It was inevitable: Tom Hanks’s famous obsession with manual typewriters has been perverted into Hanx Writer, an ironic iPad app designed to mimic the experience of using a manual typewriter. I chuckled when I saw it featured in the app store, remembering this anecdote of the clever folks at Nerdist bribing Mr. Hanks with a vintage typewriter (it worked).
I gave it a whirl, and find it to be a delightful novelty app. With further development of fonts, ribbons, machines, it could be the typewriter version of Hipstamatic, a retro film camera effects app. Hanx Writer is free to download. Add-ons are available for purchase from within the app.
The New York Times published Mr. Hanks ode to the typewriter last year (“I am Tom. I like to TYPE. Hear that?“). He admits using a computer for longer-form writing, but the typewriter is his tool of choice for shorter treatments like rough ideas, correspondence, and lists. His description of the “tactile pleasure” in using a typewriter is joyfully poetic:
“Computer keyboards make a mousy tappy tap tappy tap like ones you hear in a Starbucks — work may be getting done but it sounds cozy and small, like knitting needles creating a pair of socks. 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.”
Hanx Writer is a sweet digital nod to the typewriter. The action is good, almost like using a well-oiled machine. A few places I would like to see the app truer to a real typewriter:
- Carriage return at the end of a line
- Ability to set line spacing
- Correction tape, for that old-school editing look
- Typeover ability, to do XXX when you’ve changed your mind
The only output offered is sending to PDF. I hope in the future the app will send files as text. Hanxwriter would be my new note taking and list making app if I could start with the app and finish on my laptop.
Bottom line: Quirky fun, but hold off on the premium features.