/2. I use it for writing away from home. (Specifically write-ins and especially during NaNoWriMo.) I upload each file (i.e. function key) into a separate Scrivener document so the lack of the binder doesn’t bother me. I like the feel of the keyboard.


And how about this! The Neo can be used as a keyboard for your iPad. Have not had a chance to try it yet as I do not have an iPad. Will try it on a friends later this week. See the video … … -keyboard/

Forgot to mention this great little helper for transferring from your Mac to your Neo.

Go to … 551637127/

It would be good if there was a little more instruction but you will work it out with a bit of playing around.

Cheers from Oz

Hey, thanks for all the feedback. I just got myself a neoprene cover and am looking forward to taking the AlphaSmart away with me. I’m putting a plan and all my notes together in Scrivener (obviously) and then my plan is to hammer out some first drafts on the AlphaSmart and send them back into my Scrivener project when I’m back from my holiday. I really do like the thing. Not sure I’d want to use it as a keyboard for my iPad, mind. :slight_smile: (The tool for sending stuff from the Mac to the AlphaSmart looks good, so I’ll try that - thanks for the link.)

Thanks and all the best,

I like opening the relevant Scrivener document, hitching AlphaSmart to Macbook via the USB link, then watching the words trickle down the screen like a mountain stream in summer. It is quite slow, but it’s the low-techness of it I enjoy.

Just as long as you get those words written, Keith, I don’t suppose it matters what keyboard you’re using.


Another AlphaSmart fan.

Agree with AndreasE’s assessments of its virtues (great keyboard, no distractions) with the addition that its robustness/cost ratio is very high - that is you can chuck it in a travel backpack in its neoprene pouch, stick it in the back of a jeep in 40+ temperatures or work with it sitting in the sun beside a pool (all of which I’ve done in the last two weeks), with little fear that your precious device is going to be damaged or die.

Keith, I remember at least one other thread on L&L (started by InklingBooks?) as a result of which I bought my Neo, and there’s also a flickr group (, as much a celebration as a user group) — both of which may have additional information on workflows and so forth.