James V. Trunzo
WizType requires an Atari, Commodore 64, or Apple ll-family computer with at least 32K RAM and a disk drive. The Atari version is reviewed here; other versions are similar.
Not so long ago you had to search through the fine print in computer software ads to find a program that would help teach you how to type. Now, practically any respectable computer dealer can show you an entire shelf of such products. A new program from Sierra (formerly Sierra On-Line) adds yet another program to this selection, and it just might be the best one yet. It's called WizType, and it's certainly a wizard of a product.
WizType is based on the characters who frequent the popular comic strip "The Wizard of Id." These include the Wizard himself; the spirit he conjures from the well; and Bung, the frequently inebriated court jester.
After booting the program disk, you are asked to enter your name, a standard feature of many programs. Next, however, a bar graph appears on the screen, illustrating the progress you've made during your lessons. Next there's a menu which shows the variety of options available in WizType:
- Own Lesson
The Game option, for example, is not just fun and play. It's a good example of the graphics and animation built into WizType. Three-fourths of the screen shows the Wizard of Id facing the spirit that has emerged from the well. Letter combinations begin to appear on the screen midway between the two characters. As you correctly type the letters, the Wizard zaps the spirit with a lightning bolt, keeping it docile. If you make errors, the spirit begins to metamorphose into a ferocious dragon's head which eventually starts breathing fire at the Wizard, reducing him to a pile of ashes. The combination of smooth animation, facial expressions, and instructional lessons is hard to describe; you must see this program to appreciate it fully.
As you progress, the material you're supposed to type becomes more difficult and appears more frequently, demanding more speed and accuracy if you are to continue playing.
Even in the Game section, WizType does not simply display random letter combinations on the screen. Each level gears itself to a different set of keys in order of difficulty (that is, home row keys at the easiest, and numbers and symbols at the hardest). You're always shown which keys will be used, the correct finger positioning, and the finger reaches that will be exercised at each level of play.
Sierra has a good reputation for not cutting corners in its products. The Game section of WizType includes such touches as bonus rounds, multiple lives, and comic strip-type balloons in which the Wizard cracks jokes after you successfully complete each level.
A Little Literature
While Games contains some surprises and challenges, the Drill and Practice sections are exactly what they sound like. You can work on areas of weakness for as long as you want and select a comfortable typing speed, varying from 10 to 60 words per minute at 10-word intervals. You can also control the typing speed after selecting the Words option from the menu. In Words, however, WizType assumes you are familiar with the
keyboard. You start out by typing two and three-letter words and progress to longer, more difficult words as your skill improves.
The two options which really set WizType apart from most typing-practice programs are Paragraphs and Own Lesson.
With Paragraphs, you type parts of eight literary works saved on the program disk. You can type the introductory paragraphs from Charles Dickens's A Tale Of Two Cities or a few scenes from William Shakespeare's Hamlet. Or perhaps you'd prefer The Gettysburg Address or selections from Mother Goose. You can also choose to have Bung serve as a pacer, hopping along on his pogo stick above the sentence being typed, at a rate you select.
In any case, typing entire paragraphs helps you attain well-rounded typing skills and arrive at a true idea of your typing speed and competency. Typing letters and words is fine for the purpose it serves, teaching the keyboard. But typing lengthy paragraphs adds new elements— fatigue, consistency, and smoothness. You can learn to establish a rhythm (and see the importance of rhythm) that cannot be achieved merely by typing single words.
If you tire of typing "To be or not to be," no problem: WizType also lets you create your own lessons. There are two ways to do this. First, you can simply select the Own Lesson option. This accepts individual words only. Or you can select the Paragraph option and then choose Create Paragraph from a submenu.
There are many fine typing programs currently on the market. Sierra's WizType certainly meets their standards, and surpasses most of them.
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