Scripto: the distraction-free writing tool

When I’m not copyediting for the lovely folks at Raspberry Pi and The MagPi, I write fiction, often involving teenagers running away from murderous water-horses. One of the main problems I have is avoiding distractions, like reading Brooding YA Hero‘s adventures on Twitter, the constant nagging thought that the next email will be another rejection, and the copious amounts of Taylor Lautner GIFs on Tumblr.

Taylor Lautner

Sorry, where was I?

Before you know it, it’s 5pm and your word count’s looking grim. Fortunately, Edinburgh’s Craig Lam (@siliconeidolon) has come up with an ingenious solution in the form of the Scripto, a distraction-eliminating writing tool with a Pi Zero at its heart. He explains:

Writing creatively to a deadline is psychologically challenging: any distraction or obstacle can derail the process. Multifunction devices like laptops are rife with distractions; writing longhand is painful; dedicated word processors are out-of-production or severely flawed. These observations inspired a vision for a distraction-free, portable, convenient, and supportive tool for writers.’

Procrastination

The Scripto, devised as part of Craig’s BSc project, takes the familiar form of a laptop, but with a difference: the only connection to the outside world is to cloud backup. No refreshing social media feeds, no ‘I’ll just check my email once more’… just glorious, uninterrupted writing.

Scripto

The Scripto has a Pixel Qi touchscreen readable in sunlight, with a photovoltaic strip to provide extra power on top of the ten hours battery life. No more squinting at a laptop on a summer day. The Pi boots into a fullscreen adapted version of FocusWriter and provides a host of motivational features, like timers for ‘word sprints’ and word count targets.

Scripto UI

What I love about the Scripto is how personal you can make it. Changeable covers are a nice nod to the old Nokia days (one for the 90s kids), and a companion app to track your word count is a great motivator. (Anyone who’s participated in National Novel Writing Month will know about the joys of racing to 50,000 words and watching your daily graph zooming upwards.)

The focus is on ease of use and low cost, just like the Pi Zero that powers it. The case material will be biodegradable – and café-proof, for those of us often writing hunched over a cappuccino and crumbly cake – and the word processor can come preloaded with the Open Dyslexic font, which is another plus. Social sustainability was important when Craig planned the Scripto; he specifically mentions our educational initiatives like Picademy as a factor when choosing a single-board computer to run the device.

Scripto side view

Craig is considering crowdfunding the Scripto, and I’m sure many writers will be queuing up for one of these nifty devices.

While you wait for the Scripto, you could read some brilliant books by Laura Lam, who told me all about her husband’s project. Or you could try short stories by some other Laura, available on Amazon, Smashwords, and in Blackwell’s Edinburgh. Ahem.

41 comments

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The denizens of usenet newsgroup rec.org.sf-written have a term for all those distractions. They call it “cat vaccuuming.” As in, after dealing other interruptions, one muses, “Just how long has it been since I vaccuumed the cat…?”

As for small, light, long battery life writing tool…my wife wrote a novel using a TRS-80 Model 100.

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Whoa. I do the same thing (though I have a Model 102.) I thought I was the only one.

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This seems to be the distraction-free hardware replacement – finally – for the good ol’ Cambridge Z88 from ancient times, waayyy back in 1987 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Z88), a portable done by Sir Clive Sinclair that were running 20 hours on 4 x AA batteries.

Craig, I sincerely hope you launch it at Kickstarter or similar, I’ll register immediately!

It would allow us to port the Z88 software we maintain in our project, to the rPi, and make it all look native in shiny new hardware.

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I still have my Z88 (sadly non functional). One nice thing on the WP package was the pixel map of your document down the side. So even though your were typing in a letter box you could still see the shape of your document.

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As a college student who runs a blog and has papers due every other day I think this is a brilliant concept. I would love to get rid of all of the distractions lurking on my T60. I mean, sure I could just turn off wifi but it is just not the same. All I have to say is that the keyboard better be darn good if I am going to use it for writing!!! I would totally back something like this

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Just what I was looking for!

Where can I buy? I want it *NOW*! :-D

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This is a very nice design and a great presentation. But that is all it is, a design.

With the level of quality I question if the price point could be reached. Little detail on the costings.

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Everything old is new again – before proper laptops were a thing, there were a number of “portable electronic typewriter” devices like this, that didn’t have cloud backup but were in most other ways quite similar (being from the US, I’m more familiar with the TRS-80 Model 100 than the Cambridge Z88, but there were numerous others). I know there were writers who used them long after “real” laptops emerged, because they were simple, small, efficient, relatively distraction-free, and ran forever on a handful of AA batteries (at a time when most laptops could only manage a couple of hours before needing a lengthy charge).

I’m wondering with it being a dedicated device, if the function keys would do better with actual dedicated function labels rather than F1-F12 (not to mention the mystery key between Fn and Alt).

But this does look like a very nice implementation of the idea. I wish the designer well.

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I am using a Chromebook for the same purpose.

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Forgive me for being cynical but wouldn’t most writers have their real computer by the side, with Wikipedia or something open for research, and the whole distracting Internet within reach?

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“””Pixel Qi touchscreen”””

is that a thing? is it alive? for real?
i thought pixel qi folded (no pun) years ago.

