Doozla is play-to-learn graphic design software for youngsters. In our office it got the thumbs-up from parents and grown-up kids alike.
If you have young children and want to get them on friendly terms with a Mac, this a great way in - think of it as a paperless colouring book.
Suitable for toddlers
Although the target age is not specified, we think it's suitable for children aged two and upwards.
Navigating the software, tool selection, saving and printing will require an adult present for toddlers, but this is still simple software that a child of four could handle better than an adult after a few sessions. A 30-day, free demo version can be downloaded from the developer's website.
Choose a background
Installation was painless, and we experienced no hangs or crashes. The start-up screen presents four options, and these represent the type of background that the child can draw on.
This can be a blank screen, an existing image file, a snap taken using iSight or, wonderfully, a range of excellent-quality backgrounds that come with the software. These include things like icescapes of the Poles, pirate ships and so on.
All the scenes are expertly rendered, have fun themes and feature harmless topics.
If a parent took a headshot with iSight, which she or he could command with one click from within the software, a child would be doodling on that face just a few seconds later. Brilliant!
The drawing tools in the toolbar along the bottom of the screen stay the same regardless of which drawing option you choose. You get basic tools like Brush, Line, Circle and Fill, among a dozen or so others, plus you get a Colour palette, too.
This software is intuitive; it doesn't matter whether you pick a tool first, or pick a colour and then a tool, for example. So, if you child's attention span runs out in one of the drawing areas, say drawing a penguin in the Antarctic, they can return to Home, pick from the four Menu options and then select a different drawing area, such as a blank canvas.
The software is light and speedy, quickly presenting the child with the same familiar tools, but on a different background to draw on. We were really impressed by the flexible, easy-to-use nature and organisation of the features.
Over 70 templates
The range of backgrounds in the Colouring In and Draw on Background sections are extensive.
You get over 70 colouring-in templates here alone, and again they are all excellent quality, including famous landmarks from around the world. You can also open an unlimited number of images from your hard drive; clicking the Open icon drops a Finder window down and you can take your pick from there.
When a little masterpiece has been created you can save, print it or simply close it. There's no web exporting option, but the absence of web connectivity in the software is a good thing in our opinion.
Throughout the software music plays in a gentle, CBeebies background kind of way, and when you select a tool or colour, the app speaks the name of the tool and the colour in a sugary-sweet, childish tone. The sounds can all be turned off and volume can be controlled in the usual Mac OS way.
Highly recommended software
This is one of the best apps for kids we've seen. In fact, we couldn't find a single problem - it deserves every accolade.
All parts of it seem right on the money, from the low price to the generous amount of bundled backgrounds for kids to doodle away on, plus the wonderfully fluid, easy style of 'working'. Which brings us back to that 30-day, fully featured demo mentioned earlier, available for download from the developer and also found on this month's MacFormat DVD - give it a go!