Precision CW Fistcheck Help

by Ernst F. Schroeder DJ7HS

Welcome to the Precision CW Fistcheck help page.
I sincerely hope that the information herein will help you to make better use of PCW Fistcheck.

These help pages are valid for version 3.2.0 and later

Here you can get information on the following items:


Precision CW Fistcheck. What is it and what is it not?

Precision CW Fistcheck or PCW Fistcheck is a piece of software, written for PCs running the Windows operating system. It allows you to train your ability to send International Morse Code, also named Continental Code with a straight key or semi-automatic key.
You may use Precision CW Fistcheck as a Morse decoder, but it has not been specially designed for that purpose.

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How can I obtain this software?

You can download the most recent version of this software in a zipped archive from here. Save the archive file on your computer and remember the location.

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Do I need a license?

As long as you utilize Precision CW Fistcheck for your private and personal use, you are granted a personal, non-exclusive and indefinite license, completely free of charge. Any commercial use of this software without a written license agreement is prohibited. If you would like to conclude such a license agreement, then please contact the author.

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How do I install it?

Double-click on the saved archive file. The archive should open and display a single file:

(The version information "3.0.0"may be different.)

Start the installation by double-clicking on the executable file.
A welcome window will open. Click "Next" and the license agreement will be displayed. If you agree to the terms of the license agreement then you should check the "I agree ..." box and click on the "Next" button. Then installation will start.
The installation process is simple, there are no new DLLs, no additions to the registry file, and no changes to your operating system. An entry will be added to the startup menu and an icon will be placed on your desktop. The installation can be reversed without a trace left.

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My Antivirus system doesn't like it. What can I do?

I'm afraid, there is no other way than you just go on and trust me. Switch off your Antivirus system while you install PCW Fistcheck. And in case your Windows OS is complaining as well, there should be a button like "do it anyway" or "I know what I'm doing". Try this.

There is a chance to increase trust in the installer software package: On the page you used to download the installer software, I have published the SHA256 checksum for exactly this software package. After downloading the file, you can yourself calculate the SHA256 checksum for that file you now have on your PC. And when those two checksums are identical, you can be sure that you have the original file and nobody has tampered with it.

To calculate the SHA256 checksum you again need a piece of software, e.g. Hashing for Windows. And this is easy, free and open source. You can get it from here: Hashing App.

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There is no shortcut icon on my desktop. Why?

On certain installations of Windows 10 the automatic placement of an icon on the desktop may be prohibited. In this case you have to locate the program "PCW-fistcheck.exe" on your computer. With a right-click you open the context menu and then chose "shortcut".
In Windows 10 you can as well go to the Start Menu List and locate the entry for PCW Fistcheck. By left-clicking on the icon you can drag it onto your desktop.

dragging the icon
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How do I start the program?

You either double-click on the PCW-Fistcheck shortcut icon on your desktop or you go to "Start" - "Programs" and locate the "PCW-Fistcheck" entry. Double-click on "PCW-Fistcheck", the program will start.

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How do I start working?

First you will see the main operating window. Here is how it looks like.

PCW Fistcheck Main Window

Try to press a few keys on your computer's keyboard. You will probably hear Morse code from your loudspeakers. At the same time you will see the characters you typed in the lower window and you will see a green graphic representation of the Morse code. Let's type "d". This is what you should see:

after d was typed

If you see letters and green bars but you don't hear anything, then probably a few things need to be adjusted (see here).

Now let's try to produce some Morse code. The right-arrow cursor key on your keyboard can be used as a simple straight Morse key. Right, a keyboard key like this does not make a good Morse key at all, but you can start this way and make yourself familiar with the various features of PCW-Fistcheck.

Press the "d" key once more, listen to the sound, and then try to produce the same sound with the right-arrow cursor key. Your result could look like this:

first Morse d

The red bars on the screen show you the actual on/off timing you have produced with the right-arrow key, and you can see the the decoded letter "d" written on the middle panel.

