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Hands up if you think you can type - if you'd have asked me a couple of months ago it's very likely that I would have put my hand up. After growing up with computers from a young age, over the years I've developed my own method of typing at a relatively quick pace. About a year ago I took a speed typing test and it came out telling me I could type an average of 72 words per minute which I have to admit I was pretty impressed with.
All things aside, I've always wanted to be able to say that I can type correctly, which is what professionals would call 'Touch Typing' therefore when I bought a new computer around 6 months ago I was offered my choice of a free CD-ROM, sounds great doesn't it? Well I thought so too until I discovered that the only choice was a war game, a disc aiding you on passing your driving theory test and a touch typing CD-ROM. None of these really grabbed me but since I'm not into video games I passed on that option, I passed my driving test a couple of years ago so the theory aid would be useless therefore the only option for me was the touch typing aid. Being confident with my amateur typing skills I immediately thought that I would fly through this and complete it in a matter of days. How wrong could I be?
Although I got the Teaching You Touch Typing CD-ROM free it's also available on Amazon for the fairly reasonable price of £6.97. The CD-ROM works in conjunction with Windows XP and Windows Vista. Both my computer and my laptop both run off Windows XP therefore this review could possibly be a little misleading if you're planning on using this on your Vista system as it may differ vastly. This CD-ROM was released in April of 2007 therefore there could be more up-to-date programmes on the market today.
After purchasing the disc I was somewhat reluctant to try it as I was already a fairly confident typist therefore felt no requirement to learn the politically correct way of typing which is likely you'll see if you work in an office building where secretaries will be typing away at speed without making mistakes or needing to look at the keyboard whilst typing.
The Touch Typing CD-ROM professes to be 'a simple, easy and fast way to learn with interactive training, speed building and practise documents' all sounds good so when I finally got around to trying this I was intrigued to discover how exactly a single disc could teach me to type competently.
When inserting the disc it will quickly load up, it is necessary to install the product which is a bit of a pain however fortunately this takes no more than 2 minutes (could be faster with Vista), you're then greeted with a welcome screen where you are required to pick from numerous options; Run, Uninstall, Register Product, Help, Visit Website and Exit. Needless to say to start the training programme you will need to click 'run'. Upon loading you'll then be faced with another welcome screen where you're required to either log in if you have used the product before or you will have to enrol which they call a student ID. Upon enrolling you will need to enter you full name and there's an option to enter a password, as I'm the only person who uses the computer I didn't feel this was necessary but it's a nice addition for a family who could all be using the product. After entering your gender you'll then be taken to the more technical screen where you need to enter your age range (under 13, 13-20, 21-30, 30 or over) and then you'll need to select how much experience you have with typing; this ranges from a beginner, one or two finger typing or a touch typist. Although I could already type at a fairly rapid pace using numerous fingers I had no previous experience in touch typing therefore I selected beginner and am very glad I did. You then select your targets, these are the words per minute you'd like to achieve and the accuracy you want to achieve. As the settings were already on 60 words per minute I thought it would be a good idea to leave that and not make it too easy or difficult for myself. The accuracy target it already set to 100% however I thought I'd make it a bit easier on myself and set this to 90% to give myself a bit of leeway. All that's left is to choose whether you're working on a computer keyboard or a laptop and you're away.
The next screen will be known as your home screen, here you'll see numerous icons where you can look at stats, complete practise tests, play typing games and look at your personal goals and records. One thing I noticed that you can't do on this screen is change your targets which you set at the beginning, if you find you've set your target too high you are unable to lower the target which means you'll either have to stick with it or enrol yourself again and start from scratch. This is a little annoying because as your progress things do get harder and on some of the tests if you fall behind your targets you aren't allowed to progress onto the next segment therefore could easily become stuck like I did quite a few times.
The second icon down is likely to be the one you'll use most, this takes you to the 'training classroom' and it's where you'll learn different aspects of typing as you progress through the levels. When you first begin you'll start by learning four letters (A,S,D,F) and you'll be taught the correct places to put your fingers. A lot of people using this programme will be unfamiliar with where the letters on the keyboard are and where the correct place your fingers should all be is. Not only does the training classroom tell you this with a narrator it also shows you. Directly below the directions is a picture of a keyboard with fingers on it, when you need to press different letters the fingers will move respectively and the necessary key will be lit up therefore if you're unfamiliar with the places of the keys, instead of needing to look down you'll get used to watching the demonstration on the screen while you familiarise yourself with the different keys.
