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Issue 3.4


Master Key 3.1.7

Issue: 3.4 (March/April 2005)
Author: Scott Griebel
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,877
Starting Page Number: 10
Article Number: 3406
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Master Key, a typing tutor program by MacinMind Software Inc., is a model example of the powerful software that can be created using REALbasic. Right from the start, with its very professional installer, you get a sense that this is a program that is meant to impress, and it certainly does! Versions exist for Mac OS 7, 8, 9, and X, as well as Windows 98, 2000, ME, and XP.

There are numerous typing drills built into the program, each meant to test specific capabilities. In addition to the included drills, other typing drills can be created from any external text file, for which Master Key will automatically create the pagination necessary for the typing tutorial screen. The user can even download electronic books from Project Gutenberg and use the text of these items for a typing drill -- a very cool feature. Because some drills are rather lengthy, a smart feature allows drills to be paused as necessary by the user. When starting a typing session, it was a pleasant surprise to see suggested posture positions and arm heights -- an often neglected part of teaching proper typing technique. Once completing a drill that tests a certain level of accomplishment, a &certificate of mastery& can be printed as proof that this test has been learned. This is a nice touch for younger users of the program that might appreciate such accolades.

While taking a typing test, mistakes are underlined in red, and there is a live updating of statistics for the current drill, including words per minute, accuracy, and error rates. Over time and multiple typing drills, a history of statistics and performance is created for each typist, including graphs of this information. Cool hand animation shows moving fingers over a keyboard as the user types.

Settings can be changed for font size, line spacing, and keyboard types (e.g., QWERTY, French, German, Dvorak). A metronome option plays ticking sounds to promote rhythm when typing. Optional audio feedback can be used to play high quality typewriter sounds as the user types. There are also many other useful settings that are too numerous to list here.

The software is clearly designed for classroom as well as individual use. Classes, or groups of pupils, can be set up, with designated drills to be used for testing. Network support is provided so that any pupil can use any networked Mac or PC and have their results added to the class database of performance information. There is even a special school-wide licensing option, which covers all users for one school.

Overall, this program is very professional, full featured, and filled with &"how did they think of that"& features. It is sure to thrill any student interested in learning how to type, as well as a casual computer user looking to improve their own keyboard competence.

End of article.