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Boardmaker Version 5

by Gerry Kennedy


Boardmaker V5 from Mayer-Johnson, Inc.

For PC-Compatibles running Windows 95/98/2000 and Mac OS Computers

Dynamic Communication and Creation Resource Software

Boardmaker V5 has been significantly re-programmed. It has numerous additional features and is easier to use than the previous version. Boardmaker has become the preferred desktop publishing package that the majority of health professionals, teachers and parents use, as it offers over 3000 colour and black and white PCS (Picture Communication Symbols). After installing and launching this exciting new version, it is quickly apparent as to how efficient, flexible and versatile the program is, when compared with the earlier Boardmaker software versions. It has definitely come of age as it has so many new powerful features and options.

The tedious, time consuming and costly process of creating a communication board, communication device overlay or lotto card in the past always involved cut, copy and paste with paper, card and photocopied materials. Boardmaker changed that scenario and eliminated all of these impediments as it was computer based, easy to learn and very flexible in its approach. Boardmaker V5 continues to assist busy people in providing a powerful tool to create printed and onscreen resources that contain not only the PCS graphics, but also photos, clip art and other symbol sets. Elegant in design, functional in its execution, and user friendly with icons and toolbars that are intuitive and practical, it represent another quantum leap in firmly establishing the software as the pre-eminent choice in schools, adult centres, CRU’s and homes. It can also be used with a sibling communication package, Speaking Dynamically Pro. Both packages are available for MS Windows and MAC operating systems.


  • Thumbnails feature displays up to 49 pictures at once. For example, you can type in the word “tree” and see all of the “tree” pictures at one time.
  • Pictures are sorted into categories. Combining the category and thumbnails feature allows you to view 49 pictures in the same category at one time (e.g. “grooming” or “cleaning”)
  • PCS are vector-drawn metafiles which means they are scalable to any size and will look great onscreen and in print in different sizes (from thumbnail to poster dimensions) The symbols are now metafiles i.e. scalable line drawings
  • No more turning Auto Resize on and off – the symbols automatically scale to fit a button and no extra effort is required to add additional symbols to a button
  • Paint tools have been added including paint bucket, eraser, pencil, flip and rotate tools. Quickly change the colour of a symbol or add to it. No need to go to another paint package to edit symbols or clip art
  • Boardmaker 5 operates better with digital pictures (e.g. from your digital camera or from a scanned image)
  • Better support for digital pictures. Use the Import command to add your own pictures to your boards
  • You can import your existing Boardmaker files and libraries into the new version (no conversions required). This includes the Macintosh version as well
  • Allows you to use the colour-coded backgrounds which means that you can surround a black and white picture with colour while allowing the picture to stay white internally
  • Boardmaker V5 now has space for up to 150 languages. There are currently 20 languages with others being added on an ongoing basis. An Australian symbol set will be available as well in the near future
  • Category Search – Search or browse only the symbols in a particular category
  • The Symbol Finder window floats over the draw window – no more flipping back and forth between windows
  • Symbols can have multiple names so you can also find a symbol by typing in synonyms for the picture and you can add your own names to a symbol
  • Alternate Names Field – give a symbol a temporary new name right in the Symbol Finder


  • Each symbol is translated into 10 languages and may be found and printed in any of these ten languages. This means that you can build a communication board in any language without being able to speak it
  • Symbols may be copied with:

    1. no text above the symbol
    2. one language above the symbol, or
    3. any two of the current 10 languages above the symbol

  • Additional languages may be added by typing over existing languages

The software is packaged with 3,000 Picture Communication Symbols from Books I, II, and III. Each Boardmaker comes with a set of black and white symbols and a set of colour symbols. The drawing program is now even more versatile and powerful. The assorted pre-made blank grids for making communication boards or overlays are ready-to-use templates that are designed and dimensioned to be used immediately after printing to card or paper. The comprehensive Boardmaker Manual and Picture Index provide quick reference and support (uncommon these days with some mainstream software). The manuals are very easy to follow and are bound in a 3-binder hard copy folder.