Not bad, the first red dash and space are a bit longer than the green dash and space. So maybe this Morse "d" was a bit slower than the 60 CpM target speed. OK, you need speed in WpM? We'll come to that shortly.

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How do I adjust the program to my needs?

There are many ways to influence how the program works.

On the main window the actual speed of the built-in Morse code generator is shown. This is also the Target Speed for your training.
By default, speed is given in CpM, characters per minute. If you need speed given in WpM, words per minute, we'll come to that shortly.
You can change Target Speed by clicking on the small (▴) and (▾) buttons to the right of the speed display. You can also increase and decrease target speed in increments of 1 CpM (0.2 WpM) with the up and down cursor keys. If you press a SHIFT key in addition, the increment value changes to 10 CpM (2 WpM).

Target Speed Display and Controls

On the parameter window many more items can be adjusted. You reach this window via the Parameters menu item or by simply pressing F2. The parameter window is separated into four panels: top-left, top-right, below-left and below-right.

Let's first look at the below-right panel:

Right below panel of Parameter Window

Here you can change the display of Morse speed from CpM (characters per minute) to WpM (words per minute). Between both versions there is a constant factor of 5;
12 WpM correspond to 60 CpM.

Furthermore, you can select whether the Morse characters produced by typing on the keyboard are not only heard as sound from the loudspeakers, but also displayed as a pattern of green bars on the screen.

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Now let's look at the top right panel:

Top right panel of Parameter Window

On this panel you have control over the Morse Output Parameters. These settings have influence on what you hear when you press a key on your keyboard.

The Morse Output Mode is pre-set to Sound Output. The output via serial COM port cannot be selected right now. This feature is planned for a future release of Precision CW Fistcheck.

Next you can select which Sound Output Device on your computer is actually used. The contents in this drop-down list entirely depend on the hardware available on your computer. When you're in doubt what to actually use, try an entry with the word "Loudspeaker" or try "Microsoft Sound Mapper".

When you press the button labeled Show Output Mixer, the sound output mixer of your Windows operating system is opened in a separate window.

Next you can adjust the Output Frequency and Output Level of the Morse signals produced. The output level control adjusts the output level before the settings of the PC's output mixer are applied.

You can further choose whether to support the standard or the extended Morse character set (see here for further explanation).

Finally you can check a box to select a small optimization for users of so-called QWERTZ keyboards (this will mostly be users of Windows set to German language).
On these PC keyboards two keystrokes are needed to produce the frequently needed dash or equal sign: <shift> and <0>. Therefore an optimization is provided: if you check the "= key optim" checkbox, the following relation between keyboard and morse characters is in effect:

Users of so-called QWERTY keyboards and all other versions should leave this box unchecked.

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Now let's look at the left hand panels. Here you have control over the Morse Input Parameters.

Left panel of Parameter Window

On top you select the Morse Input Mode. You basically have three choices:

First you can use the right arrow cursor key of your Keyboard as a very simple and crude straight key. This cannot really be recommended for serious work, but it's a simple way to start.
Nothing else needs to be adjusted in this case, except the choice between standard and extended Morse Character Set at the bottom of the panel.

Your second choice for Morse Input Mode is Sound Input. The sound you produce with your separate key and Morse buzzer is entered into the PC, either via the PC's built-in microphone, or via an external microphone plugged into the PC, or directly from the buzzer to the PC's line sound input. The exact setup depends on your PC hardware and may need some further adjustments (see below).

In Sound Input Mode you can use the drop-down list to Select Sound Input Device.
You can further see and adjust the Sound Input Level. You can either use a broadband sound input, which actually is limited to between 100 Hz and 4000 Hz, or select to apply a bandpass Input Filter and adjust the Bandpass Center Frequency.

Your third choice is to use an actual Morse key connected to a serial interface COM port via a small and simple interface, described here.
In this case you must also select the actual COM port to be used from the drop-down list of available COM ports. This list depends on your actual PC hardware and there may not be a COM port available at all.
Most newer PCs don't have such a port any more, but there are external COM-to-USB converters that can be plugged into an USB input.
Sometimes the external hardware connected to the COM port requires a special setting of the two output lines called RTS and DTR. You can select their status to be either "low" or "high". If not sure what to do, leave them as they are.

