Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Notes on Writing (Vickie McDonough)

AlphaSmart or Laptop
Vickie McDonough

So you’ve probably heard about an AlphaSmart by now and may even own one. If you’re thinking of buying a laptop, you may want to check out the AlphaSmart first. I own both, having recently inherited my current AlphaSmart from my son, who used it in high school for note-taking. FYI – from here on out, I’ll refer to AlphaSmart as AS.

Before I had a laptop, I had an AS, and though I loved it, I disliked the limited editing features. It’s a very lightweight keyboard, about fifteen inches wide and weighs only a few pounds, which makes it easy to take with you. It runs on three AA batteries, which last for a long while. I change them annually now, but have had them last several years in the past. My AS 3000, which is an older model, has eight files for holding text. The files hold a lot of material, but you wouldn’t be able to keep a whole book on it.

The AS is simple to use. It turns on and off immediately, with no warm-up time. It automatically saves your document, so there’s little risk of losing your text, unless you accidentally delete it. To upload info, first you need to have the AS software on your computer. Then just open your Word program, plug in your AS, and hit Send. The text uploads a letter at a time, but is fairly fast. Portability and ease of use were my favorite things about the AS.

When I write at home I prefer my laptop. Here’s why. First off, it’s networked to our main computer, so I can access all the files I have stored there. I prefer to write downstairs in my recliner, and having the laptop networked is wonderful. You can’t do any graphics on the AS or play games. The AS has a smaller keyboard than a laptop, so there is an adjustment when you first start using it. Another AS negative is the screen is very small and not lit up. You can’t change the text size to make it easier to read. It has very limited editing features, so you have to do your editing on your computer. Also, there are no email capabilities with an AS, but that could actually be a plus for writers who are easily distracted. The Dana does advertise WiFi capabilities, but I’ve not used one so I don’t know how well that works.

The AS is much cheaper than most laptops, running from around $200 for the basic AS to $350 for the nicer Dana model. Both, I believe, synchronize to either a PC or Macintosh. If you’d like more AS info, go to Alphasmart.com.

If I had to choose between a laptop and an AlphaSmart, I’d choose my laptop. I’m fortunate to have both though, and find them both useful in different situations.

Award-winning author Vickie McDonough believes God is the ultimate designer of romance. She loves writing stories where the characters find their true love and grow in their faith. Vickie has had 18 books published. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently serving as ACFW treasurer. Vickie has also been a book reviewer for nine years. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four sons, and grandmother to a feisty three-year-old girl. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and traveling.

Visit Vickie's website at http://www.vickiemcdonough.com/.

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