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 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.
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.
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