I love my Palm M515 PDA. It's a pocket computer about the size of a deck of cards. I use it to take notes during interviews and to write various documents while I'm away from home. I have a folding keyboard to which it attaches in a second; the keyboard folds down to the size of an eight-track tape or less. Both the PDA and keyboard fit easily inside my purse, smaller than my wallet. If I could afford a cell phone with a wireless internet connection, I could write my stories in the field and e-mail them to an editor. I have no reason to work that quickly, given the nature of my stories right now, but I do know there are practical reasons for some writers to be able to do this on deadline. And there are newer devices that include the features of my M515 as well as cell phone and internet connectivity. (Blackberry is one such device. Some day I'll upgrade.)
My Palm uses a word processing program called Documents to Go which integrates seamlessly with my desktop PC at home. I also have a spreadsheet program. There's a cradle with a USB connector that allows me to download documents with a push of the button. It also serves to recharge the Palm.
My handwriting is lousy, but I'm a great, fast typist. I can take notes as someone speaks and stay right with them, infrequently having to ask for clarification or a repeat to make sure my fingers didn't betray me. Most people are so fascinated by this tiny device that they don't mind one bit if I have to ask a question -- it would be much worse if I had to write by hand.
Anyway, it's a wonderful piece of technology that really benefits me in many ways. My handwriting is so poor that I can't read my own notes more than an hour after I take them. Seriously. So my accuracy is better. I've had some major CEOs write to me after reading my stories, thanking me for quoting them so accurately. For a journalist, that's a big compliment!
It saves me a lot of time, too, not having to transcribe notes. I push a button and the file is transferred into my computer. I do a little polishing and it's usually ready to go with minimal effort. That gives me more time to blog silly ideas.
It also has changed my interview techniques, I've noticed. I'm more inclined to conduct the interview with a mind to shaping the story as I type. Sometimes that is a very bad idea, because you can be packing up to leave when one innocuous comment can make you realize you've missed the boat and need to ask more questions to get the real story. But that's OK... cut and paste works just fine for moving those sections around and moving important information higher in the final product.
My second favorite bit of technology, as far as writing goes, is a cordless phone with a jack for a headset. I have one in my office, and when I'm working, most of the time I have it next to my keyboard with the headset around my neck. That leaves my hands free for typing while talking to someone, plus it spares my neck. No more trying to hold a phone between my ear and shoulder! When I'm finished working, the phone goes back in its recharging cradle and the headset goes in a basket within easy reach of my desk.
So what devices do you have that make life easier, especially in your work? Let's share some ideas -- maybe we'll learn something or teach something!