WASHINGTON — With movie hits including “Saving Private Ryan,” “A League of Their Own,” and “That Thing You Do!,” Tom Hanks has demonstrated a pretty good knack for recreating periods of history that resonate with a large audience.
So, it’s not surprising that Hanks’ iPad app “Hanx Writer,” which replicates the sounds and sights of using a manual typewriter, would quickly become one of the most popular applications in Apple’s App store.
Launched last month, the free app provides the clicking and clacking associated with pressing keys, the ding at the end of a typewritten line, even the xxxxx- ed out corrections that were required if a typist didn’t have Wite-out or correction tape handy.
Hanks (who teamed with developer Hitcents) says he bought his first typewriter in the 1970s, and has an impressive collection and ongoing appreciation of the vintage technology, despite today’s speedier alternatives.
“I use a manual typewriter — and the United States Postal Service — almost every day. My snail-mail letters and thank-you notes, office memos and to-do lists, and rough — and I mean very rough — drafts of story pages are messy things, but the creating of them satisfies me like few other daily tasks,” Hanks wrote in a 2013 New York Times op-ed, which, in retrospect, may have been shrewd marketing for his upcoming app.
“Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini- explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK,” Hanks wrote. “A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece.”
Part of the charm of the manual typing experience for Hanks was the imperfections.
“There is no shame in type-overs or XXXXXXiing out a word so mistyped that spell-check could not decipher it,” Hanks wrote.
Blending the old with the new
The app offers an on-screen keyboard, but also pairs with portable Bluetooth keyboards for a more authentic feel.
Users can insert virtual paper or manually scroll the “carriage” to better see where they are on the “page.”
In Settings, the user can opt to integrate modern digital conveniences — like backspacing — or go old-school, where xxxx-ed corrections are visible.
For a modern passenger on an airplane or subway, a Setting tweak can silence the banging and ringing.
And, for the true risk-taker, the cursor can be turned off.
Documents created on the Hanx Writer can be easily shared with email or social media.
Hanks acknowledges he’d likely turn to a computer to compose a legal brief or term paper. Yet, in a Twitter interview, Hanks says certain hard copy communications are more effective the old way.
“The notes and passages and journal entries that you want to have stick around for a bit,” tweeted Hanks. “For the love letter that has to look, you know, special. For the nine paragraphs that leap out of your mind…#HanxWriter.”
In-app purchase options include additional typewriter models, ribbon colors, and text alignment.
Hanks’ app isn’t the only one available — miTypewriter for iOS and TypeWriter for Android — hearken to earlier typing experiences.