Computers: Creating more than mayhem

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ONCE YOUR kids are through with exploration and adventure, they might like to turn their hand to something more creative. One way to impress friends and relatives is to send personalised greetings card - something we quickly discovered when we installed CardShop Plus for Windows - a program that includes all the elements you need to produce an apt, witty or amusing greeting for any occasion.

My 10-year-old son thinks it is great because it gives him an alternative to writing thank you letters, while my 14-year-old niece likes it because it gives her a chance to send lots of extra cards to friends without costing a fortune in stationery.

CardShop Plus is also ideal for party invitations and good at producing certificates and signs and, given its ability to come to the rescue when you have forgotten a special event, its appeal is not limited to the youngsters.

If your children want to be creative on a grander scale, then the two programs in the Microsoft Kids series, Creative Writer and Fine Artist, might encourage them. These programs are not just a word processor and a painting program, they are definitely 'souped up' with extras.

Whether you consider the embellishments as enhancements or distractions depends on your generation and temperament but kids seem to appreciate the skateboarding character, McZee, who acts as program guide.

If you like the idea of painting with sound effects then there is quite a lot of fun to be had with Rainbow Rascal, a program that encourages creativity in children of all ages by providing characters, objects and operations all coupled with bizarre noises.

CardShop Plus; pounds 49.95; Mindscape International, 0444 246333. Creative Writer, Fine Artist; pounds 49.95; Microsoft, 0734 270000; Rainbow Rascal; pounds 24.95; Scops Software, 0252 722223.

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