When using an actual Morse key and interface, you further have the choice to select a filter to cope with possible Contact Bounce of your Morse key.

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How do I best start training my Morse keying abilities?

Training by ear is usually considered the best way for learning Morse code, both for reading and for sending. So start by setting your Target Speed, which is normally recommend at 60 CpM or 12 WpM respectively - but that's entirely up to you. Then hit a character on the keyboard and listen to the corresponding sound. Now try to reproduce that exact sound with your Morse key.

This may work fine, but PCW Fistcheck now gives you additional information by showing a graphical representation of what you did with that Morse key. You can see and then correct a number of things:

At the same time as the graphical representation is displayed, the received sound is decoded and the decoded character is displayed in the lower window, if decoding is possible. If decoding is not possible, a representation of detected dots and dashes is displayed instead, like e.g.: <....-.>

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Are there examples of certain deviations from perfect keying?

Here are a few examples of more or less strong deviations from the correct Morse characters:


It is quite difficult to produce Morse characters with speed exactly equal to the target speed, but small deviations to slower or faster speed are not really important for readability. But once a target speed has been selected, you should try to come as close as posible.

Speed deviation

above: perfectly formed character and speed just right (60 CpM)
mid:   perfect, but speed a bit too fast (65 CpM)
below: perfect, but speed a bit too slow (55 CpM)


A dot (Mark) of certain length should be followed by a space of exactly the same length. The ratio of mark to space length in a dot is called "Weight" and is usually given as a % value. While a weight lower than 100% is considered to reduce readability, a weight larger than 100% may increase readability at higher Morse speeds.

Weight deviation

above: perfectly formed character and weight just right (100%)
mid:   perfect, but lower weight (50%)
below: perfect, but higher weight (200%)


In a standard Morse character with 100% weight the ratio between dash and dot mark length should be exactly 3:1. While automatic keyers normally do not deviate from this value, it is typical for keying with a straight key to produce stronger deviations. While a ratio lower than 3:1 can drastically reduce readability, a ratio slightly larger than 3:1 may even increase readability.

Ratio deviation

above: perfectly formed character and ratio just right (3:1)
mid:   perfect, but lower ratio (2:1)
below: perfect, but higher ratio (4:1)

Emphasis on last Dash

When sending with a straight key, a typical deviation is the emphasis on the last dash in characters like "q". This can indeed be part of a personal "Fist" that can actually increase readability.

Last Dash too long

Transition between Dots and Dashes

When sending with a semiautomatic "Bug" key, a typical deviation is the relatively larger time interval needed for transition between "automatic" dots and "hand-made" dashes. This can be seen in the following picture. Also typical is the slightly diminishing length of dots. Both effects are responsible for the typical sound of a "Bug" as compared to a straight key or even a fully automatic key.

sent with semiautomatic key

Character spacing and word spacing

PCW Fistcheck even helps you to train the correct spacing between characters within a word and spacing between words.
When you send a longer string of characters with the appropriate spacing between the characters, then the decoded characters are printed one-by-one in the lower window. But when you increase the time interval between the single characters beyond a certain value, then it is assumed that a word space had been intended. In this case a blank space is added to the decoded text in the lower window, helping to visually separate characters into words.
Depending on your keying you will get different displays like the following, and only the first one is correct:


It is certainly advantageous to try to first learn the correct timing of continental Morse characters. But in the end all what counts is a successful exchange of information. So if exaggerations of ratio or emphasis on last dashes actually help to increase readability there is not much to say against it.
PCW Fistcheck will support you to get a good timing and produce Morse characters with high readability. Then you will probably develop your individual "fist".

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Can I have a look at the spaces between characters or words?

