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Hanx Writer created by Tom Hanks turns your iPad into a typewriter

Date

Tim Biggs

REVIEW

Actor and creator of Hanx Writer, Tom Hanks.

Actor and creator of Hanx Writer, Tom Hanks.

An iPad app created by actor Tom Hanks, lover and collector of vintage typewriters, has shot to the top of the App Store's "productivity" charts. 

Hanx Writer emulates the look and sound of writing with pre-computer technology. It offers some of the functionality of modern typing, with a few of the more charming aspects of composing a document on an analogue machine.

The on-screen keyboard is transformed into a clean but retro typewriter interface (those more serious about their writing can use their Bluetooth keyboard).

The on-screen keyboard is transformed into a clean but retro typewriter interface (those more serious about their writing can use their Bluetooth keyboard).

The iOS spell-checker is still there to underline any errors, which you can of course delete without the need for white tape (although there is an option to have the delete key overwrite your errors with a big X instead, for added authenticity), and each letter is rendered in a blotty, imperfect font that gives a very grand feeling to the document. Every tap of the keyboard is accompanied by a weighty-sounding chit

Sounds accompany your arrival at the end of a line or your holding down of the shift lever too, but the app is also notable for some of the bells and whistles not included. 

Once in a document the text is not as flexible to edit as you might expect from modern technology. Documents can be exported by email or any of your favourite cloud services, but it will arrive in an uneditable PDF form, its sketchy ink-like typeface intact. 

Though free to download, some of the features in Hanx Writer do require a purchase.

Though free to download, some of the features in Hanx Writer do require a purchase.

While this might make the app great for publishing manuscripts or documents straight to PDF, or making and printing cute old-school notes, it also makes it unsuitable for most work or digital applications.

Enhanced features like text alignment, background colours other than black, ribbon colours and the ability to make title pages are all available, but are only unlocked if you purchase one of the premium typewriters. These machines also offer different sounds and fonts – as though you're adding new old machines to your virtual collection – and you have to purchase at least one before you're given the ability to create and save more than one document at a time.

In a New York Times article last year Tom Hanks detailed what he believes to be the modern-day situations that can still benefit from the use of a typewriter.

"For less important doodles in text, the kind that go no further than your desk or refrigerator door, the tactile pleasure of typing old school is incomparable", Hanks wrote.

"Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of shook shook shook. A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece."

In that sense Hanx Writer serves much the same purpose, providing an easy way to create warm-looking and uncomplicated documents or notes quickly, although to come close to matching the convenience of the real thing you'll need to buy the added extras and have a wireless printer handy.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @weeklyrift

7 comments so far

  • Je, Je ne suis pas intéressé par la médiocrité...

    Commenter
    Je
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 19, 2014, 3:23PM
    • I'd question your use of "analogue": surely this is as "digital" as any other app, but it may mimic a "manual" typewriter. Over to those who wish to discuss whether we're talking digital, analogue or discrete.

      Commenter
      Brother
      Location
      Somewhere Imperial
      Date and time
      August 19, 2014, 3:28PM
      • One wonders how many of the over-enthusiastic fans actually used a manual typewriter (or for instance considered taking one in a long flight to work on their memoirs or down to their local coffee shop to type up a report). These technologies are obsolete for a reason: please leave them be!

        Tom Hanks may be able to lounge around fiddling with an ageing Remington while listening to his scratchy vinyl records but most of us simply rejoice in the choices that modern technology delivers.

        Commenter
        prongs
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        August 20, 2014, 7:20AM
        • Typewriters! Pah. I have all my texts written out by an electric monk with a goose feather quill. Writing's just not the same without that element of endless drudgery.

          Commenter
          Ae7flux
          Date and time
          August 20, 2014, 1:44PM
          • "Though free to download, some of the features in Hanx Writer do require a purchase."

            What is the point of being able to download features for free if you have to pay to use them?

            Or did you mean something else?

            Commenter
            Robert
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            August 20, 2014, 2:06PM
            • Hanx Writer is free to download, but some of the features are locked until you make a purchase.

              Commenter
              Tim Biggs
              Date and time
              August 21, 2014, 6:53AM
          • I tried five times and brought the app and still the same problem I spend four hours to fix the problem and still it would not function. It's not for me and a waste of money.

            Commenter
            dozmonzoo@yahoo.com.au
            Date and time
            October 11, 2014, 6:34PM

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