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Load 'Em Up: Productivity Software Picks

Technology Center

The Education World Tech Team shares its picks of the best software programs for classroom use. In this article, our experts reveal their choices for productivity software. Don't miss the rest of this multi-part Ed World series: Load 'Em Up: The Best Software in the Education World!

Productivity software is a very broad category that includes tools for word processing, creating spreadsheets, and managing graphics. Some programs in this category, such as Microsoft Office, provide tools for performing more than one of those functions. Others, such as Adobe Photoshop, specialize in a single task.

In this category, the big winners, in terms of the sheer number and enthusiasm of Tech Team recommendations, were multi-use tools--Microsoft Office for older students and KidWorks for those in lower grades. Adobe Photoshop, our Gold Star winner, was the clear favorite among single-tool graphics programs!

Of the recommended software in this category, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, ACDSee, Creative Writer 2, and PrintShop are available only for Windows. All other programs are available for both Macintosh and Windows.

Productivity Software Comparison

Installability Usability Performance Usefulness Support
Creative Writer 2*
KidWorks Deluxe
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Word
Print Shop

The Gold Star rating was determined by considering each program's total score along with the number of recommendations submitted for the program and the tenor of reviewers' comments about it.

* based on results from a single evaluator

Add Your Vote!
The reviews and recommendations in this article represent the opinions of only our Tech Team experts. If you would like to add your rating to theirs, or if you want to rate and review another productivity program's suitability for classroom use, e-mail me at [email protected].


"I like Microsoft Office because of its wide range of uses," Fred Holmes told Education World. "You get Word, which can also be used as a publisher; Excel, for grade books and other record keeping; and PowerPoint, which can handle pictures, sound, and video. The downside to Office is the price -- almost $300 for the standard edition and $500 for the Professional Edition (unless you can find a catalog with special prices for educators). I don't like Access, the database program that comes with the Professional Edition, however. It's a difficult program to learn and use. The Microsoft Works database is easier to use to create what you want."

Jennifer Wagner agrees. "Office teaches my students so many skills that they can use in the real world," Wagner said. "I can take any of the programs and use them in an everyday class setting. I can create name plates using Word Art; create graphs or maintain a database with Excel; create newsletters, cards, calendars, and certificates with Publisher; and create Web pages with Front Page! As a bonus, I can use MS Paint and manipulate graphics to my heart's content. I won't even begin to try to explain the wonderfulness of PowerPoint."

The Best Software in the Education World!

Click a category below to learn which software programs our Tech Team members recommended and how they rated the quality, performance, and usefulness of each!

* Productivity Software

* Presentation Software

* Curriculum Software

* Keyboarding Software

* Web Authoring Software

* Concept-Mapping Software

* Classroom Management Software

* Reference Software

Don't miss the main story of the series, Load 'Em Up: The Best Software in the Education World!

Not everyone agrees that Office is the best program for curriculum-related activities. "I prefer AppleWorks for K-8," computer technology coordinator Betty Kistler told Education World, "and that's what we use at my school. The kids eventually move into Office because that's what they'll use in high school, but I feel the change limits the students' opportunity for curriculum-related productivity."

Karen Kelly has a slightly different view. "We use AppleWorks for word processing," Kelly told Education World, "and I don't really have a strong opinion about it. I would rather see students using PCs in school, however. It doesn't make sense to me that, for 12 years, we teach students to use Macintosh computers, only to send them out into a PC world. Why do we do that?"

Mary Kreul is also an AppleWorks user. "AppleWorks," she noted, "is a good choice for a computer tools program, providing kids with the ability to create word-processed documents, spreadsheets, and databases and to draw and paint documents. They can even switch back and forth between different types of documents and combine them into more detailed projects.

"KidWorks Deluxe," Kreul added, is a great program for elementary students working on their writing skills. Pluses include the ability to use a story-starter template or write from scratch; the ability to write and draw pages that students can change according to their purposes; the ability to choose between clip art and paint pictures or original artwork; and the read-back feature. Students take pride in their professional-looking writings and enjoy printing their KidWorks stories and sharing them with classmates and families."

"For K-1 students, I like to use KidWorks," agreed Libby Adams. "Students can word-process on a screen similar to standard writing paper, and they have the added bonus of listening to what they've written. It's amazing how students are able to correct misspelled words when they hear what they have typed."


"I have two favorite tools," Madeline Decker told Education World, ACDSee and Photoshop.

"ACDSee, available in both registered and unregistered (free) versions, is a must for any Webmaster who deals with digital photographs, graphics, and images," according to Decker. "With this program, you can literally scroll through a group of pictures, whether they are on your hard drive or saved on a disk. Gone are the days of opening each image separately! The registered version also will convert graphic type, rotate an image, and make a great slide show.

"For creating graphics, nothing compares to Photoshop," Decker added. "We are very fortunate in our district; each Webmaster gets a licensed copy of Photoshop and training in how to use it. I love creating my own graphics too!"

Russ Stamp agreed. "As far as graphics programs are concerned, there is only one -- Adobe Photoshop. You could spend every minute of every day working in Photoshop and never fully utilize all its features. Photoshop is fairly reasonably priced for educators, but if cost is an option, Photoshop Elements is a wonderful alternative."

According to Kreul, "Print Shop is another wonderful, easy-to-learn program for teachers and students who want to create cards, stationery, banners, postcards, business cards, and posters. The program includes many different font and graphic design options, as well as templates to help design various projects. Students can also use original artwork, clip art from other sources, or photos to personalize their projects."


Name: ACDSee
Manufacturer: ACD Systems
Approximate Price: $34.95
Grade Level: 9-12, adults

Name: AppleWorks
Manufacturer: AppleComputer
Approximate Price: $$79
Grade Level: K-12, adults

Name: Creative Writer 2*
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Available Platforms: Windows
Approximate Price: $14.95
Grade Level: 2-6
* based on results from a single evaluator

Name: KidWorks Deluxe
Manufacturer: Knowledge Adventure
Available Platforms: Windows, Macintosh
Approximate Price: $89.95
Grade Level: Pre-K-4

Name: Microsoft Office
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Available Platforms: Windows
Approximate Price: (Standard Edition) new user, $479; upgrade, $239
Grade Level: 9-12, adults

Name: Microsoft Word
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Available Platforms: Windows
Approximate Price: new user, $339; upgrade, $79.95
Grade Level: 9-12, adults

Name: Photoshop
Manufacturer: Adobe Systems Inc.
Available Platforms: Windows, Macintosh
Approximate Price: new user, $609; upgrade, $199
Grade Level: 9-12, adults

Name: Print Shop
Manufacturer: Broderbund
Approximate Price: $29.95
Grade Level: 4-8


Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
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