In my opinion, these are two of the best computer keyboarding programs on the market for Windows and Vista-based computers. (Note that these programs were reviewed in 2008 and newer editions are now available for newer computer operating systems.) Both programs install on the computer and run from your hard drive. Installation is quick and easy. Graphics are excellent. Maneuvering through the programs and figuring out how to use them is easy, especially with the Kids version. Graphics are excellent with lots of variety.
Typing Instructor Deluxe (review of version 17 for adults)
I reviewed version 17, and it appears that the publisher is now up to version 21, mostly to keep up with the new computer operating systems.
Obviously, by version 17, the publishers of this program have had lots of time to improve their product. And while it's not perfect, it comes fairly close.
Suggested for ages 8 and older, Typing Instructor Deluxe can accommodate up to five different users with an individual log in. A student can begin by taking a test to identify the proper level at which to start, and then follow the prescribed order of lessons (more than 20 plans are built into the program) OR you can set up an individualized lesson plan OR a student can go to the "terminal, base camp, or main control" (what it's called depends upon the selected theme) and choose a lesson or other activity.
Students can select one of three themes as they work through the program: world travel, time travel, and photo safari. They can even change themes at any time.
Lessons always incorporate typing practice in one form or another. Instructional lessons show the lesson content but they also show finger positions on a keyboard below the lesson material. The keyboard highlights each key to be typed, which might be very helpful for the novice. Early lessons have students practice only a few (i.e., 4-5) different keys at a time so that students build up a sensory memory in the fingers with the repetitive key strokes. Content at first is mostly letters and nonsense combinations with just a few words since lessons are focusing on discrete sets of letters. Gradually, content expands to complete sentences and coherent paragraphs. Students can select additional typing material from the "magazine rack" in the program or even import their own material for practice. There is also a dynamic lesson plan that adjusts to the individual user with lessons to address weak areas. Students get instant feedback after a lesson on words per minute and accuracy. (Sometimes the end-of-lesson comments are not very perceptive. One lesson where I purposely typed inaccurately, praised my accuracy!)
Lesson plans include periodic games and assessments. There are 10 games that vary from simple to very complex. All involve typing skills. Four of the games are multi-level--selecct the appropriate level to provide a suitable challenge. The "Tomb Typer" game is quite complex: you have to select words from one of four directions to type to move through the tomb in the right direction, then you need to collect objects and use them appropriately as in adventure games.
The program records lesson progress and reports results that can be viewed and/or printed. Results are shown for all activities or by finger, by hand, by row, or by key. Also, you can add your own tests if you like.
In addition, you can import your own music from MP3 files to use with the program. Sound can be turned on or off.
Optional instruction is available on posture, positioning the hands, exercises, and strategies.
Typing Instructor for Kids (review of version 3)
Typing Instructor for Kids is recommended for ages 7 and up and also accommodates up to five different students. Similar in concept to the the Deluxe program, it makes it easy for young students by providing narrated, step-by-step instructions. It also has only one learning track. However, it can be set for "easy" or "not so easy" and setting the target words-per-minute higher can up the challenge for those with more skill.
Students "tour" Typer Isle, visiting its five "lands" (The Old West, In the Air, On the Water, Over the Edge, and Under the Sea) where they collect treasures and try to become the ruler of the castle at the end of the program. As they move through each land they first complete a lesson, then they play a game or tackle one of the "challenge" activities that offer additional practice as well as opportunites to accumulate more treasures.
Instruction is done in the same manner as in the Deluxe program.
There are 11 games built into the lessons, some the same or similar to those in the Deluxe program.
While students are allowed to repeat some of the lessons, they can't skip around or go back beyond the just completed activity. This makes it easier for students to stay on track , but it also eliminates most flexibility.
"Explorer Isle" and the "Story Lagoon" are the only flexible parts of the program. "Explorer Isle" allows students to select challenge activities whenever they like. These are typing practice exercises--similar to those already included in the lesson track. The "Story Lagoon" allows students to select typing material from nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and literature for additional practice.
Tracking and reporting is similar to that for the Deluxe program. Lessons report speed and accuracy, while "Saved Results" provide the detailed printable reports.
A background music option allows students to select from six options: classical, jazz, jazz II, orchestra, and inspirational OR none. Each selection plays in a relatively short loop, so any one choice gets monotonous after a while. Also, the selections are not likely to be the sort of musical options most seven-year-olds would select. This is easy to change at most any time in the program.
Note that the latest version of the Kids program is now Platinum 5.
I would select the Kids version for a student with weak or just developing reading skill, or for situations where a parent really needs to keep the child working independently and on task without too many options for distraction. For others I would shift up to the Deluxe version for its greater flexibility.
Both programs have many extra features beyond basic keyboarding instruction that make them appealing to learners as well as to parents or teachers