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Reference and education software Reviews
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Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 25th Anniversary Edition review

$24 (about £15)

Manufacturer: Broderbund

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

In the 25th anniversary edition of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, the typing training software program is still going strong. There's plenty of variation and games to help you learn to type.

In the 25th anniversary edition of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, the typing training software program is still going strong. There's plenty of variation and games to help you learn how to type.

Back in the late 1980s, a best-selling piece of training software called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing exploited to the full the awesome graphical power of the Apple IIe and CGA/EGA on 8086-based systems. Some 25 years later, Mavis is still around in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Platinum 25th Anniversary Edition. Due to being wholly fictitious, she barely looks older than 25 herself. But is the typing class still as good?

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 25th Anniversary

Genetic engineering and typing; two skills I've always wanted to master. Mavis Beacon can help with the latter.

Well, let's face it - qwerty hasn't changed since the 1800s. (And the Dvorak keyboard option is no longer included as an option in MBTT). Therefore, there's really not too much to be added in terms of real functionality; the same typing lessons which worked for Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing even in the pre-computer age still work today. What can be added falls easily into the category of bells and whistles: more graphics, more games, more sound effects, all surrounding a solid core of typography.

Mavis Beacon keeps up with the times

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 25th Anniversary Edition makes a few useful concessions to change; it recognises 'split keyboard' layouts, for example, though it does not allow you to select a specific model, which could be problematic if your keyboard uses a slightly non-standard layout for some punctuation or symbol keys.

There's also a fairly high degree of customisability, including the ability to make custom lessons, and to import text (including Word 2007 documents) to use as the basis for a practice session. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 25th Anniversary Edition's typing games - in which your typing speed, accuracy, and/or rhythm helps penguins cross icebergs or blows up asteroids - have been a part of Mavis Beacon since the beginning, but there are now a lot more of them. They are all some variation on 'type properly or bad things happen', but there's enough variety and focus on different skills that they remain a fun practice mechanism.

The down side is that Mavis Beacon's interface is, in many ways, straight out of the Dark Ages, by which I mean around 1992 or so. The menu bars and dialogs aren't standardised throughout the program. When you start up, Mavis Beacon goes into full-screen mode, and on my monitor, it was extremely buggy, showing flickering, mouse freezing, and 'mouse droppings' (after-images left as you move the mouse).

Mavis Beacon does not currently support wide-screen layouts, but the developers will look at adding this in the future. Moving to windowed mode via Ctrl-Enter presented a far more usable environment, but there are no settings options to adjust display resolution or even to set it to windowed or full-screen mode; a user who doesn't know Ctrl-Enter (and many do not) might consider the program too buggy to use. Last, the default font makes a lower-case 'l' look a lot like an upper-case 'l', which can be a problem, since lessons are case-sensitive. This issue is also on the developer's radar.

Mavis Beacon: Analyse this

Mavis Beacon's teaching algorithm constantly analyses your speed, error rate, and which keys in particular you are having trouble with, and presents lessons to focus on your weaknesses and gradually increase in difficulty as your skill improves. Reports show problem keys and progress over time, as well as how close you are to your desired typing speed. The games are also well designed - they won't take anyone away from Halo, but they require you to watch the screen, not the keyboard, which is exactly what a good typing game should do.

There is also a Facebook version of Mavis Beacon, but it's a fairly simple game that bears little resemblance to the full program.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Training software reviews

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Platinum 25th Anniversary Edition Expert Verdict »

Windows XP/Vista/7
2.4 GHz Pentium 4 or higher
1GB RAM (2GB RAM for Windows Vista/7)
300MB hard-disk space
DirectX 9.0c graphics card with 128MB or more video memory
24bit colour monitor with 1024x768 resolution
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

At $24 (about £15) for a download, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Platinum 25th Anniversary Edition is not a bargain-basement offering, but it's a fully featured program with a long track history and enough variation and options to keep you practising until your goal is reached.

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