WorkSpace makes a successful writing tool even better, writes Chris Drage

WriteOnline WorkspaceThe benefits of being able to express ideas visually have long been understood, and mind maps are tools that help achieve this. Crick Software’s writing support software, WriteOnline, now includes WorkSpace (right), a visual mind-mapping tool that enables pupils to organise their thoughts and ideas into mind maps before they even begin to write.

WriteOnline, Crick Software’s award winning-writing tool for learners of all abilities, from upper primary school to adults, offers more support than any other word processor for those who find writing difficult. The software can be used online and on CD too, giving users the option to install it on their computers, while enjoying the freedom to use the program anywhere else simply by logging in.

WorkSpace now extends the word processor’s built-in speech feedback, word prediction and Wordbar support by providing easy-to-use mind mapping. Like so many of Crick Software’s products, it's intuitive to use: pupils can start creating mind maps straight away as it is fully integrated with WriteOnline. You just click on the Wordspace tab and then pick shapes from the on-screen palette – or simply click on the screen, write and then link ideas (all on-screen words can be "spoken" out loud by the computer).

When students are ready to start writing, with just a couple of clicks they can transform their mind map into an outline document or a Wordbar (a talking word-bank vocabulary tool), enabling them to develop a structured, logical and coherent piece of work. However, it's not necessary to go into much detail in detail as to how WorkSpace ‘works’ within WriteOnline as Crick Software has a comprehensive explanatory video on its website (here).

I particularly like the fluid integration, the smooth way in which you can tile the screen to see both your WorkSpace and the writing document, or alternatively put your entire mind map into the document. I also like the way in which the Wordbar integrates with the WorkSpace: a Wordbar can be instantly created incorporating the structures created in the mind map.  Each WriteOnline document has a WorkSpace saved with it, so whenever you open a document you open that document's WorkSpace with it.

WriteOnline ticks all the boxes for busy teachers with anywhere, anytime learning whether they have full-time web access or not because it can also run for a period of time offline. All writing begins with planning and organising ideas, tasks that many learners can find difficult. With Workspace, Crick Software has provided WriteOnline users with the ability to support this important part of the writing process by creating their own visual mind maps and diagrams.

Many visual learners benefit from organising their thoughts and ideas in diagrammatic format before they start to write, and WriteOnline's Workspace provides tools for doing this in a highly intuitive environment. It is an excellent example of how industry-standard software tools like a word processor can be designed to be inclusive for all learners and users – not forgetting the class teacher! Thoroughly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Features 4
Quality 5
Value for money 4


Online word processor designed specifically to support those learning to write. with comprehensive support for those who have problems with their reading and writing (and those who work with them). Works offline too. Now includes an important new feature, Workspace, for mind maps and diagrams to be used at the planning stage of writing.
WriteOnline single-user, three-year licence £180; primary school one-year subscription £400; secondary school one-year subscription £1,500.

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