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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Create Custom Copywork and Worksheets with StartWrite (a review)

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.  This post contains affiliate links.

I’ve talked in the past about how I use copywork to teach and reinforce grammar, mechanics, and even spelling in our homeschool.  I’ve been using StartWrite software for a quite some time to create my own custom pages using excerpts from history and literature that target areas my kids need help in.  I was recently given the opportunity to review StartWrite 6, the latest edition.

startwrite-001

StartWrite 6

for Windows

Special Introductory Price:

$39.95

to upgrade from version 5:

$19.95

A free trial is available.

 

 

 

There are bunches of worksheet generators online, so you might be wondering why I would want a paid for product to do something I could do for free.

The answer is simple---StartWrite gives me the ability to quickly create  copywork that is fitted exactly to my kids and saves me time. 

You can control:

  • the font type
  • the size (from tiny to huge)
  • the font style (outline, dotted, light gray,black and just about everything in between---you can even control the “dot density”)
  • the line colors, styles, and which ones are visible
  • whether there’s a starting dot and directional arrows
  • the page orientation (portrait or landscape)
  • and more

The program is extremely customizable, it’s not possible for me to show you how minutely you can customize these things. 

For instance, not only can you choose to have direction arrows, you can choose whether they are on every letter, the first letter of each word, the first letter of every other word, etc… I’ve been working with StartWrite 6 for a month and I’m sure I still haven’t discovered everything there is to know about it.  See an overview of StartWrite’s features here.

Fonts include: 

  • similar to Zaner-Bloser™ (both manuscript and cursive)
  • similar to D'Nealian™ (both manuscript and cursive)
  • Italic manuscript and cursive
  • similar to Handwriting without Tears (both manuscript and cursive),
  • and others

You can see a complete list of StartWrite’s fonts with samples here.

Additionally, you can use any of the fonts that you have installed on your computer to add instructions or additional text (these will not have handwriting lines).

Most of the settings can be changed by clicking a button.  StartWrite 6 has a unique menu bar---many of the buttons you see are toggle buttons (for turning a feature on or off), but they also have drop-down menus that allow you to customize that feature.

startwrite main screen

 

Unlike most online worksheet generators, you can save your pages.  And if you have multiple children who use different handwriting fonts and/or sizes that you want to use the same selection for, you can do that in StartWrite!  After printing and saving, click on your copywork selection and choose a new font/size---no retyping!

You can make multiple page documents.

You can also format your pages to include images you have on your computer and borders that are included with the software.

It’s great for creating notebook pages!

startwrite screenshot notebook page

Now, there is a bit of a learning curve when using this software. 

Version 6 is not terribly different from the older version I already owned in terms of how the program is set up, but it does have a lot more bells and whistles and the menu is more user friendly.  And there is more that you can do with it.

As with older versions, rather than clicking on a page and typing like you would in a word processing program, you create a textbox.  You can create multiple textboxes on a page.  There is a grid feature that you can toggle on to help you line up your boxes.  You can also set it to “snap to grid”.

startwrite snap to grid

To do anything with the box, you click on  it and then you can change your font, size, line styles, type your passage, etc., etc. etc.  You DO NOT highlight the words you want to change, just click the box.  Any changes you apply will apply to the whole box.

You cannot change the font for a single word unless it is in a box by itself.  You also can’t set up a box where you have a word in a solid black font to make it easy to read, then a traceable dotted font, unless you have each of those things in a separate text box.

That can take some time getting use to, but a pdf manual is included when you purchase and there are video tutorials on the website.

Some things I’d like to see in the next version of StartWrite:

A “page set up” feature would be great.  I like to leave a certain margin to allow for hole-punching, for instance, but I need to arrange the page every time in Startwrite---by default it seems to cling near to the edge of the page when I add a textbox.  The ability to set snap-to margins on the grid or to set my margins in a menu would help me to produce more more spiffy results with less effort.

More polished looking border options.  The graphics used are very bit-mappy and ink-intensive.

I also found  that what I saw on the screen was not always what printed out.

IMG_6561

This may be an error my computer made in generating the page on my screen (I’m using a Windows 8 machine), but it shows how important it is to double check your settings, rather than relying on what appears on the screen.

What I love about StartWrite 6!

It’s incredibly customizable, easy to use, and I can save my work in case my printer eats the paper and doesn’t print correctly.  I can also open an old file, change the font and size with a click, and use it with a different child who has different needs.  I give it a definite thumbs up---I bought version 5 at this price and it didn’t have near the customization options that version 6 has.  Highly recommended.

Learn more about StartWrite 6 and download a free trial here.

Disclosure:  I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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