Tom Hanks is a typewriter nut. It’s a strange passion for a film star but I can understand his love for typewriters. I spent most of my working life pounding away of mechanical and electric machines and I miss the tactile feedback.
Other aspects I don’t miss–correcting mistakes, carbon paper, having to retype entire documents when extensive revision is necessary. Modern authors have things easy with corrections, revisions and speed of production. Only last week I published an article about modern kids’ reaction to the typewriter. They are not impressed.
Hanx Writer is a new free app which more or less faithfully reproduces the typing experience of an old manual machine. The key clicks are loud enough and sound authentic; the typebars even pound the page although, perhaps, mercifully, the ribbon doesn’t rise to the occasion. You can if, you wish, turn off modern delete and revert to the old practice of crossing out. But that’s a step too far so I switched back to the modern delete.
While the basic app is free, you need to spend £2.99 if you want extra features such as a second ribbon colour or multiple documents. It is worth the money for the sheer pleasure of reproducing an old typewriter on your iPad.
When using Hanx Writer with the iPad’s virtual keyboard, the keys depress and you get a real feeling of pounding on a physical keyboard. However, the app works best with an external keyboard. There appears to be no way to control the filing of documents and no options to save to specific locations, such as Dropbox. But then I don’t think Hanx Writer is intended to be a serious tool. The only way to process files is to open them in a selection of note applications already on the iPad (but most of the usual plain-text editors are not supported) or to send by email or message.
If you suffer from typewriter nostalgia I would recommend downloading the free application from the Apple App Store. I bought the added bundle just to see what it adds to the party. The answer is very little except for coloured backgrounds, alternative typewriter images and the ability to store multiple documents.
I cannot wait to try this out in Starbucks: How to annoy people without really trying.
Postscript: Within a day or two of launch, Hanx Writer has shot to the top of the App Store ratings. Seems like there’s an awful lot of interest in simulating these old typewriters.