Celebrities throwing their names behind products are nothing new. Ronald Reagan hawked cigarettes, Kim Kardashian has her own mobile game, even the Simpsons made the jump. Still there's something odd about Tom Hanks being the driving force of interest in an iPad app. His recently launched Hanx Writer app puts a futuristic typewriter on the screen of your iPad, and it's been a hit on the charts since its release.
To a degree, my interest in the app is specifically because of Hanks' everyman modern Jimmy Stewart persona. After years of pop culture, for some reason, Tom Hanks is someone I instinctively trust. Apparently, this is my Kardashian app. Thankfully Hanx Writer is worth giving a test run, even if you never thought you'd enjoy playing on an typewriter.
The free version of the app gives you one typewriter to play with. It provides a nice clean piece of paper, an automatic slide, and the distinctive click-clack you would expect from a typewriter. Modern conveniences like spellcheck, copy/paste, and replace are all at your finger tips. The app even allows you to export your documents. Basically this is a fancy word processing tool, free of distractions beyond the hypnotizing click of the keys. When you're done you can read your work on a screen that looks like type on a fresh piece of paper. It's a beautiful, crisp interface.
Hanx Writer's onscreen keyboard is fast and responsive, though the ideal experience comes when you pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard. If you're just looking for a writing tool that simulates the joys of using a typewriter, the free version is fun enough. You can buy additional typewriters for $2.99 apiece, or buy the "Writer's Block Bundle" which comes with both additional models and extra features.
These extra features add the ability to align text on the page, add a title page and picture, change ribbon and the app's background colors, and manage multiple documents. Writing on a typewriter can be incredibly soothing and mixing its subtle aesthetic charms, both visual and aural, into a proper mini word processor with the Writer's Block Bundle will be an appealing proposition to many users.
For me, however, the free version is just fine. Part of the charm of using a typewriter is the simplicity of it, and if I need to manage documents I don't mind cutting and pasting text. There's something about the sound of a typewriter that makes free writing easier. It becomes less an exercise in writing something brilliant, and more a race to see how long you can keep the click-clack going before you run out of steam.
Many writers still enjoy using typewriters today because they lack the distractions of modern computers. You don't get that freedom when using Hanx Writer on your iPad unless you put your device in airplane mode first to get a little peace. It adds to the Hanx Writer experience when you use it like an actual typewriter. Some may write off these charms as simple nostalgia, but unless you've ever played with a typewriter you can't really judge for sure. Hanx Writer is a solid app that's worth trying for free, and you may find yourself wanting to throw down the extra money for the full featured version.