For those of us who keep an eye on the hits and misses of the App Store, this has been a very surprising week. It’s relatively rare for a writing app to hit the top of Apple’s charts; it’s even rarer for that writing app to be an ode to a time before computers. But then again, very few apps are devised by a Great of Hollywood…
Hanx Writer (free, iPad only)
This retro writing environment comes from the brain of Tom Hanks, and it can best be described as a typewriting simulator. Each press of an on-screen key is accompanied by a mechanical “clack” from the iPad’s speaker, and each line is finished with an audio replication of the return action. The whole thing is quaint, historically accurate, well designed, free, and associated with an A-lister — a combination that has attracted a deluge of downloads. But just as importantly, it has the basic word processor functions that make digital writing a little easier, as well as a few visual customization options.
I’m beginning to think that there is no right answer to the problem of contacts. Although the likes of Apple and Google do a reasonable job of holding on to the essential information, neither provides the kind of connected experience you’d expect in this day and age. Humin steps up to the plate with the intention of fixing these issues, and even in version 1.0, it’s doing a great job. Search is the highlight, allowing you to find contacts by data such as their location, who they are friends with (via Facebook), and where they work. The app will also find a contact’s details automatically when you enter their number, and it will find links between new acquaintances and old friends.
The Ensign ($0.99)
This purely text-based game is the prequel to The Dark Room, which captivated many a reviewer, and the new game’s story leans heavily on its predecessor. It seems strange that a game without graphics could be so compulsive, but the combination of great storytelling and difficult decision-making is compelling. I suppose it has the same appeal as a gripping novel, but with the addition of interactivity.
Apps relating to the daily irritant/utility that is email have provided significant innovation in the past couple of years, Mailbox being the prime example. Dispatch offers a similar level of productivity enhancement, but it takes a different approach, focusing on the Getting Things Done technique and providing text expansion, as well. This major update adds a vast list of new features, including yet more integrations.
The Firm ($0.99 — 50% launch discount)
To complete the duo of offbeat games in this week’s roundup, I’m including The Firm. The idea is simple — you are a trader working for a big corporation. Based on the information you are given, you simply need to decide whether to buy or sell, sending stocks one way or the other at speed, Tinder-style; slowness or too many bad decisions will get you fired. With a similar feel to Papers, Please on desktop, The Firm isn’t going to attract action enthusiasts, but it will certainly get your brain working.
Right after you download all of these snazzy apps for your iPhone, give your Mac some love: