The fun exercises in Tux Type test kids’ ability to find keys on the keyboard by having them
type words on the screen. In Fish Cascade, letter-adorned fish stream down the screen,
and your goal is to type the letters before Tux the Penguin eats the fish (the letters give
him a bellyache). Comet Zap is pretty much the same, but naturally, with comets.
On the downside, Tux Type lacks a tutorial structure to help kids learn basic keyboarding
techniques, such as home-row finger positioning. And while you can modify the word
lists and other aspects of the app (it is, after all, open source), you have to know how to
manipulate Mac OS X app package contents, which may be more trouble than it’s worth to
less-techy parents and teachers.
TUXTYPE Tux4Kids tux4kids.alioth.debian.org Price: Free
Requirements: Mac OS 10. 4 or later
Two different exercises. Can’t beat the price!
No keyboarding tutorials.
Doozla makes drawing a snap, but we wish
it offered more flexibility. Kids can pick
from four art projects: a coloring-book,
freehand sketching, and doodling on iSight
pictures or built-in backdrops. Each offers a
handful of drawing and file tools in a simple,
stylish window. It’s not just the app that
looks good—pen strokes are smoothed
automatically, making even lines drawn with
a mouse look natural.
Adults can password-protect printing (a
handy feature given the price of ink), but
unfortunately, printouts are the easiest way
to share drawings with the world. Worse,
Doozla saves pictures in its own file format
only and won’t simply save over old files,
forcing kids to manually type a file’s name
to replace past versions. We’d love the
option to simply export JPEGs. Despite these
limitations, Doozla lets young artists get
Classroom Video Workshop Jr. drops users
into a cramped interface, offers no tutorial
on how to use it to start editing videos, and
tops things off with Quick Time-compatibility
issues. If you have the right MOV file, Video
Workshop can import it, trim its length, and
add simple music and effects to export or
play in the app. But in our testing, only MOV
files exported from Quick Time Player or
from other applications using Quick Time-specific options worked. Videos made with Photo Booth—the easiest way to make movies on a
Mac—had errors that made them unwatchable if any of Video Workshop’s effects were applied.
Even when the app behaves, you’ll have to contend with its pokey performance and cramped,
dated design. If you’re introducing youngsters to video editing, consider a supervised lesson in
iMovie instead of this program. It looks and feels more than a decade out of date.
This app isn’t ready for its close-up.
CLASSROOM VIDEO WORKSHOP JR. APTE apte.com Price: $39.95
Requirements: G4 or better processor, Mac OS 10. 4 or later
Adds titles and simple effects to a Quick Time clip.
No tutorial. Accepts only MOV files exported from Quick Time Player or equivalent settings. Cramped,
dated interface. Sluggish performance.
Drawing’s a blast in Doozla.
Algodoo might sound like a toy, but it’s
actually a sophisticated physics simulator
that works like a 2D drawing program.
A nonstandard interface and skimpy
instructions may hinder some users, but
those willing to learn Algodoo’s many
features will be rewarded with serious fun.
Freehand and polygonal shapes can be
animated to illustrate physical properties
like mass and velocity. Just drag and draw,
then add springs, hinges, gears, and motors
to combine them into virtual machines
controlled with keyboard commands. Algodoo’s many features, combined with a lack of familiar
menus and help files, demand experimentation and too many trips to the Algodoo website for
instructions. But turning your screen into a riot of colliding shapes is half the fun, and built-in
example scenes help kids get into the swing of things—literally.
Screenshots can’t show off Algodoo’s realistic
physics, but they’re a click away.
ALGODOO Algoryx algodoo.com Price: $39
Requirements: 1GHz or faster processor, Mac OS 10. 4 or later, 96MB or faster video card
Turns your Mac into a virtual physics lab that works like a drawing program. Plenty of features.
Nonstandard menus and lack of tutorials make for a long learning curve.