Tale of the dueling typewriter apps

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Welcome to the technological frontier of 2014: Dueling typewriter apps for the iPad.

Our first contender, Hanx Writer, topped iTunes charts in its first two weeks. It comes from Tom Hanks -- yes, the Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. What does a big box-office star have to do with tyepwriters? Well, he really likes them. He collects them. Of the app, he says, “With Hanx Writer, you’ll hear the rhythm of your work with SHOOK SHOOK or FITT-FITT.” That’s typewriter love.

The upstart rival, Typing Writer, was launched in July by The Rumpus. The literary website’s founder, Stephen Elliott, teamed up with Eli Horowitz, Chris Ying and Russell Quinn (McSweeney’s, The Silent History) to create an iPad app that would re-create the typwriter experience for writers. While they didn’t get onomatopoeic in their description, they do promise that their app will make typwriter sounds.

What do they do, exactly? Hanx Writer “re-creates the experience of a manual typewriter, but with the ease and speed of an iPad.” Which means yes, you get to continues using your “delete” key. With a couple of in-app packages, the look and feel of the Hanx Writer can be changed to teal-green keys or white keys with gold lettering, with additional features including different-colored inks.


Typing Writer “works just like your old typewriter,” The Rumpus promises, without the ability to do things like cut and paste. “When you type over something, you still see the original letter underneath.” It has no “delete” key, instead bringing back a digital version of everyone’s favorite correction fluid, White-Out. “Press your finger on the page and a white-out brush appears. Brush over a letter or a word. There will still be a white splotch, of course. That’s how white-out works.”

While Hanx Writer delights in the nostalgia of analog typing machines, Typing Writer strives to use that toward a specific end, getting writers to write. It comes loaded with first drafts from authors Jim Shepard, Melissa Febos, Amy Brill, Tao Lin, Rick Moody -- plus creators Eli Horowitz and Stephen Elliott -- to demonstrate “the iomportance of getting your work on the page.”

Documents typed in Typing Writer can be exported to any word-processing software, opened, and re-drafted, while those created in Hanx Writer can be exported to PDF and printed exactly as they appeared on the screen.

As for the cost, Hanx Writer is free to download, with add-on bundles that cost $2.99 and $4.99. Typing Writer costs $1.99.

Hanx Writer may be best for play, while Typing Writer is geared toward work. But since Hanx Writer is free, the working-and-playing writer can download both and get typing.

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