I've just picked up a second hand Psion 5MX with the intention of using it to fit in the gap between when not at a desk/laptop and when in need of more than just a phone for jotting notes.

I've found the keyboard a little 'viscose' at first, but am slowly getting used to it. It's registering the spacebar hits that seems to be the most problematic so far. While I would be more comfortable at a laptop, the 25-40 hour battery life of the Psion and its complete lack of distractions might still win out in the end.

I've heard people claim to have written books and articles for publication on them. It is the distraction-free and long-life aspect I find interesting and am wondering whether to pursue writing on the device for those aspects in particular.


Do people write substantial[0] works on electronic devices[1] like these that are not laptops? If so, what factors are most important (either in the device or in how you use it), and what are the pitfalls to watch out for?


I have had time in the intervening days to type up some web content and book outlines on the device and so far it is fitting into the gap between phone notes (almost useless in comparison) and at-desk laptop sessions (with all the other distractions that entails) very well. I'd be keen to hear impressions of others who are straying away from their PCs to write


[0] i.e. of personal or professional importance

[1] Important in my case to avoid time spent typing up from paper.

  • 1
    This is about using a writing tool, but there's no specific question here. Do you have particular concerns about this machine as a writing tool? Asking for general impressions isn't the sort of question that does well here; for information about why that's the case, please have a look at our site tour. Sep 15, 2015 at 19:44
  • Welcome to Writers. As Neil said, it looks like you haven't asked a specific question here. This site works best with specific, answerable questions; it's not a discussion forum, which would be more conducive to surveys like this. I'm putting this on hold temporarily; please check out our short tour and then ]edit] the question and we can reopen it. Thanks for understanding. Sep 17, 2015 at 19:34
  • Thanks to you both for the warm and soft landing. If the edits made don't hold water, I'm happy to retract. It really boils down to productivity and motivation methods, I suppose, and the tools folks consider using in their work. Appreciate the help shaping it into a more useful query.
    – luxpir
    Sep 18, 2015 at 10:45
  • @Luke thanks for the edit. I've made a few more changes to make this a little more objectively answerable and reopened. I think my changes are consistent with your intent (or I wouldn't have made them) but if I'm wrong, please accept my apologies and edit further. Sep 18, 2015 at 18:22

5 Answers 5


Surely this is purely a matter of personal opinion and habit. I have written very long pieces on Palm PDAs using handwriting recognition (of a sort). It wasn't ideal. I have also written in exercise books with pens. Although I say that some types of devices, such as ipads, are very difficult to compose on, others disagree strongly. You have to find what works for you.

  • Interesting response. I can imagine handwriting into digital format would not be ideal at all, although I can see the appeal. iPads would not compare favourably to the Psion in terms of distraction-free writing as their battery life is around 1/4, keyboard either external or 'unusual' to use on-screen and distractions abound. I agree that 'what works for you' is the best approach, and that's what I'm iterating through at the moment.
    – luxpir
    Sep 18, 2015 at 10:51

If it works for you, who cares whether it works for someone else or not?

Personally, I find writing without a full-size keyboard awkward and tedious. But if you have no problem with it, well, good for you.

  • Fair point. It's really a question to gauge the value of pursuing with the palmtop as a tool, as hopefully better articulated in edited question. The keyboard itself is actually some 90% size of my laptop keyboard, which was part of the draw. It's still quite possible to touch type on it once accustomed to the action of the keys themselves.
    – luxpir
    Sep 18, 2015 at 10:47

I used my Psion 5MX on long trips to other countries (Europe, Africa, South America) and wrote entire chapters of some of my books on it. Loved the (average for me) 28-hour battery life, plus the fact that instead of looking for a place to plug in a charger, I would just pop out the 2 AA batteries and replace them and keep going. Once my batteries went dead on a long flight, and remembered the external flash for my camera used AA's. Solved my problem. Plus the advantage of being an easy fit for an inside coat pocket. Alas, my screen cable broke. (I see the cable is now available on Ebay. Maybe I will try to fix it.) I replaced it with an HP Jornada 720, which I also love, though the battery is around 8-9 hours.

Hope this helps!

Dr. Steve, central Mexico

  • Really like stories like these, thanks for chiming in! I presume this was some time ago? What did you write? I'm going to get the Psion back out for a play and see if I can't be inspired to plug away at a few chapters of my own.
    – luxpir
    Sep 7, 2016 at 12:47

It is certainly possible. See these two news stories:

I recall a third story about a science fiction novel written by a UK author on an underground train in London, over a course of several months.

I guess it depends how desperate for time you are, and how devoted you are to your story. (Or how bored you get on the train.)

Just be sure to take regular backups.


I bought a Psion 5mx three years ago for exactly the same reason. And also because I am a fan of vintage palm PCs. But it seems mine was not in a great condition. I felt malfunctions and once even got my whole drive reset (I did not save my data on a storage card so it was lost and I was very frustrated.) It was also very hard sending everything to the normal PC. And what I found most disappointing I could not write in Bulgarian with it - no language support than its natively installed. Otherwise it was fun using it. I even planned learning how to program on it. But I got mine really cheap. Now I see on ebay they are quite expensive and I don't think it's worth all that money. I think I'd rather use pen and paper if I want something for creative writing :D I also felt very well with my ultrabook with SSD - it is light, fast and battery holds for 4-5 hours on Ubuntu and more on Windows.

  • I've had mine nearly a year now and have had some of the same issues. The AA rechargeables hold up for a month, but I've ended up not using it between charges, so wiping it every time. For file transfer I saved to CF card, using more battery but obviously 'safer'. I had a CF card from my Dell Axim days, a few gigabytes in size, plenty for writing. Thankfully I managed to get mine relatively cheaply, so no major loss. I might have another go at using it but in all truth the vast majority of my last year's writing has been on a laptop, full-size keyboard. Same as you, basically. Which ultrabook?
    – luxpir
    Sep 7, 2016 at 12:45
  • I am using a Lenovo Yoga 2 13 inch FHD with 256 GB SSD and intel i7. This is my only computer and I am using it for everything. I am not aware of Lenovo's new models. But I think that there are also 11 inch laptops if you prefer more mobility. The Psion is an interesting peace of equipment but it is more for collecting now. I would like to feel comfortable when I am writing and prefer modern devices to do work. There are ways to limit the distractions. For example on Ubuntu I am using Vim editor on some projects and it is a full screen terminal. Sep 7, 2016 at 17:25
  • Thanks. Sounds like a great tool. I'm lining up my next machine. The Asus UX360CA is the top pick. Fanless, tablet/PC, 10+ hours battery life. At present I'm using an old (2010/11) Lenovo x120e but it's still extremely fast because I run i3 as window manager and like you do a lot of writing in the terminal with markdown and pandoc. Email client is mutt, chat via finch and irssi over mosh and tmux... a lot of CLI going on. But better handling of AES instructions (for encrypted archives) and virtual machines would be welcome. I'm also coming to the conclusion that full-size is the best way.
    – luxpir
    Sep 9, 2016 at 9:29

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