The first thing you learn upon beginning to type in Tom Hanks' new typewriter app, Hanx Writer, is how reliant you've secretly always been on autocorrect. The second thing is that the sound your iPad is making is going to annoy a lot of people. (Sorry Dieter.)
Tom Hanks is somewhat famous for his love of typewriters. He even wrote about his love in The New York Times. (Wait I'm supposed to italicize that but I can't figure out how in this app.) In an effort to bring his passion into the digital age, he launched an app called Hanx Writer. Hanx Writer is, essentially, a typewriter on your iPad. Kind of. Mostly it's just an old-timey keyboard that makes a sound that is sort of but not really like that of a typewriter. It's shallow and small, but you would certainly recognize the sound.
(Dieter just stormed out of our office and slammed the door. I don't think he likes the sound.)
As you type, the page scrolls across the screen as a typewriter would; when you reach the end of a line it dings and slides back. The keys appear to press in on the screen as you tap them, though of course you'll feel none of it. I feel like I'm chasing the keys around, not firmly pressing one of them to make Words On Paper. The default setup is black and white, but there are other "themes" for sale in the app. You can also pay for ribbon or background colors, or get the whole kit as part of the $4.99 Writer's Block Bundle.
Hanx Writer is either a lovely throwback to an analog lifestyle, or the most impossibly egregious example of skeumorphism the world has ever seen. I've changed my mind on the subject a hundred times so far.
Hanks, the typewriter aficionado himself, says the app is designed to make you slow down a bit as you type, forcing a clarity of thinking he says is powerful. I'm sure not going to judge Tom Hanks — whatever he's doing, it's working — but this app is kind of impossible. It's loud and slow and loud and complicated and loud. It's a little easier to use with a Bluetooth keyboard, but then all you really see is a blur of a thing pressing letters onto a page and your words moving right to left as you type. At least the font is nice, I guess?
Inside this epic nostalgia storm are a few more modern touches. You can delete things, for instance, which is key, because otherwise this post would have something like three-quarters of its words misspelled. (I'm telling you: life without autocorrect is no life at all.) You can save and share documents, and the blinking cursor helps keep you in place. You could strip away all the anachronisms and have a pretty nice writing app, actually. But Hanx Writer is all about the clacking and the pressing and the things you really can't replace with a screen no matter how hard you try.
If you miss a typewriter, sure, get Hanx Writer. It's free. It's weird. It's fun. But after using Hanx Writer for a while, I'm pretty sure we've improved the typing process since the last time we all hammered loud keys onto paper. If nothing else, fifteen minutes of using Hanx Writer and the sound of typing on my laptop keys suddenly seems like perfect, harmonious silence.
Okay Dieter, I'm done. You can come back in our office now.