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Nice and easy does it

Too many educational programs are just scaled down versions of adult software. Jack Kenny hails Softease's powerful suite of software that all ages will find simple to use

When it was first launched, Softease's word processor Textease swept aside most of the opposition in schools. Teachers welcomed it as a step forward in user-friendliness and learning possibilities, and since then each new release has improved the program. Now comes a leap.

Textease Studio comprises Textease Spreadsheet, Textease Database and Textease 2000. They work in an integrated fashion, enabling the movement of files between the three programs and three operating systems, PC, Mac, Acorn. That in itself is a great step forward.

The spreadsheet is one of the great inventions of the computer age and it is probably still true to say that it has not been exploited by teachers as fully as it should have been. It is a wonderful tool for understanding numbers, for seeing graphical representations of number and for testing hypotheses. The main question is: does the Textease version make life easier and better for the teacher and pupil? The innumerate will still have problems with the formulae. However, you can customise it with ease, even make it talk and add graphics. It has the basic functionality of Excel without the complications.

No adult database is really suitable for most students and the need for a simple database has been apparent for some time. Textease Database will sort, graph and let you draw the maximum amount f information from data and it is easy to set up and simple to interrogate. Data in one table can relate to data in another and, again, it even talks.

There are some splendid additions to the word processor, Textease 2000. For example it is easier to configure the menus, the word bank has been made more useful and you can record sounds that will be automatically linked to become part of the program. But the facility I like is storyboarding, which lets you create a storyboard from a video simply by stopping the video clip at the points you want to include. If you have Internet Explorer, you can email straight out of the program. Creating Web pages that include video and sound is also simple.

You can buy the sections of Textease Studio separately and build it up gradually. And resources on the package's CD-Rom are national curriculum activities for all the subjects at various key stages.

This program will make you question whether pushing pupils through simpler versions of adult programs is the best way forward when Textease Studio will now handle most of pupils' data needs.

Textease Studio Price: pound;149

Textease Primary Price: pound;49

Textease Spreadsheet Price: pound;39

Textease Database Price: pound;39

Textease 2000 Price: pound;85

All for PCs, Macs and Acorn Softease Tel: 01335 343421 www.textease.com

ONLINE STAR RATING - TEXTEASE STUDIO

Suitability for purpose: *****

Ease of use: ***

Design: ****

Quality of output: *****

Value for money: ****

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