We keep explaining to the fervent Macintosh users among our readers that we spend a fair proportion of our time reviewing Mac programs and peripherals. Macs make up about 10 percent of desktop computer installations, and we devote at least 10 percent of our space to Mac products.
Nonetheless, here's a gift for all you loyal readers - a whole column on programs that run on the Mac.The first is Keith Weiskamp's "Write for Kids." It's actually a book with a bound-in disk, and you'll probably find it on sale in your local bookstore.
On the disk is a Macintosh word processing program that claims to be useful for children age 7 and up. You can select one of three levels, The lowest level has no words in its menus and boxes, just pictures. The middle level adds word menus and gives you access to a few more tools. The top level lets you get at every available tool in the program.
As a word processor for school-kids, "Write for Kids" is fine. You can single space, double or triple. You can vary margins, fonts, type styles. Cut, copy and paste are all available - as words on a menu and as cute little icons, Then the program adds a special wrinkle: It talks. If you set the spelling checker to work interactively and then type a misspelled word, a voice says "whoa" and a window pops up with the right spelling.
Not only that. If you click on the right icon, the program reads aloud what you've typed - in any one of 12 voices. But here, the programmers took a great idea and turned it into a bummer.
Only two of the dozen voices are female! In addition, one voice is listed as belonging to "Dr. Manhatten." We wish we could be sure that the programmers meant to spell Manhattan wrong. A fast look at the manual convinces us they were just sloppy, Its index lists all the wrong page numbers, rendering it nearly useless as a reference.
Some of the manual's illustrations show a different picture from what you'll see onscreen. Even for the 10-year-olds who could read what's in the book, that could be very confusing.
Here's our final beef: The text is largetype, making it seem to be directed at youngsters, but anyone under 10 will find it hard slogging. Words like "document, techniques, doubleclick" and "indentation" litter its pages. Priced at $29.95, it's published by Coriolis Group Books, Shame on them!
We have happier news about Davidson's "Flying Colors." It's one of the few paint programs that aren't like all the others. It comes with all the usual trappings of student paint programs: tools that draw lines, shapes and patterns in many onscreen colors. A symmetry tool that creates kaleidoscope effects.
There are predrawn backgrounds to choose from, some lovely enough to inspire creativity. There's a big library of predrawn "stamps" - from fish to flowers - to paste on the backgrounds. Cute sound effects are included, too.
But the most exciting part of the program is its ability to cycle through a range of onscreen colors, so that paintings seem to shimmer with light. We clicked a cycling color, then the ovalmaking tool. We drew the oval and at once it began to move through a rainbow from yellow to orange to yellow to orange. We clicked on the symmetry tool and suddenly the screen came alive with flying colors.
There are only two cautions to heed in buying "Flying Colors." First, even if you own the best color printer, you won't be able to capture your budding artist's shimmers on paper. Second, we got much faster performance and more dazzling flying colors on a 256-color Mac IIvx than under a Windows 256-color video driver, In Windows, it performs like just another $60 paint program.
If you like arcade games (and who doesn't?), you'll love "Crystal Crazy: The Quest Continues." Like its predecessor, "Crystal Crazy," it keeps you glued to your Mac screen.
The game's object is to smash or be smashed as you maneuver a space-ship through the hollows of ungravitational space. If you're a good arcade gamer, you'll move to level after level after ever more challenging level of play, You can pick up several trick guns and shields to help you.
Your path is strewn with extra point-getters.
The game takes no great skill, though it builds mouse control skills like crazy. Even your three-year-old can try her hand. It runs on nearly any Mac equipped with System 6.02 or higher, 16 colors, 2M RAM and a hard drive. And rejoice oh you die-hard Mac fan, it won't run on anything but a Mac! "Crystal Crazy" lists at $50. If you can't find it in your local computer software store, phone maker Cassady & Greene at 408-484-9228.
You can read back issues of this column at the electronic library, NewsNet, reachable via computer plus modem over phone lines. For NewsNet information, 800-345-1301. Copyright 1995 P/K Associates Inc. 3006 Gregory Street, Madison, WI 53711-1847.