The author rates many of the most popular art and music software titles. Here are his recommendations:

Software for Elementary Schools

Curious George Paint & Print Studio (Sunburst Technology, 800-321-7511): “A cut above the many other elementary paint programs on the market.” Different levels for children of different skills and lots of clip art. Good teacher’s manual included.

Draw & Paint Plus (Forest Technologies, 800-544-3356): Simple program, perhaps best for least experienced children to get their first taste. Based on 20 colorful backgrounds, upon which cartoons and clip art can be placed. No teacher’s manual, but good help instructions on CD.

EasyBook Deluxe (Sunburst Technology): Enables elementary and middle school students to create a double-sided book on any printer. Illustrations made easy with draw feature, clip art, and ability to import graphics. Also has excellent grammar, spelling aids. Shows how to make specific types of books, such as cookbooks, mini-books, greeting cards, and photo albums. “Superb” teacher’s manual.

The Glowbird Collection (Sunburst Technology): Art is one element of a four-part individualized learning system that helps children acquire literacy skills by creating small books.

Imagynasium (Forest Technologies): For upper elementary schoolers, this program encourages students to tell stories through visual art. Created in conjunction with Robert Redford’s Sundance film program.

JumpStart Music (Knowledge Adventure, 800-545-7677): Created for ages 5 to 8, this teaches basic musical concepts (melody, harmony, scales, etc.) by following a cartoon rabbit. As with other JumpStart products, it’s almost a video game, and it’s inexpensive.

Kid Works Deluxe (Knowledge Adventure): Also for the youngest schoolchildren, this program “makes creating multimedia books so easy that students will be up and running immediately.” Lots of fun with use of voice and sound inserts and playback. Also has writing and paint elements.

Software for Secondary Schools

The Art of Seeing (Clearvue/eav and Zane Publishing, 800-253-2788): “Every middle school art classroom should have this CD.” Includes quizzes, a dictionary, and teacher’s guide, but it’s more than a text: It offers ways students can present their knowledge. Covers artistic techniques for color, shape, composition, perspective, pattern, texture, and illusions. Also includes information on ceramics, pottery, sculpture, and stained glass.

AudioCatalyst (Xing Technology, no phone number): This is an MP3 recorder, essentially enabling owners of a music CD to convert the music to an MP3 file. (There is a great deal of controversy surrounding fair use of MP3 files, so teachers should check their schools’ fair-use policies and communicate the policies to students—a learning experience of another sort.)

Inspiration 6.0 (Inspiration Software, 800-877-4292): Consistently popular since its first edition in 1997, this program can be described as “a computer flowchart creator on steroids.” While not designed solely for the arts, this software works superbly at helping students organize their thoughts for a piece of fiction, for example, as it enables students and teachers to show visually various plotlines.

MAGIX Music Maker Generation 5 (MAGIX Entertainment, 310-656-0644): Children and adults enjoy using this program to produce and “mix” music and videos. The newest version includes ability to work with MP3 files. One very nice feature is a large collection of royalty-free sound files included with the program. Since MAGIX often is used by music professionals or sophisticated amateurs, it may be beyond the capabilities of newcomers.

Music Ace 2 (Harmonic Vision, 800-474-0903): Building upon Music Ace, this version is equally valuable to beginner and intermediate music students. Music Ace 2 offers 24 lessons in topics such as rhythm, harmony, syncopation, standard notation, melody, rests, and measures. Quizzes on each topic are structured as games. A “Doodle Pad” offers easy ways to compose music and/or modify commonly known tunes.

Paul Cezanne: Portrait of My World (Forest Technologies): A very thoughtful look at the life and work of Paul Cezanne.

PrintMusic! 2000 (Coda Music Technology, 800-843-2066): PrintMusic! is made to facilitate scoring music for orchestras and bands. It offers 100 musical samples that can be converted into sheet music, and it makes the process even easier by providing a “Set-Up Wizard” that lets users set up the appropriate musical score on any size piece of paper.

SmartMusic Studio (Coda Music Technology, 888-874-2144): Interactive practice program for woodwinds, brass players, and vocalists. An onscreen tuner helps train beginners in tuning their instruments or vocalists in warming up. The program also can transpose music to any key, slowing down tempo for learning new passages, and putting difficult sections into a practice loop—all superb practice tools.