AMITIAE - Thursday 14 August 2014

Hanx Writer: Simple Typewriter App for Creating Text - Backed by Tom Hanks

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Hanx Writer

When I was a student in Illinois in the mid-1980s, all my class writing was done on a series of typewriters. A particular professor would hold up any paper submitted to check for White-Out. More than three examples and into the trash it would go.

I was saved from this misery in three ways: I avoided his classes; I paid for work to be done by a professional typist; and the first personal computers arrived. We have come a long way since then, but the typewriter still lingers in some areas. We have several at my office.

Although it is a common myth that people do not create on the iPad, there are enough writing apps and text editors available to negate that; and I often make presentations directly onto the device as well as editing photographs. The iOS devices I have are devices for creation of content as well as content consumption.

Hanx Writer

Tom Hanks has an app: Hanx Writer. Yes, the Forrest Gump Tom Hanks. The Tom Hanks of Saving Private Ryan, of Sleeping in Seattle, Philadelphia, Apollo 13 and many other movies. As a creative force he has been behind some of my favourite series, like Band of Brothers and Pacific.

The app was released last week and has just been updated (v 1.0.1). It is a writer but one which emulates a typewriter, for those of us who want to experience the sense of typing while writing, without the need for White Out on the screen.

Hanx Writer

The app opens with a signature screen, then switches to a typed text from Hanks, explaining the rationale behind the app, including the way he would work, "without caring about typovers . . . because the feel & sound of a typewriter is satisfying in ways that could not be matched. --- Until now!"

That text will display fullscreen in portrait mode, but the app is really set up for landscape use when the typewriter is shown and an Add icon is available top right of the screen. When pressed, the Hanks' page is replaced by a clean sheet of virtual paper. Other controls then appear at the top of the screen.

The interface of what is shown as a Hanx Prime Select typewriter is available by default. Currently there are two other typewriter interfaces available as in-app purchases for $2.99 each: the Hanx 707; and the Hanx Golden Touch. A complete package of the typewriters plus additional writing tools (multiple documents, alignment, title page and picture, ribbon colours and background colours) costs $4.99 (160 baht).

Settings allow the user to toggle animation, sounds, delete styles and showing the cursor, but these - especially sound and animation - are part of the charm of this app.

Export of a text has a good set of options, including Mail and iBooks as well as several other apps that could make use of text. Sending a short text I created as a test, created a PDF which retained the appearance of the typed font. Using the iPad's own Select All and Copy commands, the text itself can be saved and used in other (text-based) media or apps. When I used this in Mail the text was Helvetica Regular 16.

A folder icon (top left) allows a user to view all pages, scroll between them and delete the file if necessary. It is also possible to open files and create new ones using a counter system to the right of the page. To the left at the top are controls for creating multiple documents, font changes (alignment, ribbon color) and a shopping cart icon. The Font icon shows a convenient word count, even without the additional purchases.

As well as the link to make purchases, the shopping cart has a preview mode so the other typewriters and the additional affects can be tried out. This includes the alignment and ribbons.

With the use of the Apple wireless keyboard, there is a certain feedback that the iPad keyboard itself lacks - at least for now. There is speculation that Apple will introduce haptic technology sometime in the future. With the external keyboard, the springiness of the keys, along with the sound as the characters are typed, gives a far more satisfying feel to the way output is being created.

When the wireless keyboard is used, an additional icon appears at the top of the screen to allow it to be disconnected: convenient. Text cannot be entered either with the wireless keyboard or the iPad keys if the page is displayed in portrait mode.

Hanx Writer

The developers, Hitcents, have a number of other apps available on the iTunes App Store, so it may be that Hanks has lent his name to the app, or even come up with the concept himself - creative as he is.

As this is a free app, users can decide for themselves whether the particular style of working suits them. Although I have a certain antipathy towards typewriters, the way this app works is certainly appealing and not just for the novelty value. I am still debating whether to purchase the full package ($4.99) or just part of it, but 160 baht is not going to cause a major dent in the wallet this week.

There could be a lot of mileage in an app like this, not only because of the name behind it, but the utter simplicity that Hanx Writer gives to the user when most want to start basic writing (or shopping lists) in applications that are heavy in features: formatting starts at the end of the writing, not the beginning.

Hanx Writer

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page

All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2014