There are numerous time saving features advantages. With Boardmaker V5 you can:

  • Make a professional looking communication displays with PCS, photos, clip art and other graphics to accommodate specific learning and communication needs. You can print to a range of paper sizes as well (e.g. A4, A3, or A5)
  • Quickly find PCS (over 3000) and paste into your display with a mouse click from up to 49 thumbnail pictures
  • Make the pictures any size and with any spacing, without jagged edges (as the new PCS are vector drawn)
  • Choose any font, style, and size it to accommodate clients’ visual/cognitive needs, or remove text if required
  • Print in black and white or in colour (if you have a colour inkjet/laser printer) with excellent results
  • Save your copy for later editing or save for another student/client or group of students/clients
  • Copy your new files to disk and archive, and seamlessly import old Boardmaker files into the new version
  • Store, name, retrieve, resize and paste pictures. Make whole new libraries as well
  • Copy and paste pictures from other symbol libraries (e.g. COMPIC), or graphics from CD ROM libraries, school/ centre/ hospital intranet, from encyclopaedias, resource CD ROM’s, scanned images, digital cameras or pictures and drawings acquired from the Internet. Include drawings created by the student/client in other software (e.g. KidPix )
  • Make work sheets, picture instruction sheets, reading books, wall charts, timetables, communication board overlays, daily rosters, pictorial menus using Boardmaker or by pasting pictures into this desktop publishing program
  • Copy PCS from this software and paste into other resource software applications such as MS Word, MS PowerPoint, AppleWorks, Overlay Maker, MS Publisher, SwitchIt! Maker 2, ChooseIt! Maker 2, Clicker 4


The installation is very easily performed and the directions are in the user guide. Simply by locating and clicking on the appropriate setup file initiates the installation process. You can purchase just the Boardmaker program, or the Speaking Dynamically Pro, or both together. You install the software titles according to your purchase. You are provided with three manuals: the Making Boards Tutorial , the Boardmaker User’s Guide , and (if purchased as well) the Speaking Dynamically Pro User’s Guide . These manuals are designed to provide all the necessary information you will need to successfully install and use the program(s). It is always wise to refer to your manuals first before calling Technical Support for assistance from your local supplier. For more information regarding the additional resources for Boardmaker, go to the Mayer Johnson Web site at http://www.mayer-johnson.com or to http://www.spectronicsinoz.com for Australian prices and upgrade offers.


Upon launching the program you are greeted with a startup screen and logo as the necessary files and utilities load. Then three choices are made available to you, as three large pictures onscreen. You can elect to open a new board, open a saved board or use a template. There are a large number of pre-made templates that have been programmed for a variety of purposes. These are all ready to use as Calendars (all months in 2001 and 2002), with leading communication devices (e.g. Macaw, Parrot, Chat Box, TechTalk, Alpha Talker, Go Talk, Ultimate 8) and many others. There are Mayer-Johnson display templates and schedules as well as onscreen boards to be used with Speaking Dynamically Pro. You can use these as they are presented, or edit and modify them to suit your specific needs. They will accrue immediate benefit to teachers, aides, parents and speech pathologists as many hours of time and frustration will be avoided by using these handy resources. Initially the software will cost money, but with continued use, save you thousands of dollars in time. In addition, your displays will be professional and can be used by others later and simply re-edited to suit other student or client needs. It just makes sense!

When you choose a new board, a page appears with a toolbar on the left hand side of the screen. Your page is blank. You can start creating cells (using a ruler as your guide) and ‘spray’ cells using a very useful tool that duplicates a cell quickly (to create 2, 4, 6, 9 or more cells). The toolbar allows you to colour text, fill the cell background with a colour, draw free form lines with a number of line thickness choices, change the shape (6) of each cell or a group of cells and create a shadow effect in a cell. These are very intuitive tools and easy to learn and access. The pointer tool lets you manipulate cells (choosing, dragging, re-sizing, re-positioning etc) and the text tool allows you to place text in any size, font, style or colour anywhere on your board.

