What are the best tools for writing when away from the comfort of your perfectly laid out office and powerful PC? I have to travel occasionally for work or pleasure, and always do so on public transport. It should be an ideal opportunity to catch up on reading and to do some creative work. What are the best tools for the job?
  • Laptops and netbooks enable power-creation but can be overkill for the bus, and the battery life of these early 21st century devices leaves a lot to be desired.
  • The classic of pen and paper can be used anywhere, and is the ultimate in low-power versatility. The downside is having to type everything up afterwards. I once handwrote a whole novel in a week: it took almost six months to type the thing up. My writing is not very neat, and a jolting bus renders it almost illegible. Trains work better for handwriting.
  • Now we face a new generation of smartphones, devices that are portable but with the ability to do limited typing. The notes can then be downloaded to a PC later. Their small screens are not much good for editing projects but for straight outpourings of imagination they can be good capture devices, and have the added advantage of being with you already.
I have never owned a mobile phone. I tend not to be interested in single function devices - having a separate device for every function leads to more electronic gadgets in the world, which is causing a mountain of e-waste. It is one of the reasons that e-book readers don't impress me much. Everything has to do multiple jobs in order to earn a place in my home. Even my MP3 player also acts a 40GB external hard-drive, radio, and voice recorder. Now that there are phones which are basically ultra-portable PCs I am thinking about their potential for writing on the move - the fact that they can also be used as communication hubs, media entertainment centres, gaming devices, cameras, alarm clocks, torches and even spirit levels definitely has me interested. The only question is, what device to go for? The closed nature of Apple is a turn-off but Android seems to offer a number of options. On-screen typing is not as bad as I expected, but should I go for a device with a flip-out keyboard such as the HTC Desire Z for when I want to feel like I am banging away on a Lilliputian typewriter?