Child’s Play – MacKiev Gets It Right

Cat in the HatWhile primarily due to being ill *yet again* (I’m beginning to think Seattle is the nation’s cold/flu incubator), last week’s blogging was further disrupted by the preparations for and celebration of our last child’s second birthday. As you can imagine, children of geeks tend to get more geeky presents and Ian is now the proud user of his own age-appropriate “Leap” device and the plethora of add-ons that go with it. This is also the age where we have tended to start our kids on interactive computer software (that is, if you don’t count Baby Banger). Besides Winnie-ther-Pooh, one of his favorite stories is The Cat in the Hat by the venerable Dr. Seuss, so I grabbed a copy of MacKiev’s electronic version at the Alderwood Mall Apple Store and had it ready to go on the MBPro for the big day.

We’ve purchased other versions of this interactive Cat for his brother and sister, but MacKiev did an outstanding job on this version with enough distinctly Mac touches to warrant a post. What did the developers get right?

A solid installer

While I am – and other experienced Apple users are – fully comfortable dragging applications around, newer Mac users and switchers tend to like installers. Good installers do the heavy lifting for you, make sure you know what’s going on, possibly do extra work (more on that in a bit) and provide an easy way to un-install the program. MacKiev definitely got this right.

Keeping up-to-date

“Registering” children’s software – or any other type of software for that matter – on Windows boxes was usually a task I would avoid since it tended to be little more than a request for spam. The MacKiev installer gave me the option to register and I took a chance since (a) it’s a Mac program and (b) it provided a means to opt-out of spam-like messages. Immediately after registering, I received an e-mail letting me know there was a Leopard update to the program, which I promptly downloaded and installed. While a “check for updates” menu item (*cough* Sparkle *cough*) would have been even better, it was refreshing to get useful mail right from the start.

Choices & control

The Cat in the Hat software has two primary modes, interactive (click on things during the story) or “movie-mode”, which is just an animated reading of the book while words are highlighted. You really don’t need software for the latter, and the book/content publisher finally understood this since the installer asked me if I wanted to upload supplemental content into iTunes. This “supplemental” content was actually the full audio and video of the book, which was copied in DRM-free format into my library where two playlists were also created, ready to sync to my iPhone, iPod or Apple TV (it’s now on all three).

For quite a while, Ian will just be sitting with me as we watch the story unfold or as I click on images to make them do unexpected tricks, but now he’ll also be able to hunt for it on my iPhone (he already knows how to call his mother on it and can get to music he likes without help from anyone, which is a tribute Apple engineers UI design/implementation) or request it as an option for the infrequent TV time the kids get.

MacKiev’s great work has guaranteed a purchase of The ABC Book when Ian is a little older and is definitely something other developers & publishers should seek to emulate in their offerings. If you’ve had some good experiences with other children’s software, be sure to drop a note in the comments (hey, it’s for Ian after all!).

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