Broderbund Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 17
- Lots of lessons, easy to use
- Graphics are slightly dated
An easy to use typing tutor that covers all the basics and more
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
You may be shocked to hear this, but we're afraid it's the truth: Mavis Beacon does not really exist. The smiling face that has graced the box for 17 consecutive versions of the product is in fact a Caribbean model. Nevertheless, Mavis Beacon remains the world's number one typing tutor and this latest version is a welcome update. With over 250 lessons and multiple practice modes available, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 17 is a comprehensive product. A deluxe version is also available that offers even more, with the ability to import files for custom lessons. Installing the package is as simple as can be, with the relatively meagre system requirements of a Pentium III 450 Mhz with 64Mb of RAM meaning any computer from the last couple of years will run the program easily.
The Mavis Beacon main screen, dubbed the 'classroom', offers a choice between practice sessions, full lessons or games. One feature that Broderbund are keen to point out is the newly added support for personalised music on the main screen. This is a nice feature, as the cheesy elevator music soon begins to grate.
First up are the lessons. These take a format almost identical to that of SpongeBob Squarepants Typing, which isn't surprising as they are both produced by the same company. Each group of keys is taught over several lessons, with finger placement and accuracy first, then combinations of other keys, gradually building up to speed training. Each lesson is graded for speed and accuracy and can be repeated or skipped should the user desire.
The lessons are interspersed with various arcade style games. Twelve are included, which range from mind-numbingly dull to the outright bizarre. Several are simply too basic to be of any fun, or of much use to learning. To call them games is perhaps too great a claim; pressing the corresponding key when a letter flashes on the screen is not our idea of entertainment. But once you get past the first few, things liven up a lot. One of our favourites was undersea karaoke, complete with a frenzied dancing crab that does a jig whenever you correctly match the keys. Another is a lesson in genetic engineering, with various mutated animals appearing depending on which words the user types. That said, entertaining as they are, their longevity is doubtful.
Practice mode is one of the most useful features. Here the program provides a near endless list of documents in various formats that can be typed against the clock. In addition to typing out standard text, the user can opt for HTML code and even lists of emoticons as practice documents. Some texts can also be dictated, which is a useful addition, though we felt there should have been more. The other problem with dictation is the program's insistence on using American spelling. One of the first sentences in the practice text refuses to advance until 'catalog' is entered. This isn't a problem while copying on-screen text, but when using dictation mode where the only prompt is auditory, those not used to American spelling may be confused.
On the whole, Mavis Beacon is a decent product. There's a lot to learn and a lot of practice modes. The program can be tailored to differing age groups and even has support for learning the ten-key number pad.
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