Desktop software that inspires!
February 20, 2018 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I've upgraded our family PC to something powerful and I'm looking to pack it full of software that will inspire and enable creativity for my kids (10 and 12). Help me find the right software for it!

Some details -- Windows 10 machine (will remain so), powerful rig including video card. Willing to pay for software, but ridiculously priced please.

Some examples of software I've found so far include:

Sculptris - Looks to be a pretty intuitive 3D sculpting tool.
Space Engine - Very cool looking universe simulator
Scratch - My kids already love it, and will continue to be used.

Would love to find any other simulation, creation, or sandbox software that fits in the mold of these -- offering tools to create, explore and learn.

posted by quantum to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't exactly need HAL to run it, but my son loves Algodoo, which is a free physics engine.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:37 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is Minecraft too obvious to suggest? I've heard good things about Kerbal Space Program, but I admit I haven't used it myself.
posted by crocomancer at 7:38 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Alice will do this. Teaches programming with using objects, sort of like Scratch.
posted by deezil at 7:42 AM on February 20, 2018

Start with Mavis Teaches Typing. The kids will use it as a game and in the process they'll learn to type accurately and fast. This will help them immensely with anything else they will ever do with a computer.
posted by beagle at 7:55 AM on February 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

Kerbal Space Program is a lot of fun if your kids are into the "open-ended challenge with few specific goals" (a bit like vanilla Minecraft) kind of thing. There are obvious goals (get into orbit, get to the moon, etc) but little hand-holding to help you get there (or at least there weren't last time I played - it was lacking a thorough tutorial). There are a bunch of Youtube tutorials though (usual warnings about unsupervised Youtube usage apply). Getting into orbit successfully and your first moon landing are super satisfying.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:00 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Mavis. She's probably the most valuable teacher I've ever had (said nosila in under 5 seconds with no mistakes). And maybe I was a weird kid, but I LOVED that frickin' game.
posted by nosila at 8:44 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I use tinkercad with my class... they can design simple objects and print them on our 3d printer. It's web-based and free, and you can order prints if you don't have a printer.

I'd recommend Typing Club over Mavis Beacon. It's similar in concept but more... modern, I guess? I'm not sure what Mavis Beacon looks like these days, though.

To justify that beefy hardware you might consider the standalone Tour Mode of Assassin's Creed: Origins, which is apparently a detailed simulation of many aspects of ancient Egyptian life, without any of the killing or gameplay. There are 75 guided tours. Steam or Ubisoft's download system only, or it's also in the game itself.

Here in America a 12 year old might be studying Ancient Egypt in 6th grade, not sure where you are.
posted by Huck500 at 9:25 AM on February 20, 2018

Kerbal Space Program now has some decent built-in tutorials, and a solidly progressive career mode, so it's a lot less intimidating than it used to be. There are also some really pretty graphics mods if you want to push your new computer a bit.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:00 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

a softsynth
posted by WeekendJen at 1:22 PM on February 20, 2018

Piggybacking on that, Reaper.

Also Photoshop, or the GIMP if you don't feel like springing for PS. I would have killed for a decent image program at age 12 - spent hours just drawing weird Mario cartoons in MSpaint.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2018

If you want Serious Image Editing without the Adobe prices then consider Affinity’s stuff.
posted by egypturnash at 7:56 PM on February 20, 2018

I just came in to recommend Serif Affinity too - I installed the 10 day trial version yesterday and am hugely impressed by how fast it is compared to photoshop. It also feels way more intuitive (coming from a hobbyist photoshop perspective) and tools are labelled better on hover. If it wasn't so unfair of them to charge £49 in the UK compared to US $49, I'd probably go ahead and buy it.

Also second/third/ninth the suggest to get them touch typing now - they will thank you a million times over when they're older.
posted by humph at 4:02 AM on February 21, 2018

Sketchup - 3D modelling but without the UI being total death

Seconding Reaper for audio sequencing (music, sketches - maybe get some sound effect libraries to build on?).
posted by BobInce at 7:27 AM on February 21, 2018

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