#52Tech Week 35 – Typewriter Apps

Anyone watching the net lately will be well aware of Tom Hank’s typewriter app hitting the iOS appstore and smashing records for the productivity and overall categories. I’ve left it a couple of weeks before profiling the Hanx Writer App and alternatives.

The Hanx Typewriter App (iPAD only)

hanx writer

I guess you have to say it – put a [trustworthy] celebrity name to most things, and media will attend, and people will buy. The Hanx Typewriter is a pretty nice app, all-told. The free version lets you type away with typewriting sounds, but I had to cough up AUS$6.49 for the two additional typewriter packages which provided coloured ribbons,  a front title page with a set small polaroid photograph, and more importantly – text alignment and multiple documents. These upgrades are previewable before you purchase them.

That cost got me two more colours of ribbon – red and blue, and some background colours behind the typewriters. And of course, there’s no formatting ability with a vintage type set, but the app does pair with a bluetooth keyboard if you have one, and I must admit, it is nice to go all retro. I wish I’d kept hold of my own typewriters I learnt typing on decades ago.

I also learnt how reliant I have become on modern day’s autocorrect and spellchecks – which don’t exist in this app. A couple of modern changes to the vintage typewriter in Hanx Writer – a delete key (if you turn this off, you can XXX out your typos), and no carriage return – the app automatically wraps onto the next line. Animations (key depresses) and sounds can be turned off if they become annoying, but the app does keep up with the modern day typist pretty well.

The app has a large issue for writers in the current state – you can only export a document as a PDF and upload to a cloud service or emailed as an attachment. So don’t spend time typing away at that coffee shop, hoping to work on your manuscript once you get home – unless you workaround this format problem using copy/paste and another app. In fact, it’s more a formatter for that typewritten look, rather than a true writer app.

Tom Hanks collects vintage typewriters, and marketed that information in a NY Times article a year ago, and recently in an interview with Apple’s @appstore twitter account where he discussed his objectives in having the app created –

“I wanted to have the sensation of an old manual typewriter – I wanted the sound of typing if nothing else…cause I find it’s like music that spurs along the creative urge. Bang bang clack-clack-clack puckapuckapuckapucka… I wanted the ‘report’ of each letter, each line.”

So, if you’re after an app that recreates perfectly the sound, look and fonts of three particular vintage models, then the app may be for you. The Hanx Prime Select comes in the free app; the Hanx 707 is a green travel typewriter model; and the Hanx Golden Touch is, well, golden. Each is available with various other features, or you can currently buy the bundle with all. Hanx Writer was created by Hitcents.com Inc, the same company that produced Draw a Stickman app, to teach us how to draw a stick man in a game.


Hanks, who Tweets regularly (with the hashtag #hanx) also tweeted the above picture of himself at the time of releasing the app, showing he uses more traditional keyboards when working.

So, is Hanx Writer worthwhile, from a novelty perspective? Many of us, with memories of using (or at least watching) old typewriters have a romantic and nostalgic viewpoint of writing – that’s why many of our writing word processing apps come with typewriter sound effects installed. And actually, the main Hanx Writer app is free, and offers some nice playtime with typing to the sounds of an old typewriter. If it’s further developed with useful export options, then it could remain on my own iPad for some time, when I’m feeling the need to hear myself write.

Like Hanks, I love old typewriters, although they are not readily available to collect around here. And I can’t access – or afford – one of those old restored USB typewriters (below). So, yeah. It’s good.


Alternative Typewriter Apps

Several desktop and iOS apps have typewriter functions (at least noise wise). If you want options, try:

  • miTypewriter – iPhone or iPad app, each for $1, which has two sets of fonts, two ribbon colours, and exports as image or text. iOS Store Link. or iPad version.
  • Write Only – iPhone or iPad, free. Exports as PDF only, but you can type anywhere on the page.  iOS Store Link.
  • Electratype – iPad, free. Lots of typewriters to choose from, including a toy typewriter. Send to social media or via email. iOS Store Link.
  • Typing Writer – iPAD, $2. If you really want to envoke the old typewriter feel, try this one – it even supplies whiteout for typing overtop of your mistakes. iOS Store Link.
  • Typewriter (Android) – for about $2, this is an app with an old typewriter look. Send via email or MMS messages. Google Play Link.
  • Visual Typewriter – Windows – Visual Typewriter by Nolad is a free download app for Windows desktop. Export as PDF, html or via email. Link.
  • Write Monkey – Windows, free – zenware. Write Monkey is one of those simple stripped down distraction-free but full-featured writing programs available for writers to download, but also comes with typewriter sounds for when you want to hear your typing. Full Markdown support also.  Link.
  • Q10 – Windows, free – zenware. Similar distraction-free full-featured writing app for Windows. Includes typewriter key sounds. Link.
  • WriteRoom – Mac and iOS – $13. Distraction free typewriter-like writing environment for Mac. The developer’s site appears down at the moment, so link is to Mac App Store.
  • FocusWriter – Mac, Linux, Windows, free – zenware. Like the above, another good distraction-free environment which also offers typewriter sounds. Link.

#52Tech: This was Week 35 post in the #52tech goal – to investigate and share one technology post once a week for 2014. You can find all the posts indexed via the #52tech tag, or top menu option at hunterswritings.com

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