Yes, you can. You can go back in time to look at all (*) the Morse characters you have produced since the start of the program or since you pressed F5 to reset this memory.
Just press PageUp once or more times to go back on the time scale. Press PageDown to go into the opposite direction.
Any new Morse character will move the display to show the current Morse pattern.

Here is an example: the characters "psek" were sent, and then PageUp was pressed three times. This is what the display will show:

four characters on the display

(*) The maximum number of characters and their patterns in memory is currently set at 127.


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Can I get more information about my character timing?

Certainly, just press F3. You will see a new window with information about the lengths of your dots and dashes, and of your dot spaces, character spaces and word spaces.
For each category you can see the actual individual last value of dot, dash and space. And additionally you can see the average value since start of the program, or since you pressed F5 to clear all values. There is even a separate display for the average length of a last dash in a character.

Please keep in mind, that these values are given as %-values in relation to the theoretical element length you have chosen by setting a certain "Target Speed". So an ideal dot should have a length of "100", and an ideal dash should be shown as "300". When you change the value of "Target Speed", all these values are newly calculated to reflect their relation to this new speed.

You can keep this window open to watch the values while you are practicing.

timing statistics


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I don't hear any Morse characters. What can I do?

Did you ever hear a sound from your PC or laptop? Do you hear the sound of Windows messages? Are headphones or something else plugged into the headphone jack?
If at all possible, try to use a different program for any audio playback. Why not listen to a good piece of mp3 music for a moment?

If you still can't hear the sound of any Morse characters, then either go to the parameters window (hit F2), then click on the Get Output Mixer button, or select Parameter, then Output Mixer from the main menu. This will bring up something that belongs to the Windows operating system and may look different on your PC, e.g. this one shown is from the German version of Windows 10.

Audio Output Mixer

On the left you have the total audio output level Loudspeaker. This sliders should not be way down and there should be no red sign near to the loudspeaker symbol below. Get the slider up and uncheck any suspicious red sign.
Somewhere to the right there should be the level slider for PCW Fistcheck output. This slider is normally at minimum (see picture above). Press a key on the keyboard and watch the slider go up while the Morse character is produced. There should not be a red mark close to the loudspeaker symbol below. Uncheck it, in case there is one.
Now you should hear the Morse output signal.

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I don't see any decoded Morse characters. What can I do?

Did you connect your Morse buzzer to the PC's audio input or did you connect a microphone?
Then hit F2 and click on the button labeled Show Input Mixer or Show Input Devices. This will give you something like the following picture.

Audio Input Mixer

This audio input mixer belongs to the Windows operating system and may look different on your PC. Again, this one is from the German version of Windows XP.
By checking one of the boxes in the lower part, you must choose the input channel to which you have connected the cable from your buzzer or to which you connected your microphone. Also, the level slider of that channel should not be set too low.

In case you are using the Windows 7 operating system or newer, you will see something like this:

Audio Input Devices

Here you can double-click the input device you want to use. Another menu will open, where you can find the level control for this device.

Audio Input Level Control

Turn the level up and make sure that the loudspeaker button is released.

Now close the key, let the buzzer do its work, and watch the level gauge in the parameters window. Still nothing to be seen? The buzzer's frequency may not be near to 800 Hz, so select the broadband mode for the moment. Now at last the level gauge should show some action and the display should react when you open and close the key.

Try to adjust the display on the level gauge with the appropriate slider of the input mixer to a good value like shown in the following picture.

Audio Input Levels

Indication of input level (from left): too low, low but OK, just OK, too high

If the level stays too high even when you pull down the slider in the input mixer to near zero, the PC's audio input may be overdriven. This may happen when you connect the buzzer's output to the microphone input on your PC. In that case external measures are needed to reduce the audio signal level at the input.

If you had selected broadband mode, you should now return to passband mode and change the passband frequency until you get a level indication similar to the one in broadband mode.

You may think that your Morse buzzer outputs a signal with, say, 800 Hz. That may be correct, but the loudspeaker may introduce a lot of distortion. So it may be a good idea to select the frequency of the third harmonic, i.e. 3 x 800 = 2400 Hz, for the bandpass filter. Just give it a try.

