Friday, December 12, 2014

Hemingwrite vs Other Options

The Great Human-Experience novel! (Forget "the Great American" novel--I aspire to much higher goals.) Every time I read an article about writing or writers, I get a hankering for “putting pen to paper.” But those days of using such writing tools are actually long gone for me. I keep challenging myself to become more and more “digital” and living my life in the cloud. (Heaven knows my head has been in the clouds most my life!) Most of what I write is with a computer. I no longer own a desktop PC, I am completely mobile with a laptop, tablet and phablet.

Just today (12/12/2014) I was reading about a new device whose market focus is writers. It is called the Hemingwrite and is currently being crowd-funded. My knee-jerk first impression was that it is so 1990’s retro--looking very much like other LCD small displays with nearly full-sized keyboards. (The latter can be had for under $100 on Amazon, while the Hemingwrite is reportedly going to cost between $400 to $500.)

The Hemingwrite promotes itself by claiming it is a “distraction free” writing tool. OK, I guess if you are an obsessive compulsive that needs to check your email, social feeds and texts every few seconds, that might be a benefit. But won’t you have your phone right alongside you anyway? Those wanting to work distraction-free on computers can easily do so by turning off wifi or closing the email agent (thus preventing emails) and muting or turning off their phone (a blood-curdling scream is heard in the reverberating distance). That is a much cheaper solution than buying yet another device to lug around. And speaking about “lugging,” the Hemingwrite is not a lightweight! It weighs 4 pounds, which is heavier than some laptops and decidedly heavier than all tablets today.

But coming back to how I “write”  these days: Lately, the idea of “writing” with a keyboard seems like a contradiction in terms and completely unnatural. Real writing is done with pen (pencil) and paper. And so I’ve come full circle. Instead of using a keyboard, I’ve recently discovered it is much more natural to use Smart Note (the “paper”) and a Samsung 12" Galaxy Note Pro with stylus. (In fact, this article was written using those items and subsequently exported and polished inside Google Docs.)

I already mentioned that the Hemingwrite weighs 4 pounds and will cost upwards of $500. Compare that to the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 which is $800 but weighs only 1.7 pounds. (Alternately, the Samsung Note 10.1 weighs only 597 grams and costs as little as $300.) Both run Android and have a great stylus, a much clearer and larger screen, promote natural handwriting that is converted immediately to typewritten text, plus numerous other bells and whistles. Using the aforementioned Smart Note, that text can be exported to PDF, uploaded to the cloud, or copied directly to any text editing app even an SMS texting app. Adding pages, inserting, deleting, and editing text is easy using the app’s “natural” gestures.

Really, my stylus-based solution is much more cost effective and productive than the Hemingwrite. But what if you absolutely want, no indeed, demand a keyboard?  Then your options are even less expensive yet more powerful. Chromebook laptops are as cheap as $200 on Amazon and can create offline and online documents . Once you are online, the offline docs are backed up to Google Drive. Don’t like Chromebook? No problem. How about a nice inexpensive Windows-based system also within the $200 to $300 range. Most of those have at very least Notepad or Wordpad. Beyond that, free programs such as Apache OpenOffice can be installed.

In short, I feel Hemingwrite is a step backwards, an unnecessary and archaic device adding more weight to carry around. Its predecessors had their heyday. Today’s solutions are cheaper, lighter, and more robust.

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