30th June 2000 at 01:00
PRIMARY TOOLKIT. Ages 6-11. pound;149 plus VAT (single user, additional users pound;25 each)

PRIMARY BRANCH. Ages 6-11. pound;39 plus VAT (single user, additional users pound;10 each). Granada Learning, Quay Street, Manchester M60 9EA. Tel: 0161 827 2927. Website: www.granada-learning.com

The concept of integrated packages is appealing - one installation, everything works together and there's just one set of instructions to learn. Ever hopeful of finding something to make life easier, I launched into Primary Toolkit.

For your money you get Primary Colours, Writer, Database, Spreadsheet and Internet Odyssey 2 (a multimedia presentation tool). You can open these programs in the normal way, but there's also a Launcher which lets you create passwords and configure programs for individuals or groups depending on their ability and needs.

The art package is especially easy to use, as is the word processor which allows you to add text, images, and movie clips from easily accessible word, sound and picture banks - the latter having a preview facility - and is simlar in concept to TextEase. The database is straightforward and workmanlike, as is the spreadsheet. Good though the manual is, some simple tutorials are needed, especially for Odyssey. This is a powerful and much underused tool.

If that's not enough foryou, then there's Primary Branch, which slots nicelyinto the Toolkit. Branching databases crop up all overthe place (Year 3 mathsSats for a start), and thisone lets you storeinformation in "binarytrees", of which you thenask yesno questions.

Pictures, key words and sounds are provided on a range of subjects, or youcan add your own bankson a current topic - youcould make up a databaseof sound files alone, while word bank entries willbe read out if you right-hand click.

Once you've chosenyour item, think of a question to create two groups andso on until you end upwith one specific entry.You can then play a "canyou find what I'm thinkingof?" game, print (tree or cards), zoom, map, orsearch.

Pam Turnbull is ICT coordinator at The Heys primary schol, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

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