“Hanx Writer” is a free app created by well-known actor Tom Hanks. It makes your iPad or iPhone keyboard sound like a manual typewriter. When you reach the end of a line and tap “return,” you hear that old familiar carriage-return sound, but no bell. (How come no bell, Tom?) Hanks says it helps with his own writer’s block, since he wrote some of his best stuff on a manual typewriter. The $3 to $5 pro versions offer different fonts and typewriter models. Standard typeface is “Courier,” like the old typewriters.
Years ago we would do a gift guide at this time of year, but we gave it up. Why? One reason is everyone and their Uncle Max does them and you can’t help but see several such lists each holiday season. The other reason is Bob came to distrust them.
Humin is a free iPhone app that remembers contacts the way you remember them, which is not necessarily by name. If you tap “met this month,” you’ll see just those contacts. Or you might remember they live in Texas, and see just those contacts. The app gives you details, like where they went to school. (Bob is thinking of getting business cards that say “Some guy I met at a trade show.”)
GetAbstract gives you summaries of the latest business books, articles and Ted talks. They put out 50 new summaries a month. Get up on the hot new trends in business – maybe you’ll learn how to kill an existing product with a new version. Starts at $89 a year.
“SpeakaZoo” (iPhone/iPad only) lets children talk to cartoon animals, and they talk back. The free app has built-in speech recognition that works pretty well. It understood questions like “What’s your name?” and simple answers like yes or no. When we said “I like you,” the elephant said “I like you too Zookeeper.” Most of the animals are wistful. We hope the next version has happier creatures. Could be the zoo environment.
“Slovoed” offers one free talking dictionary each month for every kind of smart phone. This month it’s Russian to Arabic. It includes flash cards, common phrases and other learning tools. You can purchase any other dictionary from within the app. There’s a long list of dictionaries for $8 to $28. PC and Mac versions cost more.