The icon of a strange little man (it has always amused me) brings up another window. It is the Symbol Finder. It is in this window where you locate a symbol or set of symbols. These are arranged and stored in categories. You can choose specific categories or search the entire library or libraries. This window has been changed quite a deal from previous versions. It is more icon-based. For those new to the program, if you dwell on an icon, a text-based tag appears that provides more information as to its purpose/function. You can type a word or part of a word in the search field. You can then see all relevant symbols as thumbnails (up to 49 at a time!). The word ‘day’ might bring up 20 symbols containing these four letters. Choosing an icon is so simple. Click on the symbol and it appears in your grid in a designated cell.
You have total control. Boardmaker V5 provides the facility to import older grids. You can import pictures (.bmp, wmf and .emf standards – unfortunately not .jpg files which is a shame). Windows symbol files are also supported (i.e. PCS) that you may have customised in earlier versions. It is totally backwards compatible.


Boards can be saved as files or as templates. The Print Setup window offers a number of different flexible settings, where grids can be measured in centimetres and inches. You can undo, cut, copy and paste cells, text and or symbols as well as select all objects selected or select a group of cells. Your board can be viewed as 200%, actual, half or reduced size to fit. Or you can magnify as a percentage (from 25% up to 400%). Rulers, tool bars, page breaks and status bar can be viewed or hidden (the default is viewed).
Multiple boards can be viewed as tile, tile vertically or as cascaded. This is ideal for cut/copy and pasting cells from one board to another. Text can be any size, font, font style, with 2 effects and 10 different colours. The maximum text size is 999 points!

Boardmaker (version 5) may take longer to print

An important thing to note is that Boardmaker (Version 5) will take longer to print than with the older version 1.x. This is due mostly to the fact that the program is now using metafile technology (i.e. vectored scalable line drawings) symbols rather than bitmapped symbols. The program also supports 32-bit colour rather than 256 colours in the old version. The increased colour depth also contributes to any increase in printing time. If you find printing is taking an unacceptably long time, you can try upgrading your printer’s driver software. Note: Driver updates are usually available on the web site of your printer’s manufacturer. You may need to install on either a faster PC or Mac, or invest in a new printer. Desktop publishing software requires a good quality, fast PC and printer, in any case.


Mayer-Johnson has obviously listened to customers and practitioners. This new package adds to what the previous versions formerly offered… and more! Intuitive, user friendly and very easy to learn, Boardmaker V5 will become even more popular in pre-school, adult centres and schools. The large symbol library (3000 PCS), the ability to purchase Addendum 98 and Addendum 2000 (combined adding over 2000 extra symbols) and the facility to import your own images quickly and without fuss adds to the functionality and practical usage of this desktop publishing program. The new toolbar with paint tools provides greater flexibility and versatility within the software. The metafile based symbols are vector drawn and reproduce more professionally in all sizes. Additional languages can be added (20 are included) and the ability to import older boards (both Mac and Windows) ensures that all previous work and effort (therefore time) will not be wasted. Time-saving pre-made templates are just the icing on the cake!

Boardmaker has always been the most popular choice in designing creating and making communication boards and books, posters, timetables, notices and games. This new updated version captures your attention and further enhances the innovative use of onscreen and printed boards for students who require resources with symbols, pictures, photos and text. The manuals and documentation are first class with plenty of pictures and handy hints.


You need to have 100 megabytes of free space to load the new version of Boardmaker V5 (MS Windows). The symbols are vector-drawn and use five times more hard disk space than the previous version (s). Your need a CD-ROM or DVD Drive as Boardmaker for Windows Version 5.0 requires that the CD is in the computer in order to run the program. This is quite a significant difference in that you must keep the original CD with your computer and insert it into the drive each time you use the software.

System requirements for MS Windows

  • A Pentium 133 MHz processor or better
  • Windows 95 or better
  • 420 MB of free hard disk space (complete installation)
  • CD-ROM or DVD drive
  • Sound card – DirectX 7.0a certified

System requirements for MAC OS

  • MacOS System 7.6 or better
  • 16 MB RAM
  • CDROM or DVD Drive
  • 16 MB free Hard Disk space required for colour symbols6 MB for black and white symbols

Author: Gerry Kennedy © July 2001 Gerry Kennedy IT Consultancy: Computer Consultant in Education

Phone: (03) 9894 4826 Fax: (03) 9894 4936 For training and advice, email specmelb@bigpond.net.au

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