Writing made easy for young students: Introducing WriteType

After several months of development, it is finally time to introduce the world to WriteType.  WriteType is an application designed to aid young students in writing and typing on the computer.  It offers text completion to make touch typing more efficient.  It also will read back the document with one of the four implemented text-to-speech engines, enable teachers to easily highlight areas for review, and more.

Why does WriteType exist?

My mom (an elementary school teacher) came home one day raving about the new coolest piece of technology acquired by her school.  These devices helped students to type more easily by offering them suggestions as they typed.  Becoming slightly suspicious, I asked for more information.

Apparently, the school had been purchasing these $400-500 devices because they offered word completion.  These devices, vaguely reminiscent of the infamous AlphaSmart series, were anything but ergonomic or easy to use.  Word completion was the killer feature that made paying $500 to type on a itsy-bitsy LED screen seem like an attractive offer.  It would seem that a feature included by default in most cell phones would have at least one desktop implementation, however a little bit of research showed that this awkward brand of “computer” was indeed the only way to make use of auto-completion while typing documents.

The shock effect alone was enough to motivate me to spend the weekend hacking up an initial version.  I sent out some early versions a local elementary school to be tested.  But as time went on, I began hearing from other people as well.  If a program that achieves such a feat was in such high demand, it is quite amazing that no proprietary software company has made any attempt to capitalize on the needs of schools.  Of course, readers of my blog understand how I feel about greedy educational companies who claim to want what is best for education but really just want to be filthy rich.  Because of these beliefs, I had no choice but to release WriteType as free software.

Where can WriteType be downloaded?

Downloads are available at the WriteType homepage.

How can YOU help WriteType?

  • Teach WriteType to a child or give it to a school
    • By helping out students, you are helping WriteType.  WriteType exists to benefit students, so the more that have access to it, the better.
  • Submit bug reports
    • I am able to test WriteType on a GNU/Linux computer, but my testing can only go so far.  It is vital that WriteType is stable if it is to be used to benefit students.  Bug reports can be submitted on Launchpad.
  • Submit feature requests
    • The best feature request come from those who use WriteType frequently.  Any problems, suggestions, etc. can be submitted as a Launchpad bug report with the tag “feature”.
  • Package WriteType for Windows
    • I have a limited ability to make packages for Windows, so more higher-quality Windows releases would be greatly appreciated, since that is what most schools will (unfortunately) be running.
  • Package WriteType for your GNU/Linux distribution
    • Currently, I have only a .deb package and a Python package.  Any other packages would be welcomed.  I also tried (unsuccessfully) to create a working PPA on Launchpad for *buntu distributions.  If anyone with experience on this would be willing to give me some advice, that would be very much appreciated.
  • Translate WriteType
    • If you are interested in translating, let me know and we’ll talk privately about it.
  • Submit a patch or join the development effort
    • If you are a Python developer, I would love your help!  The more, the merrier!

If you have any questions, you can ask in Launchpad Answers or leave a comment.  I hope you enjoy WriteType!

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Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm  Comments (18)  

18 Comments

  1. Openoffice also supports word completition, but maybe not as nice as your app.

    • hello :<) how are u i want to make a bolg thanks taylor

  2. Very nice, I’ve been looking for a OSS project to work on since mine is pretty much stable. Very interesting project and seems like a good amount of work to learn and teach some things.

  3. Great job. Awhile ago Open Office had a project like Office for Kids which while hopeful of was left very disappointed.

  4. I think you should have reporting to you feature off, by default. Invite, tell them it helps, but don’t make us turn off the setting. Thanks!

  5. would it somehow be possible to port to an openoffice plugin?

  6. nice job dear

  7. Another idea to consider along with porting to Windows is to porting it as a portable app. Many schools have very strict IT policies that would probably keep you software from getting installed but as a portable app it would give people a chance to see it in action with their students before committing to an install (along with gaining support from teachers to push for the addition).

    • Depending on how you classify a “portable app”, WriteType is already portable. The Windows download contains only the executable and the needed files to support it; there is no installer. This can be copied to a flash drive and lugged around to any computer. It does write information to the registry, however, so any preferences will not be saved.

  8. […] Writing made easy for young students: Introducing WriteType After several months of development, it is finally time to introduce the world to WriteType. WriteType is an application designed to aid young students in writing and typing on the computer. It offers text completion to make touch typing more efficient. It also will read back the document with one of the four implemented text-to-speech engines, enable teachers to easily highlight areas for review, and more. […]

  9. Ummm, how about internationalizing the app by adding the option to change dictionaries (and voice)?
    I like the simple way it just works, kids could love this.

  10. OK, was a bit fast there. Just had a quick peek at the code.
    Internationalization would require a rewrite or an additional way to populate wordslist.

    • Not necessarily, it would just require different word lists. As it is right now, TTS (via eSpeak), spellcheck, and the interface can be easily internationalized. In fact, there is a (currently useless) option in the config file to specify the language. Word completion would would take only a little bit of code, but would require a list of words in the desired language. If you (or anyone) is interested in submitting a translation, I would be more than happy to fully make translations available. In fact, I’ll add it to the “how can you help” list.

      • I’d be quite happy to do some Dutch translations but I actually had thought of using existing dictionaries, like in OpenOfficeorg.
        Adding these thru a “clickable” option is a lot more user-friendly than editing config files ….. Scratching my own itch isn’t the issue here (that’s easy enough) but I do think that a simple (internal) word-list doesn’t really cut it in the long run.

  11. This looks like a very promising app; hope you will be able to develop it more and make it stable. It reminds me of Clicker 4 which also combines word prediction and auditive support when writing (see Cricksoftware) which I used a lot for my disabled daughter.

  12. Who eva wrote this shit is a dumb mutha fucka, u a punk ass bitch you know that, you obviously don’t know shit about computer programming and just decided to make a fucking horrible blog. One last thing……….. FUCK YOU BITCH

  13. I am truly srry for the language that “Muthafucka” said, if I were his parents I would drop him off a cliff. Don’t listen to him, and keep making your blog, you have a bright future

  14. […] Initial Release Announcement […]


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