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So if it breaks all your backups are hostage to a random hosting company? What happens when they go bust?

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This project is so simple and so powerful … Less is more! … will reread … If it could attach to a printer .. even better … I like that screen!

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This is a GREAT idea. We need to get one of these to Gerge RR Martin and get him chained to a chair with it. Winter is here already … and the ice is starting to melt!!

Also re: Taylor Lautner – what seriously ??!?!!
Standards seem kind of low bar at Raspberry Pi… ;P

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I voted for Captain America, but I got overruled.

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yes very yummy -> C. Evans

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Don’t you have the Golden Vote?

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My girlfriend has a cheap Dell (basic last years model on sale) for writing without the wifi configured seems to do the job.
Still waiting for Harry Potter like money.

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the text on the info-panel shows a whitespace left margin yet the physical display shows an uncomfortable margin of zero.

The keyboard looks like one of those tiny 3/4 size jobs

The Pixel-Qi transflective screen is its only saving grace over a laptop with something like Sublime Text. Will Mary Lou Jepsen actually licence it out tho?

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What does this accomplish that a bootable live usb with a “writer’s linux distro” does not? An el cheapo netbook with that would get you everything asa someone will pack up a distro, apart from the screen.

/mneja

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Make it clicking while typing like Psion Revo !
Also it must do autosave when switching off, and have
very good lcd first.

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AlphaSmart, up to 700 hours a AA batteries.

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I told my Aunt about the Alphasmart Neo a while back, and she now has three of them. She absolutely loves them. Instant on/off. Long battery life. Easy to use. Very cheap on the used market. Not something you have to be afraid about getting stolen at a cafe.

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not sure I like the cloud-iness of it but the hardware and general idea is almost perfect. a serial port, proper parallel port and a cassette port would make it perfect

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Alphasmart anyone?

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An excellent idea, although *very* similar to the Freewrite (Hemingwrite as was): https://getfreewrite.com

I too have longed for a modern version of the Z88. I like the small form-factor and the photo-voltaic layer is intriguing. One to watch!

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I love this. It’s such a great idea.

At school I loved my Tandy / Amstrad portable word processor (I forget which it was). Brilliant to type on and definitely kept me focused even in the pre-internet days. That though was its downfall: pre-connectivity-to-anything also meant that when it periodically hiccupped, reset and lost all my work there was no backup. I soon learnt to use paper as my “cloud” backup solution.

On my Macbook Pro I use Writeroom to achieve the same effect.

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Looks interesting.

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It’s an interesting concept. I don’t feel I need one but if I had a school aged child I’d consider it for them.

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Cool idea… It’s going to need a top-notch keyboard though, for a writer’s device. None of that shallow rubbish :)

I think that’s why people still use TRS-80’s etc till today, the keyboards on those were excellent.

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That SCRIPTO is cool and recall my memories of days that with my Psion5MX

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Just posted this to social media hoping for an roaring vote for crowdfunding. Bring it to market…

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No Scripto trademark issues?

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What case is this using? If nothing else I’d like to mod my current PI Server into something more than a tangle of cables on my desk

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I think it’s a fantastic idea, but with some caveats.

1. It needs to be small enough to be really portable. I loved my Psion 5, which fit neatly in my pocket. That might be too small, but certainly on the smaller end of the netbook scale.

2. The keyboard needs to be really good. This is a device for typing, so don’t skimp on the quality and feel.

3. Also on the keyboard, scrutinise what every key does, and whether it’s needed. Do we need fiction keys? Do we need five shift keys (shift, ctrl, alt, fn, and the blank one between them)? Could home, end, etc be combined with the arrow keys? We should have enough keys to do everything, but leave out the unnecessary ones.

4. While we’re talking about the keyboard, make sure all the standard functions can be reached from the keyboard. On screen menus should also be there, but they really interrupt the typing flow, so once you know the commands, keyboard shortcuts rule the day.

5. If possible, have an SD slot for physical backup when the cloud isn’t available.

6. This is really important. Make sure the cloud storage can use all of the popular cloud services including Dropbox, Google drive, iCloud, etc.

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It would be awesome if the templates included one-hour TV drama, 1/2 hour TV comedy, and a general feature length script that was compatible with Final Draft or saved as a PDF! Scripto looks amazing!!

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Interesting and useful but how much does it cost?!

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My preference for distraction free writing is spiral top Clairefontaine notebook and a fountain pen (2 during nanowrimo with separate color inks). And this year is will be my iPod nano for some tunes… although I liked having Pandora skipping tracks can cause distraction.
hard to beet an analog solution. also. by doing a draft in longhand you are less likeiny to delete blocks of what you have written.

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Interesting to see how this compares to the Astrohaus Freewrite. I actually have an Epson HX-20 (and eventually will have a Tandy 102 and NEC6300) and am hoping to stick a Pi Zero W into their cases to take advantage of the existing nice keyboards and electronics and make my own writing/coding machine that is portable but so “fugly” it is unlikely to get stolen. :)

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Any significant progress on this? The company that sold Fusion Writers has gone out of business. Currently, there seem to be no replacement products on the market.

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