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Nurturing the green shoots of learning

Ten years young, RM's flagship software toolkit Window Box is now established as a primary favourite. And its reputation is safe with the latest update, writes Keith Wass

Ten years ago, Research Machines (RM) unveiled Window Box. Windows, comparatively featureless at the time, was ignored by many LEAs in favour of Acorns or Apples, but Window Box, produced to provide a full software toolkit in a secure environment, became and still is the leader in primary.

So successful has the format been that many PC companies now sell a Window Box clone. Some of these are cheaper but none work as comprehensively.

With the release of XP, Windows has achieved a feature-rich environment which looks friendly and behaves well. The Window Box concept fits snugly into this. The Teletubbies-style backdrop of green hills, blue skies and clouds and RM's icon-driven Class Selector panel, which eases switching between classes, are made for each other.

Answering critics who find the Window Box experience limiting, RM has introduced RM Explorer. This allows work and program sets to be clearly and simply organised. It has the look and feel of Windows Explorer but is safer as it prevents pupils from deleting files. It's also clear RM has listened to teachers who wanted more control over printers and a secure teachers'

area.

The software selection on offer is hard to beat. Here is some of the best primary software, easily enough to tackle the ICT work scheme set by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The star of this toolkit is Textease Studio Plus, but since you either love or hate Textease its inclusion could alienate some buyers.

Not that this will matter much. Window Box, intended for five to seven-year-olds, is available with different software for ages 5-11 as Window Box Plus and Window Box Discovery, the latter boasting data-logging facilities and different hardware. And if these don't have what you want, visit RM's website and you can create a bespoke package, specifying exactly which hardware and software you want.

Window Box XP won't suit all teachers, but it will make life a whole lot easier for many.

Keith Wass is a teacher adviser of ICT with Education Leeds

Fitness for purpose 4

Ease of use 4

Features 5

Quality 4

Value for money 3

RM Curriculum Window Box Curriculum Window Box XP PC

1.1GHz Intel Celeron processor, 256MB memory, 20GB hard drive, CD-Rom drive. Price: pound;723 (pound;686.85 online).

Curriculum Window Box XP P4

1.80 GHz Intel P4 processor, 256MB memory, 20GB hard drive, CD-Rom drive. Price: pound;818 (pound;777.10 online). Also available as bespoke hardwaresoftware package, priced accordingly.

RM

BETT stands D50, E50. RM, New Mill House, 183 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 4SE. Tel: 08709 086700. www.rm.com

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