There is an individual teaching segment for each letter on the keyboard, on the beginners level you'll be introduced to lower case letters and the space key however when you progress onto the intermediate you'll be faced with the task of mastering the number keys as well as various icon keys including the Enter button, Delete, Caps Lock and the Shift Key. It takes you slowly through these lessons and you always have the option to revisit lessons which you may feel you are lacking in. However when I say you can revisit, you can only revisit lessons on your specific level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) you cannot revisit lesson from previous levels which I think should be an option for people and I was a bit disappointed to find that I was unable to do this as there are always going to be some people who learn slower and more gradually than others. An option that I do like with the CD-ROM is that on the training classroom you are able to enter a single letter and the disc will search for the lesson on that specific letter therefore if you are making frequent mistakes on a single letter you have the option to go back and revise it.
At the end of each training classroom segment you'll get a results screen which will tell you the time it took for you to complete the specific task, how many words per minute you typed and how this fared with your targets in regards to accuracy and words per minute. On some training segments, unless you match your targets you will be unable to progress onto the next aspect of training which can be extremely frustrating.
There are around 50 training segments in each experience level so unless you've got a lot of time on your hands it's unlikely that you'll complete an entire level in one sitting. Each training aspect takes around 2 minutes to complete depending on your typing skills of course.
In addition to the training classroom there's also practise documents for you to try out in your own time, you do not need to reach your targets on these and they are there simply for you to better your skills. These come in the form of letters, emails and lists and are very handy if you find you're struggling on certain things. I was looking forward to trying out some of the games on the disc as I thought these could be a good way of bettering my speed however the games were a big disappointment for me, there's nothing to keep you interested in playing them regardless of how old you are, they're very lacklustre and it doesn't appear that very much time or effort was put into producing them at all.
I've read a couple of short reviews on Amazon about this product and they seem to be fairly negative, on a lot of them there seems to be an issue with saving your progress, numerous people have said that once you enter the training programme you have to complete it in one sitting or your progress will be lost and you'll have to start from the beginning again. I have to say I haven't encountered this problem, I have never completed a level in one sitting as to be honest it becomes very tiresome after a while, I have therefore stopped after completing a task, shutdown the CD-ROM and my progress has been automatically saved.
There is an option to register your product which appears as soon as the CD-ROM loads, I tried doing this online however I was told my internet couldn't access the site which I thought was strange, I ended up registering by post in which you print off a piece of paper and send it to the address they give you. This was simple enough however it's been around 8 weeks since I registered by post, it included my address and telephone number yet I have heard nothing back from the Focus company regarding my registration. Upon registering there is no incentive for you to register as it tells you nothing about the benefits of registering the product therefore, for me registering seemed a bit of a waste of time, not to mention a waste of a stamp!
One thing that I really liked about this CD-ROM is that it informs you that you get certificates upon completing each individual training level with your name and results. This is extremely misleading as I was expecting a certificate to be sent to me after registering or at the least a certificate which I was able to print out and keep. However what you get is a screen shot of a certificate which you are unable to print. After I eventually found the website for the touch typing disc I discovered there was no email address therefore instead of emailing them with a question regarding the certificates I had to send them a letter through the post. This was around 5 weeks ago and again I have heard nothing back from them with I feel shows very poor customer service.
The disc took me around 2 or 3 months to complete, it could be completed a lot quicker but I would use it and then leave it for a few weeks, it's very uninteresting and the only reason that I felt compelled to complete it was due to my extremely competitive nature. There is no sense of achievement upon completion due to the fact that the certificates are somewhat of a myth and although I feel that the disc would help people with no experience it didn't benefit me at all. I have become set in my ways over the years and feel that the way I type is far quicker to what the touch typing disc had me typing. I checked on the practise documents how many words a minute I was typing using touch typing; it came out at around 34 words per minute which is nothing to the 72 words per minute I'm able to type using my own method.
All in all I would recommend this to people who are complete novices when it comes to typing, for anyone else I feel it's a bit of a dud that wont help people the way it's supposed to. There's nothing to keep you entertained and without the certificates there is really no incentive to complete all three levels. One thing that I haven't mentioned is that quite frequently the training classroom wont recognise the keys that you're touching if you're typing at a speedy pace which is somewhat of a contradiction especially when you're completing a speed test; you're told you need to achieve 95% of your speed and accuracy targets yet when you type fast the exercise doesn't recognise the keys and you'll be told to slow your typing down!