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Can I connect my Morse key directly to my PC?

Yes, you can! To connect your Morse key directly to your PC you need a standard hardware interface on your PC, a COM or RS-232 interface. Just keep on reading.

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How do I connect my Morse key to a serial COM or RS-232 interface?

To connect your Morse key to a serial COM or RS-232 interface, you first of all need to have such a serial communication interface on your PC. Typically this can be identified by a 9-pin D-sub male socket. Such a socket is shown in the following picture.

male 9-pin D-sub socket

If you don't see such a socket on your PC, you're not lost. You can as well use a RS-232-to-USB adapter that plugs into a USB slot on your PC. Actually, the picture above shows a 9-pin D-sub male socket on such an adapter.

Then you need the following parts:

Now follow these steps: A crude example of this little interface is shown in the following picture.

Interface for COM or RS-232 input

Finally, plug this interface into the RS-232 socket on your PC or into the RS-232-to-USB adapter.

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Which Morse characters are supported?

The Morse standard character set as supported by PCW Fistcheck is:
(in versions older than 1.3 there was a slight difference with regard to - and = characters.
The "= key optim" option was always on, see below.)

On some of the PC keyboards used in different parts of the world, two keystrokes are needed to produce the frequently needed "dash" <-...-> Morse character: <shift> and <0>, while only one keystroke is needed to produce the less frequently needed "long dash" character <-....->. It would be easier when only one keystroke was needed for the "dash".
Therefore an optimization is provided: if you check the "= key optim" checkbox on the F2 parameter window, the following relation between keyboard and morse characters is in effect:

On keyboards used in Germany, two keystrokes are needed to produce the question mark "?": <shift> and the <ß> key. Therefore another optimization is provided: the "?" Morse character can be produced by pressing the <ß> key only, without pressing the <shift> key.

If you select the extended character set, then the following characters are supported in addition:

Some of these characters can only be typed on a keyboard suitable for special languages.

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How is Morse speed defined?

When Samuel Finley Breeze Morse in 1837 invented the code system that is named after him (see e.g. US patent 1647), he actually devised a variable-length code. With such codes the concept of speed measured in codewords per time instant is difficult to handle, as speed actually depends on the information sent.

The International or Continental Morse Code, as opposed to the Landline or American Morse Code, is also named after Samuel F.B. Morse, but it has actually been devised in 1848 by a German named Friedrich Clemens Gerke. He was a musician and journalist in Hamburg, where he worked for telegraph companies.
His code works according to simple and strict rules and was later standardized by the ITU for use in wireless transmissions.

Gerke's code follows these rules:

Now, take the word "PARIS", a word containing 5 characters. If you count the time elements you need for encoding this word, you end up with 50 time elements totally. Now, when you send this single word 12 times in 60 seconds, you have sent 12 words per minute or 60 characters per minute. And you will have used 600 time elements in 60 seconds. From here it's easy to calculate that at this Morse speed of 60 CpM or 12 WpM a single time element must have a duration of 0.1 seconds or 100 milliseconds.

This calculation is the basis for adjusting the speed of any Morse code generator. Of course, as you do not only want to send the word PARIS, any other text will take less or more than one minute for 12 words or 60 characters. Therefore the true speed can only be calculated after the message has been sent.

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How do I get further help?

If you encounter a problem not covered on this help page, then please send an EMail with a clear description of your problem.
Please allow for a reasonable response time.

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How can I give feedback?

Any feedback is highly appreciated. Please send an EMail and describe what is missing or what you have found out.

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I have received a new version. What shall I do?

If you want to install a newer version of PCW Fistcheck, then you do not have to uninstall any older version. Just install the new version over the older version.

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How do I get rid of it all?

That's easy: select "Start" - "Programs" from your task panel, then identify the entry for PCW-Fistcheck. Within this folder you will find a shortcut with the name Uninstall. Double-click and follow any instructions. Voilá, Precision CW Fistcheck is removed from your system, very probably without a trace.

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