Distraction free writing tools - 2016 edition
June 7, 2016 11:12 AM   Subscribe

This was asked back in 2008, and maybe some of the answers haven't changed since then, but I thought I'd ask. What are the best writing tools for a distraction-free experience? I'm looking primarily at hardware right now, but software is welcome too. Or hell, if pen and paper is the best, say so.

Some things that would be nice:

-Discouraging any electronic distractions - the internet and social media being the big one. But also notifications, games, apps, etc. I don't want any of it, nor do I want the temptation of it being right there.

-I'd like to be able to wake up and get started writing first thing in the morning. In bed, even. The less loading time or reason to do something else, the better. When a thought hits, it needs to be ready.

-Weeks without charge - I'm thinking 30-hour battery life minimum.

-Some sort of connectivity to my computer - USB is good and reliable. Proprietary cloud services, fine, but none of them are guaranteed to last.

Some intriguing things I've come across are the Freewrite (that $499 price would need some special justification though), The Alphasmart Neo/Neo2, and the Pomera DM100. All of them seem to have their own attractions. Bluetooth keyboard + a tablet or smartphone is a possibility too, though that might edge closer to distraction, temptation, and fussiness.
posted by naju to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Get a laptop and remove the wireless card. It won't be able to access internet. You could install a minimal linux distro so distractions could be further reduced.

I use pen and paper. It's the best way for me to get words out, but typing it up is a pain... even so there's no substitute for -zero- electronics.

The problem with those dedicated writing computers is the problems you might face using it, fixing any issues you have with it can be a distraction. With pen and paper if you have a problem you just cross it out and move on. No extra thought is required.

Paper's life is measured in centuries, not hours.
Paper connects to your computer through a digital interface.
Any notification you receive on paper will take days to send/receive so few will need to be bothered with.

I recommend Pentel Energel inks, they can be modified to fit luxury pens and offer an almost perfect glide.
posted by FallowKing at 11:44 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

A review of the Freewrite written on a Freewrite. - via BoingBoing
posted by fairmettle at 11:55 AM on June 7, 2016

I use Ulysses on my IPad mini with Logitech keyboard. Yes, I know it's an iPad mini, but I don't have many apps on it. I also turn off all notifications on it

Pluses for me:
Ulysses backs up to cloud automatically
iPad mini is sufficiently hard to move quickly with hands, so I can't just alt-tab to next window
Screen is small enough that I can't browse many windows at the same time. It is my distraction free writing device, as compared to my MacBook Air.
Fast start up time - instantaneous
Battery lasts for ages!
Super portable- I chuck it in my handbag without a second thought. I write everywhere. Buses, trains, a few minutes waiting for dinner...
posted by moiraine at 12:57 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had an Alphasmart 3000 which I enjoyed using for a while, though the limitations of the display became annoying; I think a Neo would have been more useful. Its functionality seems similar to (or better than) the Freewrite and they're going for just $30 a pop on eBay—seems like a worthwhile first thing to try.

If you're interested in software, years ago I made a distraction free web drafting app that people still use (though its functionality, which was novel at the time, has since been replicated in fuller-featured tools).
posted by raisindebt at 1:42 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Alphasmart Neo2 is a godsend. I have two of them for no good reason. Battery life: I got my first one in 2011 and the second in 2012 and both are still on their original crappy double As that came with them. Connects by USB as a keyboard and when you hit Send it literally types your stuff into whatever window is active on your computer. It's a great little thing if you need to get a draft out and you prefer typing. It's awful for editing and that's a feature not a bug.

The Freewrite is a pointlessly expensive alternative. I don't know anything about the Pomera.

For me though, what worked and worked like you would not believe was a voice recorder and a version of Dragon that does transcription from MP3. I carry the thing wherever I want and talk into it like a loon in public. When I want to knuckle down I pace my home and dictate and an hour later I'm four or five thousand words deeper into whatever I'm working on. Mine is rechargeable via USB and as I'm always transcribing the battery is never an issue but I think it's good for twenty or thirty hours at least.
posted by Sternmeyer at 1:54 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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