Writing Lab Outreach Project
c/o Nickola Nelson

1903 W. Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5355

(269) 387-7990

Software Taxonomy and Links

Supporting projects

Writing software sources

There are numerous word processing and creativity programs designed for young children. Choosing one requires matching the features of software programs to students' individual writing strengths and needs. We offer the following taxonomy of software features to help you understand the wide variety of features that are available. Each feature is linked to one of the major stages of the writing process that it best supports. Following the taxonomy is a list of selected children's writing programs that include some of these features and additional World Wide Web sites for software information. We have also included references for selected research articles on the effects of software features.

Taxonomy of Software Features that Support the Writing Process

Planning and Organizing

Idea Generation Tools Organizational Aids
Graphics-Based Stimulus Pictures  Clip Art  Scene Creation Tools  Drawing and Painting Tools  Multimedia Authoring Graphic Organizers
Text-Based Brainstorming & Freewriting Activities  Mixed-Up Phrases  Idea Lists  Story Starters  On-screen Notepad  Outliners  Prompted Writing  Templates


Picture Symbols

Word Cueing and Prediction 

Abbreviation Expansion and Macros 

Collaborative Writing 

Speech Recognition


Revising and Editing

Standard Editing Tools 

Thesaurus Tools 

Rhyming Word Tools 

Spelling Checkers 

Homonym Checkers 

Grammar and Style Checkers 

Speech Synthesis 

On-Screen Manuals



Desktop Publishing Desktop Presentation

Desktop Publishing Features 

Book Formatting 

Alternative Publishing Formats

Multimedia Options 

Electronic Book Formatting 

Publishing on the World Wide Web

Publishers of Children's Writing Software

Shareware Software for Children

Technology-Supported Literacy Sites

Selected Children's Writing Programs


(Inspiration Software, Inc.;1-800-877-4292; www.inspiration.com)

Graphic organizer software that enables users to develop concept maps, diagrams, timelines, hierarchical structures, and more. Can convert diagrams to outlines. Can create templates to foster thinking and organizing skills. Includes large symbol library.


(Inspiration Software, Inc.; 1-800-877-4292; www.inspiration.com)

Children's version of popular graphic organizer software. Makes transfer from graphic organizer to text more explicit.


(Don Johnston, Inc.; 1-800-999-4660; www.donjohnston.com)

Intelligent word prediction program that works in conjunction with a word processor. Predictions based on letters typed, grammar, personal preferences, past word usage, and other factors. Can also read aloud word choices. Also includes abbreviation expansion.

Write: OutLoud

(Don Johnston, Inc.; 1-800-999-4660; www.donjohnston.com)

Talking word processor. Letters, words, and sentences can be spoken as student writes. Highlights words as they are read. Includes talking Franklin Spell Checker, Dictionary, and Homonym Checker. Offers male, female, and child's voices. Graphics can be imported.

Ultimate Writing and Creativity Center

(The Learning Company; 1-800-685-6322; www.learningcompanyschool.com)

Desktop publishing program. Includes clip art, sounds, music, photographs, and animations.  Also has spell checker, thesaurus, dictionary, and text-to-speech capabilities. Writing ideas and suggestions are presented in four writing lands: tropical rainforest, southwestern desert, space, and pacific ocean. Also includes a password-protected journal, notepad, and post-it notes. Includes an on-screen "writing tips" manual with information about the writing process, common grammatical errors, and various writing genre.

Intellitalk II

(Intellitools, Inc.;1-800-899-6687; www.intellitools.com)

Talking word processor for children. Includes auditory spell check, on-screen palettes to provide picture and word prompts, locked (frozen) text, built-in scanning, and automatic overlay generation.

EasyBook Deluxe

(Sunburst Communications; 1-800-321-7511; www.sunburst.com)

Screen formatted as an open book. Students can print books in four sizes: poster book, full page book, easy book (half page), and mini book (quarter page) or present stories on-screen using the speech synthesis. Includes scene creation tools: backgrounds, clip art (stamps), and painting tools. Also includes spell checker and thesaurus.

Kid Works Deluxe

(Davidson; 1-800-545-7677; www.davd.com)

Included as part of Fisher-Price Ready for School 1st Grade package and Blaster Learning System 3 R's, ages 4-6. Screen formatted as book pages. Includes rebus images which can be converted to words with the click of a button. Also includes painting tools, stamps, text-to-speech, and sound recording tools. When story is presented on-screen, text is read and graphics are animated.

Paint, Write, & Play!

(The Learning Company; 1-800-685-6322; www.learningcompanyschool.com)

On-screen book format. Students can combine text and graphics. Includes alphabetical talking word list. Click on words to enter directly into document. Also includes a "travel center" for story ideas and words. Includes backgrounds, stamps, and painting tools for scene creation. Text-to-speech allows story to be presented aloud on-screen.

Read, Write, & Type!

(The Learning Company; 1-800-685-6322; www.learningcompanyschool.com)

Teaches keyboarding skills by associating keys with letter sounds. Combines phonics and typing skills. Includes a variety of games and activities. Includes 40 skill levels. Tracks progress to redirect children to areas for improvement.

Creative Writer 2

(Microsoft; www.microsoft.com/kids)

Desktop publishing tool that includes variety of multimedia features. Includes extensive project and writing ideas, as well as stimulus pictures and "splot machine" with mixed-up phrases. Also includes sounds, backgrounds, borders, clip art, and paint tools.

