Distraction free writing... Again.



I saw a kickstarter program for something called a "Hemmingwrite" (now "Freewrite") with the usual "real soon now" verbiage. Shipping Expected in 2017.


The idea of a distraction free word processor is familiar. This device is-or will be-a standalone laptop word processor with a Wi-Fi connection for cloud storage.


It does not have multiple programs or apps or a big color screen. It is an attempt to have writers get words out of their heads and into some file to be used later. There is logic to this!


However, Freewrite is extreme, as in no backspace key, no navigation keys.  Think typewriter. They don't want you looking at the screen at lot -just type and deal with the rest later.


If you do a bit of searching, you will find pro writers who find this refreshing and wonderful.  You'll also find a few who work differently and would like a backspace key, etc.


Having written a dozen or so tutorials, books and quite a few magazine articles, I can attest that it is very frustrating when "in the zone" writing-wise having something, hardware or software, just interrupt your work.


That can be anything from some pop-up saying isn't it time to san your PC? Or some announcement that there's a new version of the word processor you're using and would you like to download it now? That's when distraction-free really sounds great.


Another point is that, if you are writing something that is going to end up in a publication as opposed to, say, a letter, it is often advisable to supply the publisher with plain, unformatted text. That's right, not something pretty and formatted, which often adds embedded codes that need to be stripped away.


My wife, who lays out books professionally, sometimes finds paragraphs have unexplained spaces. This is due to those proprietary embedded characters found in many word processing programs.


And, by the way, if you are working with a layout professional, it's always a good idea to ask them what kind of final format they prefer, especially if they are charging by the hour! 


So do not treat a short story, novel or magazine article like a resume, as you may be wasting time you could be using for proofing and revising.


A dedicated word processor such as this Freewrite pushes the fact that it does not give you formatting commands and a large screen to preview your layout. It's all about just words. And about $499.


Before You Buy


Unformatted writing has been done before and some of the technology to do it is still floating around at bargain basement prices. And, if you can do without the Wi-Fi cloud storage and the ultra cool design, you can get a very similar device for far less money, as in $30 or less. What devices are these?


During the early dot-com boom, laptops were still pricey and schools could not afford them in quantities. To fill this gap, many companies came up "portable keyboards" with a small screen, durable keys and a way to connect them to a "real computer" to transfer what was typed.


Alphasmarts were one, and a LOT got sold.


Aside from being cheaper thatn laptops, the pitch then was a distraction free environment where the student concentrated only on what they wanted to write and not how it looked on paper. Sound familiar?


Over the years I've owned at least five of these devices, all purchased used as thousands were dumped on the market when alternatives got cheap. Go to an online auction and type it laptop word processor and you will find a number of them from about $20 to $60 for a model with USB (not serial port!) transfer. I have two AlphaSmart Neo2s and use them all the time.  Each holds enough files to keep me happy.  Then run forever on AA batteries and make no beeps or have flashing lights,


So if the idea of a distraction free word processor that doesn't get in the way of your writing is appealing to you, perhaps you can get in line and this company will ship the uber-cool Freewrite. If I stumble across $499 I may splurge..after everything else I owe on is paid for!


In the meantime, you may also be able to buy something comparable to get by for 20 bucks.




AlphaSmart Neo2

(My choice.)