Use An Old, Cheap Word Processor As A Distraction-Free Writing Tool

Use An Old, Cheap Word Processor As A Distraction-Free Writing Tool

It’s a $20 “piece of junk” but a portable word processor could keep you focused on your writing and nothing else.

Design for Hackers author David Kadavy explains several of the benefits of using a tool like this. It doesn’t connect to the internet (so no tempting distractions), but can plug into your computer via USB to download your writing. Because it only shows four lines of text at a time, you only focus on what you’re writing, not what you just wrote.

And because editing sucks on the device, you don’t edit while you write. You just write.

The AlphaSmart 3000 is discontinued but still available for purchase from various online stores. There might be other similar old school word processors you can use instead. Of course, there are lots of distraction-free writing applications you can install to get a similar environment, but having a distinct physical device just for writing might make you more productive.

4 sucky things about this $19 piece of junk that make it AMAZING for writing [David Kadavy]


  • Or you could just unplug the ethernet cable. Or turn off the Wi-Fi. Or unplug the router.

    I need some distractions during the day when working on a long task to keep me sane, 😛 but each to their own

  • I use these for the same reason I use my old Kindle (The keyboard model that has text to speech):
    The lack of distraction.
    When reading a novel, I want to get lost in it, I don’t want the constant distraction of incoming emails or texts, or be able to look up something on the net that a phrase reminds me of. I just want to read and stay in the experience.

    When writing, I am the same way, I want to work without distraction, I’ll keep a paper dictionary and thesaurus by my side, and bash away on the (excellent) keyboard of an old dedicated Word Processor. No formatting to eff around with, no internets to be distracted by… just write.
    The battery lasts forever which is great for train journeys and air travel.
    The funniest thing is everyone assumes it is some kind of new high-tech gadget 🙂

  • You would want to get the NEO or NEO2 if possible, they store 10x as many pages, making them useful for novelists.

  • I don’t think most of these have a save to text ability though. How would you save it?

    • They save directly inside the unit. If you want to transfer it to the PC, you just plug it in via USB.

      • All of them? From memory there were quite a few brands. You’d have to have one that has a USB Function. I’m only speculating though, having only ever used one of them and at the time USB wasn’t even in the vernacular.

  • Even better choice — the majorly upgraded Alphasmart NEO2. SIX lines viewable. Also, you can get a custom font-designer on-line (FREE!) to design your own (far better) fonts.

    700 hours battery life; optional power cord, if you prefer; connects to any computer (that will accept a USB/Printer cable).

    Plus… to quote a recent coffee-shop commentator, it’s “hipster as hell.”

    I’ve got five; get yours before they’re gone.


    (P.S. Stay away from the Alphasmart *Dana* model. The touchscreen is annoying, the back-lighting is a useless feature, and battery time is seriously degraded.)

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