A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....
Mouse Tips, iMac Updates, & A Great Typing Program April 26th, 2000
Wow, I am a little out of breath here. The editor was threatening to come after me with a big stick if I didn't get this column finished and turned in to him. You see, the problem is that there is too much to write about and I don't know what to cover when. There is some expert advice on choosing the right mouse, and I know I will use that. Then there are the two iMac updates that everyone needs to take care of, but that is really kind of boring, and then there are the new applications I found on the net and the neat new thing that Apple has come up with, and.. Ok, ok, I will try and get organized.
Choosing The Correct Mouse
First the good advice. This advice comes to us from a real expert in the Macintosh arena, Dan Knight of Low End Mac. Dan read last week's column on finding the right mouse and he volunteered the following information.
I recommend the Perfit Mouse made by Contour Design. They are rated as the most ergonomic mice on the market, in both right- and left-handed versions. I have a right-handed in large, but don't really care for it.
Contour Design lists all the versions of the Perfit Mouse, which comes in PS/2, serial, ADB, and USB versions. Not cheap, but very well made.
Also, a lot of mice are ambidextrous. The Contour UniMouse, the Kensington mice, and Apple's mouse are neither right- nor left-handed. So far, my favorite mice are the Contour UniMouse (which I use at home) and the Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box USB/PS2 (which I use at work). Both fit the hand well, have multiple buttons, use very helpful software to program the buttons, and move smoothly.
If you have an iMac, then there are a couple of updates you should add to your machine. These are easy to get and install and actually will give you some practice downloading. Both come from Apple and are free. You can find them at download.com. The first is iMac Update 1.1. This application is for iMacs running North American English. It provides improvements to the Universal Serial Bus (USB) software installed in iMacs. The second is called iMac CD Update 2.0 and it places new firmware on the CD-ROM drive to reduce the amount of disc vibration.
The first step is to go to download.com. You will find a search box at the top of the page and you can just type in the name of the application you are looking for and hit search. It will take you directly to that application. Under 'Title" you will see the name of the application you want, underlined. Click on that name and it will take you directly to the download page. Click on "download now" and the application will automatically download to your desktop. If you are downloading the CD Update you will find an icon that looks something like this.
Double click on it and, using Stuffit Expander, it will open to a second icon that looks like this.
iMac CD Update Icon
Note: If you don't currently have Stuffit Expander you can read about it in the column from December 16, 1998.
You can throw away the .sit icon once you have the other one open. Double click on the new icon and just follow the simple directions to update your system. The same steps will work for the second update as well.
Improve Your Typing
I know from the letters I get that some readers never learned to type very well, if at all. Even my father, who was in the typewriter business used what he called the Columbus System of Typing; i.e., find a key and land on it. The inability to type well (accurately) can slow down your computer experience and it can be frustrating. I found a new application called Master Key 1.0 that was just released in March. The program is shareware, requires Mac OS 8 or better and the standard version costs $15 for single registrations, or $10 for students. There is also a classroom edition with site license fees. It is available from MacinMind Software. You can download a trial version from the home page or from Download.com. It both teaches letters and basic punctuation and offers excellent practice drills. This seems to me to be the best typing skills program that I have yet come across. It is a very straightforward typing program that teaches both standard key layout and DVORAK key layout. DVORAK key layout is a unique key board layout and if you want to know more about it you can go to any search engine and type in DVORAK in the search window and find out all about it. People who use it, strongly recommend it and if you don't already know how to touch type you may want to check it out before you get too far into learning to type. If you do want to go in that direction you will have to purchase a new keyboard that supports the DVORAK layout.
Features of Master Kay include a breakdown of words per minute and an error rate for each key and stats are kept by individual. You can set the speed you are seeking and the program will tell you how you are doing. There are typing instruction tips and optional audio feedback options which can include high quality samples of actual typewriters. That may be more than what you want if your goal is to just type an e-mail without including any embarrassing typos such as typing inflict when you mean invite. For those with no typing skills whatsoever, the program will teach you how to finger and provide practice sessions.
I have been typing for more than 40 years. I put myself through undergraduate school working as a secretary during the day and typing for other people at night. I have typed documents with page after page of scientific and/or mathematical data. I have always been able to out-type any secretary I had and usually average around 100 wpm. So I sat down to "test" this program feeling, shall we say, just a bit "superior." As is usually the case, it didn't take long for the program to take me down to size. The deal is that I have allowed my typing to become sloppy using a computer. It is too easy to correct mistakes. Now, that doesn't mean I am suddenly going to start practicing my typing to feed my ego. What it does mean is that it made me realize how well designed and arranged the practice sessions are. Below is a sample that I took from the developers site. As you can see, the drills are designed to emphasize a certain set of letters so that when you participate in this particular drill you are really working on learning to easily move your fingers among a specific set of keys. This kind of drill is what makes the difference between a typist and a good typist. I realize that many readers couldn't be less interested in winning speed typing tests. They just want to be able to type well enough to type a sentence without having to correct every other word. This program will help that person just as much as it will help someone who wants to be able to type with almost no mistakes
Start Up Page
When the program opens you will see a page like the one above that lets you sign up and choose a drill. Once a drill is selected you will get a page like the following. When you click for the session to start all you have to do is start typing and your typing will be lined up under the line of text you are supposed to be copying. Anytime you make a mistake a red line marks the spot.
Practice Drill Example
It really is an easy as that. You set your own goals and move forward at your own pace.
If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color,
covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.