Thursday, April 22, 2010

Typing tutorial software for OS X (Mac) – oddly confusing (and web alternative!)

[See update. This functionality has largely migrated to Flash apps on the web, like the BBC's Dance Mat Typing.]

I thought it would be easy to choose OS X based typing tutor software for our kids. The more I looked though, the weirder things got. I found a plethora of “Mavis Beacon” tutorial software from different vendors. Turns out it’s all related to the late 20th century collapse of the American empire (seriously).

The leading typing package for the past twenty years (really) is, and has been, “Mavis Beacon”. Today, on Amazon, you will find three different versions sold for OS X:

The Apple store also sells MacKiev – Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing 2009 Deluxe Edition for $40.

As far as I can tell the MacKiev product is the only Mavis Beacon version that actually works on OS X. The others just sort of flail about. The working Mavis Beacon app is, you will note, twice the cost of the current Encore version.

Amazon also sells Typing Instructor Platinum “for Mac OS X Intel” but the limited number of Mac reviews are very negative.

In the shareware side we find a few programs still being updated. Some of them have very crude UIs – probably Java apps.

My current conclusion is that that you should either buy Mavis Beacon/MacKiev for $40 or try out some of the < $14 shareware options (free is good too).

[1] The product description is confusing, but you can see the product name on the pictured box.

[2] MacKiev has a real web site. This Ukrainian company now sells Print Shop, World Book and Kid Pix. I wonder if they’re buying up old decrepit Mac titles and refurbishing them. If so, that’s an interesting business model.

Update: I looked at the lower cost and shareware apps and decided they wouldn't work for our needs. I'll probably buy Mavis Beacon the next time I have an Amazon order or I drop by an Apple store. There's an update on the MacKiev site you should install.

Update 4/25/2010: If you can live with Flash the BBC has an app for teaching typing (thanks Andrew). In retrospect I erred in my searches by searching on "OS X" and "typing tutor". It should have occurred to me that this type of service is a natural for migration to the web. A search on "typing tutor web" finds a lot of solutions, including "typingweb". Strangely, the BBC's Dance Mat typing doesn't show up until the bottom of page 4 in Google -- which in search terms is the nether world. There's some evil search optimization going on here.

Update 4/30/2010: The BBC app isn't bad for free, but I want my kids to learn. That Flash app pales next to a well done desktop product. So we bought the $40 MacKiev Mavis Beacon product.

4 comments:

ccahua said...

how about GNU Typist, FTW http://gtypist.darwinports.com/

John Gordon said...

Have you tried it? I think it's too much work for my situation, but it would make sense under different circumstances.

Anonymous said...

John--my kids school links to this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/

Andrew

John Gordon said...

Great suggestion Andrew. I was thinking I should ask about your experience. It makes sense that modern alternatives would be a flash app, and it's great to see this through the BBC.