|Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor,
by Runtime Revolution
Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor (TTTT) is a full-featured typing tutor based upon the "previous and much acclaimed" Learn To Type v1.5. TTTT teaches touch typing (using all of the typing fingers without looking at the keys). Ten Thumbs, a Viking, is our guide in our task, setting the tone that this is designed to be fun. One 800x600 window running in pre-OS X contains the entire application. The product is cross-platform, also running on Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000 and PC-based Linux.
An Introduction and Quiz establishes the typist's goals and experience, and sets the options (lesson length, size of practice lines, feedback, etc.). Many of these options may be defaulted to TTTT's settings, or the application can dynamically adjust them. An example is the text typing length options where you can specify short, medium or long lines, or you can allow TTTT to automatically set the line length. The automatic setting increases line length as the typist progresses. Each typist's options may be password-protected and most may be changed as one proceeds. Posture --- both correct and incorrect --- is displayed. Multiple typists may be set up on one computer. Network installation is also available. Typists may be imported from Learn To Type or other TTTT installations on other computers. Typists may also be exported for use on another computer (PC or Mac). A password-protected Teacher's Report with the WPM, accuracy, WPM goal, start time and practice time is available, and the report may be exported to a text file. A certificate is printed upon completion of the course.
Each subsequent invocation of TTTT begins with an optional Tips 'n' Trivia item and History Info for the selected typist. The history includes the percentage of the keyboard already encountered, WPM, accuracy, the amount of practice time, and coaching advice.
A typical lesson is consists of the introduction of a new key or keys and an animated demonstration of the correct finger placement. A practice session then ensues in which the new key(s) are highlighted, alternating with a key from the stable of keys previously learned. Once the typist is comfortable with the keys, she may proceed to the actual lesson.
The Real World Language Generator creates the text to type. This text is composed of the characters that the typist has already learned and displayed in a configurable number of "words". For the first few iterations, this amounts to "fas fadds as" and the like. When "salad" finally turned up, I knew I was on my way. The optional highlighting of the key(s) is displayed below the line to be typed. The optional WPM and accuracy rates for the current and last line are displayed followed by another optional coaching hint. Errors may be corrected by using the delete key to remove errant characters or the typist may hit enter to retype the line. A report may be invoked at any time or is displayed when the lesson length time is reached or mastery of the current keys is recognized by TTTT. Text may also be imported and characters for keys not learned are removed.
Two games are included. Safari Park establishes your role as that of a handyman at Knawhisthumboff Thumbs Safari Park. Typing in the correct "codes" before your Viking ship (Ermentrude the Unsinkable) passes under the various bridges prevents the "special breed" of turtle or crocodile from stymying your mission to deliver goods from the storage room and the Park Overseer's workshed. Mistakes require a re-typing of the "code". Failure results in a sinking.
Brick Factory sets the typist up as a bricklayer at the Ten Thumbs Brick Factory where you need to inspect the quality of discount bricks by typing in the brick's serial code as it is delivered from the supplier. Incorrect codes result in the discard of bricks into a pile which threatens the new development of the park. This game ignores mistaken keying and allows corrections on the fly. Music for both games may be turned off or replaced with your favorite sonata.
The interface is a non-standard 800x600 window that "floats" on the desktop. The Apple menu bar has been removed. The typist may select the black backdrop option to hide the desktop. This may be a benefit in an elementary school where the focus is on the subject at hand.
Invoking TTTT from OS X and swapping between the application and OS X seems to have problems with the Speech Commands window when switching between Classic and OS X. This can be controlled by turning the Speech Commands window off.
One quibble with the Finger Placement page: when the Enter key is accidentally struck (as the novice is prone to do), the typist is transferred to the Practice Wizard page requiring a re-selection of the desired key fingering and submitting to a dialog using that key before one is able to continue the original practice session.
TTTT froze up a couple of times running under OS 9.2.2, thus requiring restarts. This occurred while navigating through the features for this review but never while actually engaged in a lesson.
I would recommend this to new typists as well as dedicated hunters-and-peckers. TTTT is utilitarian, but up to the task of increasing the speed and accuracy of the student. It would be an excellent application for schools where a variety of platforms must be accommodated.