Writing it old-school with Handwrite

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By Pete Davison Comment

Handwrite is a new iOS app from developer Dumitru Goro. It is available now as a free (and ad-supported) download from the App Store.

Handwrite is an app that allows users to generate text by handwriting it with their finger (or an appropriate stylus, if they have one). Writing a word on the on-screen blackboard converts it into plain text, which can subsequently be copied, emailed, sent as an SMS message or shared via the social networks Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and VK, the latter of which is inexplicably depicted by a “B” icon rather than its actual logo. The app automatically supplies what it thinks is the most likely word the user wrote, but also provides some alternatives if its recognition was a little off. The app also recognizes punctuation marks and emoji.

The app supports text and word recognition in 15 different languages, including some with non-standard characters, though there is no support for completely non-Roman character sets such as Japanese, Chinese or Korean. Text recognition relies on Internet access, however, meaning that it can be somewhat slow if the user is in an area with poor reception, and that the app is rendered useless if the user has no Internet access whatsoever. This is somewhat disappointing, and somewhat lessens the usefulness of the app.

That said, the usefulness of the app is already somewhat questionable. Writing things by hand is not significantly quicker than typing them, particularly on the small screen of the iPhone, and non-standard words often have to be split into component pieces in order to be recognized — with a noticeable delay for the Internet-based character recognition to register each part of the word. Following that, the message can then be shared with a variety of different services, but this doesn’t really answer the question why anyone would want to use this somewhat cumbersome approach to writing and sharing content when there are official apps and a perfectly good keyboard already available on iOS.

Ultimately, Handwrite is good for little more than novelty value. There is a certain degree of short-lived fun to be had from writing words with your finger on a touchscreen and then seeing them magically converted into computer text, but even this is nothing new — the old Palm range of touchscreen PDA devices was doing this years before the smartphone revolution came along, so most users are probably already “over” this particular use of technology.

That’s not to say Handwrite is a bad app — it’s attractively presented, works well (if a little slowly due to its unfortunate reliance on the Internet) and supports a variety of different languages. It’s also free, and the ad banners present in the app are unobtrusive and do not get in the way of what the user is trying to do. The core issue, then, is that it’s impossible to think of a situation where a user would actually want to use this app in favor of the usual iPhone keyboard, as it seems like a somewhat cumbersome solution to a problem that didn’t really exist in the first place.

Handwrite is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards, but is listed in the “New” section of the Productivity category on the App Store. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

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