Had an old version of Mavis Beacon. Excellent. Taught me to touch-type. Might have been no. 8. Takes a few fingers at a time to learn all the keys.
Overall experience was good. All my requirements were met including amendments. Staff were very helpful and attending.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if, like Dorian Grey, there's a painting in Mavis Beacon's attic that you wouldn't want to see. The girl has been around since 1997 and hasn't aged a bit. And though there have been improvements and additions over the years, the concept and realization of the program haven't really changed that much either.
What has happened, though, is that a mass of other typing tutors, both on- and offline, have appeared to compete in this now very busy arena. Typing, or "keyboarding" as it is, sadly, also known, is an essential skill these days.
The potential competition to the standard QWERTY keyboard hasn't developed as a serous challenge, and along with the "natural" keyboard commercially pioneered by Microsoft, other options to the traditional and now entirely archaic layout have failed to capture the public interest. So the typing tutor creators really have very little to do, in terms of adding new and exciting features to the existing teaching methods. Which makes it hard to separate them out, and pick one over all the others.
Mavis Beacon has been around long enough to have proved or disproved the value of her system of teaching, and people seem to either love or hate it. The problems are more in the execution of that system, though, rather than the concept. Some versions of this venerable package have known bugs, while others don't or have different bugs. The other complaint often voiced is that the teaching difficulty isn't constant, but suddenly leaps to a more challenging level without warning at some point. If you're unlucky you get a version that's both bugged and unpredictable. On the good side, there are now 20 versions and you can often find older ones for sale online if you hunt around.
The program also comes in a standard, Gold and Platinum version. Right now, there's no point in choosing anything other than the Platinum version as it's only $14.99, a special offer by the publishers that makes it cheaper than the other versions. Alternatively, you'll find new versions around the web for as little as about $6 and used ones are almost throw-aways.
When I learned to type, I think I tried out everything on offer. Online and offline versions, freebies and demos. And I don't think there was a single one that had nothing at all to offer. Each advanced my skills, using slightly different exercises or different texts, better or worse graphics and sounds. With one exception, the most unsuccessful of them were the ones that I was expected to pay for. And that exception was Mavis Beacon.
I can't recall which version I used at that time, it would have been about five or six years back, making it around version 14 I suppose. Of all the systems I tried, it was the one I returned to more than any other. I still remember some of the exercises today. There was absolutely nothing innovative about it, the graphics were dated even then, and if you pushed me I'd have to say I couldn't point to a thing about it that made it stand out. But it taught me to type, which is the point, after all, isn't it?
I would suggest looking around the web and reading the reviews to find a version that everyone isn't complaining about, and then look for a used one. Otherwise if you don't want to spend any money at all there are plenty of free tutors out there too and they will all advance you in one way or another.
I wish I could give 4 stars to this program, but the bugginess and the uneven learning curve do spoil it. After more than 20 years, it really could be done a lot better.
I should add that under the Mavis Beacon label, the same publisher also offers a trainer for Microsoft Excel and Word. I haven't used either of these so please feel free to comment on them if you have.
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