8 Distraction-Free Writing Devices

When I first wrote about my AlphaSmart years ago, I got a lot of confused comments as to why I would want a device with a one-color screen and no internet. “Why not just focus?” was the general response. Since then, there’s been a slow but sure growth in interest in distraction-free writing devices. In fact, the New Yorker even recently wrote about them.

me writing in my hammock on a distraction-free writing device, the AlphaSmart

Distraction-free writing devices tend to not have internet, nor notifications, so you’re not tempted to check social media or surf the web, nor are you interrupted.

We already spend a ton of time on full-power electronic devices. so distraction-free writing devices can help manage our energy levels, as they may be totally mechanical, or use drastically less electricity than, say, a fully-featured laptop. Many people report eyestrain from looking at screens, and I personally have noticed I’m sensitive to EMFs, and I fatigue quickly on even a low-EMF computing setup.

Distraction-free writing devices

Here are some distraction-free writing tools and devices, besides apps, and the obvious pen-and-paper or small whiteboard.

1. Typewriter

my 1953 smith-corona super is a great distraction-free writing device

My 1953 Smith-Corona Super is my favorite distraction-free writing device.

I love to write on a typewriter. It’s a way better experience than you would expect. My typewriter is completely mechanical (some are electric, and so require less finger strength), and I can write on it all day without fatigue. I love how writing on a typewriter eliminates your internal critic. You can’t transfer to an electronic form, so there’s no fooling yourself: you’re writing a first draft. There also great for writing neatly on index cards for a paper zettelkasten.

You can find typewriters at local thrift stores, or in an old relative’s attic, but people are still refurbishing them. I bought my 1953 Smith-Corona Super at Phoenix Typewriter. Why use a digital typewriter, when you can just use a typewriter?

Read about why I write on a typewriter »

2. AlphaSmart

the alphasmart is the best distraction-free writing device that stores your writing

The AlphaSmart is a close second to my typewriter for favorite distraction-free writing tool. The best, if I actually want to transfer my writing to a computer.

The AlphaSmart is a portable word processor with a simple screen that displays a few lines of text. It stores eight separate text files, so you can easily switch amongst projects. I personally use it for initial brainstorming, or drafting articles that I later rewrite, but it’s still possible to transfer your writing to a computer or tablet, via a USB cable.

They’re no longer made, but the NEO (shown above) usually available used on Amazon, for around $80. It runs for months on three AA batteries. Read about my AlphaSmart »

3. Freewrite

freewrite smart typewriter distraction-free writing device

The Freewrite Smart Typewriter (Gen3) is an e-ink distraction-free writing device, which syncs to the cloud. ($649, at the time of this writing.)

Freewrite makes a collection of e-ink screen-and-keyboard devices – essentially “digital typewriters” – that sync to the cloud. Many writers balk at the price tags, ranging from just under $500, to $1,000. But if you earn your bread writing, it could easily be worth it. (Haven’t tried one.)

4. Pomera

Pomera dm 200 is an option for a distraction-free writing device

Pomera makes foldable e-ink pocket devices. They’re a Japanese company, manufacturing primarily for Japanese users, so it seems some struggle with it not being particularly friendly to writing English – if you can even get your hands on one. Though I’ve seen some reports on Reddit it’s getting better. (Haven’t tried one.) The base price is 49,800 Yen, or about $366.

Modifications to existing writing devices to make them distraction-free

Here’s a few ways, if you’re technically adept, you can hack existing devices to be more distraction-free:

5.  BOOX Poke5 with keyboard

boox poke5 with keyboard

BOOX makes a bunch of e-ink devices that run Android, including the Poke5. I own one of these, have written a detailed BOOX Poke5 review, and have personally hooked it up to a Bluetooth keyboard. I wasn’t able to get a keyboard to work connect directly with USB-C, but perhaps that’s possible as well. Since it’s an Android device, you can download apps that will sync to the cloud, such as Notion and Google Docs, making this a viable candidate for a Freewrite alternative.

In my personal test, however, writing was a bit laggy. But, BOOX devices allow you to customize e-ink settings, so with some tweaking you could improve performance.

Other BOOX devices, such as the Tab Ultra C Pro are compatible with cases that feature keyboards and trackpads, essentially making an e-ink laptop.

6.  SolarWriter

solarwriter distraction-free writing device

SolarWriter is an iPhone and Android app to connect a keyboard to your Kindle (and simultaneously, your smartphone, which makes it a bit less distraction-free). Ostensibly, this is for writing outside, in the sun.

7. ReMarkable with Keyboard

remarkable with keyboard distraction-free writing device

The ReMarkable is a bit of a distraction-free writing device in itself, albeit by hand. Here’s a blog post showing how to connect a keyboard to a ReMarkable e-ink tablet.

8. Kobowriter

kobowriter distraction-free writing device

Kobowriter is an open-source project, on GitHub, to make a Kobo e-reader accept a keyboard. The e-reader is unable to provide power, so you may have to supply power to your keyboard, as the creator, Loup Topalian, has shown above.

As I wrote about in my book, Mind Management, Not Time Management, different stages of the creative process call for different tools. I think of them as either “grippy” or “slippy” tools, and you can choose the right device with just the right balance of distractibility and versatility.

Last updated March 7, 2024

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