Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Typewriter simulation apps: a mini-review

No real typing on a plane: it would be obnoxious to my fellow passengers, and I didn't even bring a typewriter. (There's one waiting for me in California.) But I can amuse myself with my three virtual mini-typewriter apps on my iPhone. 

I can't say I enjoy doing any writing on a tiny touch screen. My thumbs can't type the way young thumbs do, my index finger is slow and inaccurate on this miniature three-row keyboard with no tactile feedback, and autocorrect is an enemy as well as a friend. As for dictation, yuck. I don't like talking to machines. 

But given these limitations, which app works best? I tested them using the little-known dialect of Montenegrin favored by the Romanian minority when speaking yeggman's argot with Peloponnesians. 

miTypewriter has been around the longest and most convincingly simulates a typewriter, with its four-row keyboard, return lever, color change switch, moving typebars and ribbons, and other attractive details that seem to be inspired by a 1930s Remington portable. 

It can only be used in horizontal mode, and there isn't much room for the text. The backspace key works like a delete key. The text looks like a typical dark faux-typewriter font. It can be shared as image or text. 

The Amazing Type-Writer takes the opposite approach. The interface looks nothing like a typewriter, but the output is impressive. 

The darkness of the characters varies randomly. You can't delete, but you can move the typing point to any spot on your "card" to create all sorts of typewriter art. I often see texts created with this app on Instagram. You can also post a card on the developer's site, and other users can add to it in a unique form of collaboration. This app can be used only in vertical mode and it creates images only, not digital text. 

Then there is the now famous Hanx Writer, the brainchild of Tom Hanks. It offers several different typewriters as in-app purchases, beyond the basic free device. All are three-bank writers with well-animated key motion. 

This app can be used in vertical or horizontal mode. 

Each Hanx typewriter has its own font. You can either use the backspacer to delete, or use it to X out your typing. Oddly, if you X something out, the cursor ends up before the X'ed out text and unless you move the cursor, as you write, the X'ed text is pushed along in front of you. Your text can be shared as a PDF and the keyboards can be used with other apps. 

Each of these apps has its points. None of them is much more than a fun novelty, although the makers of Hanx Writer recommend trying it with a wireless keyboard for a more serious writing experience. That might work with miTypewriter too. The Amazing Type-Writer gets my vote for the most artistic potential. 

Do you have any other typewriter apps?


  1. Apps? I can't figure out how to work the damned smart-phone yet! Is that a real language?

  2. Would be great if we could get such apps on a Chromebook.

  3. We (kids and I) tried Hanx and MiTypewriter on the iPad, and loved Hanx and got rid of MiTypewriter. There are going to be flaws with any app that tries to be a typewriter simulator, but we just preferred the flaws of Hanx. Messing around with exporting the PDF, we discovered that you can uncover the x-out text, which is quite fun - or annoying. We also like the fact that Hanx allows you to attach a virtual polaroid onto the cover of your document, making inadvertent reading of other people's WIP less likely, and customising your front page to look as scary or stupid as possible to other members of the family is addictive... almost as good as a real typewriter. Have fun on your trip!

  4. I'm still in love with "Typewriter Keyboard", a typewriter sound app for Mac laptops from AlphaOmega Software.

    Allows you to program your Mac to sound like a manual typewriter. Sounds are included (or you can use your own wav files).

    And you have complete control over which of your keys make which sounds.

    With this cheap piece of software, laptop writing sounds the way writing should. :)

  5. Hello. You might like to try my online typewriter simulator, OverType. http://uniqcode.com/typewriter

    You can print from it using your browser's standard print function. A Pro version is forthcoming which features the ability to export what you've typed as plain text, and can be loaded locally without internet access, as many authors have contacted me wanting to use it as a distraction-free writing environment.

    I'm afraid it doesn't work with touchscreens (yet), you'll need to be on a computer with a keyboard.

    1. Thanks! It is a clever simulator and I'm glad that you're producing the Pro version.