An Economic (Netbook) Office Setup Solution for Writers

April 17, 2009

NetBook Office Setup

I wrote at length about the advantages of netbooks for writers several months after these gadgets first stormed the scene. With the current state of the economy, the Founders’ Blog is getting more and more inquiries about the capabilities of these new computers. In response, I’ve taken the time to graphically depict what a productive office setup might look like as it relates to gadgets/technology and the netbook.

Let’s quickly eliminate a few skepticisms about netbooks. While a netbook is not as powerful as a laptop, it is adequate for a writer’s needs. Can a netbook run MS Word? Yes. What about Final Draft? Yes. Movie Magic? Of course. Writers have it easy – we deal with text, the whole text and nothin’ but the text. And netbooks are perfectly capable of running text-driven applications. I do caution a few things: before buying, make certain you purchase a netbook with at least 1GB of ram if it’s running Windows XP and at least 2GB of ram if it’s running Vista. Keep pictures and music to a minimum unless you are using the netbook to transport the files to the web.

On with the setup…

Great writers write…a lot. It’s important that you create a healthy, comfortable, work environment, because the longer you “stay at it” the better work you will produce. Each hardware gadget within your office environment setup should serve one of four purposes:

1) Increase productivity

2) Protect your literary assets

3) Keep you informed/connected

4) Help keep you organized

NetBook Office Setup

The biggest advantage to owning a netbook (along with its low cost) is the mobile platform it offers, but I wouldn’t want to use it as my main computer mainly because the keyboard and screen sizes tend to be too small for heavy usage. The netbook form factor works fine when you’re mobile, but when anchored to your home office, use the built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to your advantage. Connect a wireless/Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and extend outward to a 19″ – 24″ monitor. If your netbook has an Intel GMA 950 card it can push up to 2048 x 1536 resolution for both analog and digital displays. In this scenario the netbook acts solely as a CPU (central processing unit) and the extended hardware creates a comfortable ergonomic desktop environment.

In the picture above I’ve placed a 10″ netbook off to the right. You can keep the lid closed and powered on once you have the netbook setup correctly. This will give you the system you need at home, but also allow you to “pick up and go”.

1 – Printer – I suggest laser printers over inkjets because in the end you will save money on the amount of pages toner can yield vs ink cartridges. All-in-one models (fax, copy, print) can save you from the dreaded Kinkos trip. [Great article – inkjet vs laser]

2 – Filing System – Keep a filing system for not only printed copies of your work and copyrights, but papers in general. This helps keep your workspace free of clutter and your mind on the task at hand.

3 – Multiple MonitorsMultiple monitors improve productivity. This 19″ two-monitor setup illustrates the internet/email to the far left and your writing application on the right. I prefer 24″ monitors but if you’re using a docking station (see #11) there’s a good chance it limits the pixel push to 1680 x 1050 which looks great on a 19″ and not so great on a 24″.

4 – Ergonomic Chair – Next to your hardware, an ergonomic chair that fits your body type is the best investment you can make. You’re going to put long hours into becoming a great writer because there are no shortcuts. You might as well get comfortable.

5 – Wireless Keyboard and Mouse – The less wires/clutter the better. Spend a little more money for a keyboard with wrist padding and an ergonomic mouse. Go to Best Buy, Staples etc. and tryout the keyboard first, then comb the internet for the best deal.

6 – Smartphone – The smartphone is an essential tool for staying connected and staying informed. Email, texting, IM, web, and RSS feeds are all powerful tools in the palm of your hand via a smartphone. I champion the BlackBerry and will cover the topic in a later article, but for now start wrapping your brain around how smartphones can help you stay in the loop and help keep you organized.

7 – Backup Device A 1GB flashdrive is all you need to backup text files (i.e. scripts, novels, articles, etc). If you want to backup music and pictures as well, then look into external hard drives or 16 – 32GB flashdrives. Whatever the size… a BACKUP device must be an essential part of your office setup!

8 – Netbook – Reasons noted above.

9 – Laptop Bag – It may not be a part of the “office furniture” but it’s important you have a durable laptop bag that can quickly take your office setup mobile. Stay tuned for a comprehensive review of the best laptop bags on the market – coming in May.

10 – Shredder – It’s not indispensable but it is helpful for two reasons: 1) Recycling 2) Don’t ever throw whole copies of your work into a trash can, lest it end up on the Best Seller list unbeknownst to you.

11 – Docking Station (not shown) – If you had to connect your laptop/netbook to your monitor, AC adaptor and printer each time you used your “desktop” setup it would suck the wind out of using all that glorious technology. Docking stations convert a netbook/laptop into a desktop instantly because all of your extended hardware is already plugged into the dock. You simply have to connect the laptop via USB or other port.

Is there a video of the docking station in action? Yes, click here.

Are you sure this is an economical setup?
Remember the days when you could expect to spend no less than $2,000 for just the laptop? Well, it’s post whip-out-the-Visa era and time to be a little more mindful of our spending. Let’s assume you have a phone, Wi-Fi/internet, a desk and filing cabinet and your total budget for a new computer and gadgets is $1600. You can get the entire list of gadgets below for approximately $1034! Take the balance of $566 and purchase a Herman Miller Aeron ergonomic chair.

HP USB Docking Station – $139
HP Mini 1000 NetBook – $429 (16 GB SSD, WiFi, bluetooth, 10.2″ screen)
HP Laser Printer All-in-one – $161
Ergonomic Wireless Keyboard and Mouse – $38
Two 19″ Dell Monitors – $218 ($109 x 2)
Aurora Paper Shredder – $39
4 GB Flash Drive – $10


Total = $1034

Graphic Sources:,,

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Wood April 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I have to agree with what you said about an ergonomic chair being a great investment. You sit in it more than anything. If your looking for a cheaper version, I’d say check out or something? They have a great selection.


BeyondB.C. April 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I’m not a tech writer, I write history but it’s like I’m expected to know all this tech stuff and apply it to my world. Very frustrating for those of us who have to operate within a tech world in order to make a living. I appreciate the way this blog simplifies what may seem obvious to others. Keep it up.


ClamMan405 April 26, 2009 at 2:02 pm

working off a 10-inch screen would choke me but like you say it’s great for travel

same here – – an ergo chair is the best investment you can make


Mira's Desk May 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm

If you are looking to design a home office I would check out the furniture at the VQV Furniture Group. The have design specialists that can help you. Check them out at


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: