How to use an Alphasmart

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How to use an Alphasmart
About the AlphaSmart
The Alpha Smart AlphaSmart is a small keyboard that enables you to take notes. It runs on batteries and has the memory capacity to store 8 separate 12 ½ page documents. It also has a spell checker and calculator. Each character is stored as it is typed; so there is no need to save your work as you go. Everything is stored if the batteries run out. When the battery indicator is low, please notify one of the disability support officers who will issue you with new batteries.
Top row buttons – the function keys

File 1 - this opens file one

File 2 - 8 opens each file

Print - if there was a printer attached this would be the button to use

Spell check - this will spell check current file

Find - use to find word phrase in current document

Clear file - this will delete all information in the file

Home - takes cursor to the beginning of the document

End - takes cursor to the end of the document

Applets - this gives the option to change from the 'word' application, to the 'calculator' application and 'alpha keys' this shows the keyboard and what symbols are available when different keys are pressed.


The AlphaSmart has a spellchecker, just use the spell check button. You can add custom words on this mode.

Cut copy and paste

These use the same keyboard keys as a pc; they are listed on the underside of the Alphasmart in case you forget!


The Alpha Smart takes 3 AA batteries (come and get a new set of batteries if it says its low on power, from Scott in FH006) according to the manual it will tell you its got a low battery when there are 8 hours worth of power left in them, so no need to panic if it happens while you are working.

To move between files:

Press the file 1 key to go to File 1

Press the file 2 key to go to File 2

Press the file 3 key to go to File 3


When a file is full, a message will be displayed which reads: File is full. Use another file or send data to a computer.

File Status

The file status dialog can be accessed by pressing Command-I while in a file. The dialog displays the current number of pages in a file, and how much space is left.


We have received numerous comments over the years regarding the noise made when typing on an Alpha Smart keyboard. We can advise you to rest the keyboard on something soft either a jumper/jacket or a mouse mat. This will help to muffle the sound and keep the complaints at bay. You can also point out to your student that you do not have to sit together!

Connecting to a PC

Each student will have notes for many lectures, some of which will occur on the same day and during the week for the same subject, so it is important that files have a unique name.

Student name, date, time.

Seldon S 2OCT07 3pm.rtf

Downloading notes

Any computer can be used, as the AlphaSmart attaches as an extra keyboard there is no requirement for extra software installation on any machine, and can be used with apple computers as well. The Alpha Smart needs to be plugged into the PC using the cable. The AlphaSmart is clearly labelled in showing the correct place to plug this in (the one on the right). To download your notes connect the AlphaSmart to the computer using the USB cable provided. The AlphaSmart screen will display instructions on sending the notes to the computer (press the send key!) and which file is currently open.

On the computer, open a word processing package, and ensure that the focus is on the document (cursor flashing on the blank page)

Press the send key on the AlphaSmart, and you should see the notes stream onto the screen.

To download more that one file at a time, open a new document on the computer for each file you are downloading and to swap on the AlphaSmart to the next file press the command key (z key) and the file key together. The screen will display the new file number and then press send again to

send the file. After disconnecting the AlphaSmart from the computer, delete the files from the AlphaSmart (you will have to confirm this with Y)

Saving onto pen drives

To ensure that we do not lose any notes through email etc. A 1 gigabyte USB pen drive has been loaned in order for you to keep a copy of all the notes that you send. This is to be returned at the end of the Year with the AlphaSmart. Do not lend to anyone, the notes are meant for the individual students use only.

Live notetaking

Use the USB cable to connect the AlphaSmart to the laptop. The laptop will be in front of the student, and the AlphaSmart in front of you. On the laptop, open a Word processing blank file enter the lecture details at the top of the document and save this with the agreed filename, set the font size and type to one that the student can follow during the course of the session. I recommend this should be larger than you normally would use to type a document, as the student will be trying to follow information here and also directly from the lecturer and the presentation if present. If you get a chance during the session, save the document as it is stored directly on the laptop, not on the AlphaSmart at all, using the save keyboard command (Ctrl+S, the AlphaSmart command

key is the control key). The screen on the AlphaSmart will not show the words you are typing, but they will appear on the screen of the laptop.
Saving the notes for the student

In the case of the student having their own laptop, they can save the

Word files themselves, using their own filename and location. If you have a loan laptop. Save the notes onto your USB pen and use the filename suggested for notes, email this to as soon as you leave the lecture.

If you are fortunate to have Office 2007, please remember that not all Students (or university staff for that matter) have the ability to open the new file formats, and also we cannot assume that the student is using Office!! There are many different word processing options that they could be using as well as different computer types. While most packages can open '.doc files' not all can, so

Please save files in RTF (rich text file) and avoid using punctuation in the filename also as this will confuse the geriatric computers out there!!
File Names
To give each file a unique name for each individual student please follow

this naming convention

Student Name, Date time.rtf

Seldon S 2OCT07 3PM.rtf

Word will try and use the first line of text as the filename, so if this is the first line in your file, it will help you to get it right!!

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