As a writer, we all have machines that we favor for one task or another. When I am drafting a new novel or short story, my machine of choice is the Alphasmart Neo from RenLearn. It is a sturdy device designed to be used by children in classrooms. The keyboard is the most comfortable one that I own and it has a nice feel and sound that reminds me a little of the old Selectric typewriter that I grew up writing on. The text screen is very small. This aids me in drafting because it helps to keep my inner editor at bay and simply put down the words. I credit the Neo with helping me achieve higher word counts during NaNoWriMo writing sessions.
However, once drafting is completed, the Neo’s usefulness comes to an end. Instead of being able to use this comfortable keyboard that I prefer, I am forced to move to other machines to do my editing and revising. The Neo’s interface is antiquated enough that it doesn’t interface well with modern devices and while it can be used as a keyboard if you hook it up via a USB cable or connect to a device via InfraRed, most tablets these days interface with keyboards via bluetooth, which the Neo does not support.
I belong to an Alphasmart User Group and one of our members discovered a way to interface her Alphasmart Neo with her Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. Chet Chin used the proprietary Samsung Galaxy Tab connection kit and the USB cable that she normally uses to interface with the Neo. The tablet recognized the Neo as a keyboard with no issues. Other tablets will force you to purchase a blutooth enabled keyboard if you wish to use it for writing on the go. That was step one of the connection puzzle. There was still the problem of positioning the tablet so she could see it while typing and finding a word processor app before she could combine the tablet and Neo as a travel writing suite.
At first, Chet tried writing with the Neo in her lap and placing the tablet on a nearby table. This created neck strain and was uncomfortable for her. To put the two machines together, she found a rubber surface cover for her tablet and then placed the tablet on top of the Neo. The Neo has a slight curve where its screen resides and the plastic shell has a textured surface. Chet discovered that the tablet would not slide down from the screen section of the Neo and was at an angle that was comfortable to see his text.
As a writer on the go, Chet not only needs to write text, but she needs to incorporate photos into her articles. Chet recommends the following apps to turn her Neo and Samsung Galaxy Tab into a writing suite:
StyleNote – A writing app for Android
Android PDF annotating app – Adobe Reader
Android photo editing app for cropping, resizing and adding text to his photos
If you would like to join the Alphasmart community, please join us at Flickr. You will learn much about these wonderful writing machines and hopefully become a convert to them as I have.