Author's Toolkit

(Sunburst Communications; 1-800-321-7511; www.sunburst.com)

Word processing program that provides support for three main types of writing: imaginative, personal, and functional. Provides several tools to guide students through the writing process, including: prompts about purpose and audience; a "NoteMaker" tool; a "StructureMaker" tool for rearranging, collapsing, and expanding notes; a "DraftMaker" for expanding notes into sentences; a "ProofMaker" tool with spelling checker and sentence analysis support; a fully functional word processor; and a "RecordMaker" tool for self-assessing one's work. Also includes a thesaurus and a separate word bank tool called"Word Builder."

textHELP! Read & Write

(textHELP! Systems, Ltd.; +44 (0)1849-428105; www.texthelp.com)

Vocabulary support package which talks, types, checks spellings, corrects mistakes, predicts, magnifies, and more. Operates in conjunction with any Windows-based application including word processors, databases, spreadsheets, desktop publishing, and email. Includes spelling checker, speech synthesis, word prediction, abbreviation expansion, and magnification of area around cursor.

Dr. Peet's Talk/Writer

(Dr. Peet's Software; 1-800-245-5733; www.drpeet.com)

Talking word processor for pre-readers, young ESL learners, or children with visual challenges, severe physical challenges, or learning disabilities. Includes ABC Discovery program to introduce letters and words. Includes built-in options for children who are blind, including speech synthesis and "double-touch" option. Also includes built-in single switch option.

My Words

(Hartley Jostens Learning; 1-800-244-0575; www.jlc.com)

Word processor that includes a personal word bank and text-to-speech capabilities. Also includes sounds, but no graphics.

Write Away!

(Sunburst Communications; 1-800-321-7511; www.sunburst.com)

Program includes four different levels. Each can be customized by teacher with selected menu bars, buttons, and dialog boxes. Includes an alphabetized word book that can hold up to 48 words per letter of the alphabet. While writing, students can open word book, copy selected words, then paste into writing document. Can also have up to five different on-screen word lists, each holding up to 20 words. Students can click on selected words from the list to enter directly into document. Includes spell checker that can be customized to allow or ignore certain types of spelling patterns. Pictures can be inserted in line, but not easily moved around screen. Requires add-on module for text-to-speech.

World Wide Web Sites for Software Information

Children's Software Revue includes the Children's Software Finder, a database of more than 4,000 software titles searchable by rating, platform, publishing, learning area, and so on. Also includes reviews of new software, links to publishers, and a list of the best online software stores.

Technology and Learning Online provides information and articles related to technology use with learners. Also includes a searchable database of software reviews.

SuperKids Educational Software Review provides reviews and ratings of educational software, practical and fun tools for online and offline use, news about important educational issues, and views of visionaries and policymakers.

Selected Research Articles on Effects of Software Features

Ashton, T. M. (1999). Spell CHECKING: Making writing meaningful in the inclusive classroom. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(2), 24-27.

Bahr, C., Nelson, N., Van Meter, A., & Yanna, J. (1996). Childrenï's use of desktop publishing features: Process and product. Journal of Computing in Childhood Education, 7(3/4), 149-177.

Bahr, C., Nelson, N., & Van Meter, A. (1996). The effects of text-based and graphics-based software tools on planning and organizing of stories. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(4), 355-370.

Borgh, K., & Dickson, W. P. (1992). The effects on children's writing of adding speech synthesis to a word processor. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 24(4), 533-544.

Daiute, C. (1992). Multimedia composing: Extending the resources of kindergarten to writers across the grades. Language Arts, 69, 250-260.

Daiute, C., & Morse, F. (1994). Access to knowledge and expression: Multimedia writing tools for students with diverse needs and strengths. Journal of Special Education Technology, 12(3), 221-256.

Lanspa, A., Wood, L., & Beukelman, D. (1997). Efficiency with which disabled and nondisabled students locate words in cue windows: Study of three organizational strategies � frequency of word use, word length, and alphabetic order. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 13(2).

Lewis, R. B., Graves, A. W., Ashton, T. M., & Kieley, C. L. (1998). Word processing tools for students with learning disabilities: A comparison of strategies to increase text entry speed. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 13(2), 95-108.

MacArthur, C. A. (1996). Using technology to enhance the writing processes of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(4), 344-354.

MacArthur, C. A. (1998). From illegible to understandable: How word recognition and speech synthesis can help. Teaching Exceptional Children, 30(6), 66-71.

MacArthur, C., Graham, S., Haynes, J. B., & DeLaPaz, S. (1996). Spelling checkers and students with learning disabilities: Performance comparisons and impact on spelling. The Journal of Special Education, 30(1), 35-57.

McNaughton, D., Hughes, C., & Clark, K. (1997). The effect of five proofreading conditions on the spelling performance of college students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30(6), 643-651.

Newell, A. F., Arnott, J., Booth, L., Beattie, W., Brophy, B., & Ricketts, I. W. (1992). Effect of "PAL" word prediction system on the quality and quantity of text generation. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 8, 304-311.

Raskind, M. H., & Higgins, E. (1995). Effects of speech synthesis on the proofreading efficiency of postsecondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18, 141-158.

Sturm, J., & Koppenhaver, D. A. (2000). Supporting writing development in adolescents with developmental disabilities. Topics in Language Disorders, 20(2), 73-92.