Precision CW Tutor Help

by Ernst F. Schroeder DJ7HS

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

These help pages are valid for version 6.0.0 and later

Here you can get information on the following items:


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

Precision CW Tutor or PCW Tutor is a piece of software, written for PCs running the Windows operating system. It allows you to train your ability to read International Morse Code, also named Continental Code, by ear.
You may use Precision CW Tutor as a Morse keyer, but it has not been specially designed for that purpose.

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How can I obtain this software?

You can download the 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 Tutor 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 "6.0.0" 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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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-tutor.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 Tutor. 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-Tutor icon on your desktop or you go to "Start" - "Programs" and locate the "PCW-Tutor" entry. Double-click on "PCW-Tutor", the program will start.

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How do I start working?

First you will see the main operating window. Here is a view of the upper left corner.

upper left corner of Main Window

Try to press a few keys on your computer's keyboard. You will probably hear Morse code from your loudspeakers. If you see letters in the window but you don't hear anything, then a few things need to be adjusted (see below).

If you hear Morse characters, then type a few more letters. You will notice that the letters are first colored in red, then turn black while the Morse characters are sounded. This means, you can type ahead and wait for the program to complete the Morse characters in the appropriate way.

You will notice that the moment you type a character, the Start button is depressed and turns into a Stop button. It comes up again after the last character has been sounded. This feature is called AutoStart.

Again, type a few more characters, let some Morse characters be sounded, then hit the ESC key. You will notice that immediately all red characters in the window disappear and type-ahead has been stopped. Equally well you can click on the depressed Stop button. It will come up again and type-ahead is stopped as well.

When AutoStart is not selected, you can type characters you like to send. Morse transmission will only start when you press the Start button.

At any time you can interrupt the transmission of Morse characters by pressing the Pause button. This button then turns into a Resume button.

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How do I adjust the program to my needs?

There are many ways to influence how the program behaves.

The actual speed of the Morse code generator is shown on the main window. Speed is given in CpM, characters per minute. You can change speed by clicking on the small (▴) and (▾) buttons to the right of the speed display. You can also increase and decrease speed in increments of 1 cpm with the up and down cursor keys. When you press one of the two SHIFT keys in addition, the increment value changes to 10 cpm. When you press SHIFT and CTRL together, the increment value is 100 CpM.

Many more items can be adjusted in the parameter window. You reach this by clicking on the Set Parameters button or by simply pressing F2. On this panel you have control over the Morse Output Parameters. The parameter window is separated into left and right panel.

Let's first look at the right hand panel.

Right panel of Parameter Window

On the Output Parameters sub panel you can choose between output via sound card with loudspeakers or line output, and output via a RS-232/COM computer interface. If your PC doesn't have a RS-232/COM interface (most laptops don't), this choice is not available and grayed out.

If you use output via sound card, you can change the sound frequency from the nominal 800Hz to a value that pleases you. The attack and decay slopes of the audio signal are smoothed a bit. The slope is given as a number of audio samples. You can experiment with that value, but better leave it as pre-set.
You also can change the volume of the signal output with the Output Level control. Furthermore, you can add noise to the output signal and adjust its level with the Noise Level control.

If you like to use the RS-232/COM interface output, you first have to select the appropriate COM number. Only such COM interfaces can be chosen that are actually available on your computer. Now you won't hear sound from your PC, but the RTS line of that RS-232/COM interface will toggle with the Morse characters (negative level during space and positive level during mark).
You can use this line to drive an external audio generator or even your transmitter via a small interface circuit.

You can even derive a PTT signal from that COM interface if you set the PTT Signal (COM) checkbox to ON. This will make the DTR line of that interface active (positive level) shortly before the first Morse character and inactive (negative level) again a short while after the last character has been sent.

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Now let's look at the left hand panel. Here you have control over the Tutor Parameters

Left panel of Parameter Window

If you are running a Morse code class, you can anytime use PCW Tutor as a Morse keyer, just like you would use a straight key or bug. The main feature though is that you can produce randomly generated Morse characters. You first select the characters you want to use, and there should obviously be at least two characters in the entry field. For your convenience, buttons for "all letters" (a-z), "all numerals" (0-9), and "all characters" (a-z 0-9 .,-/?) are provided.
You can increase the probability of appearance for one or more characters by entering them more than once into the entry field.

Random characters are produced in groups of five, separated by a blank space. The total number of groups of five can be adjusted. Each session starts with the Start Text, pre-set to "vvv*", and ends with the End Text pre-set to "+".

The Morse training speed can be chosen, it can even be made variable over the set of groups of five.

A further feature is the adoption of the Farnsworth Method for Morse teaching:
The speed of each single Morse character is fixed to the Farnsworth Speed value, even if the over-all speed is lower. That way the sound of Morse characters stays fixed until a training speed equal to the Farnsworth speed is reached.

Finally, you can select the size of the characters in the main window. This ranges from as small as 10 points for much text to as large as 160 points for good visibility of single letters.

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What are Text Buffers?

Text Buffers are a means to enter pre-defined text into your type-ahead window.
When you see the main window, press F4 or the Text Buffers button. A new window will appear.

Text Buffers Window

You see four separate horizontal panels representing four separate text buffers. Each buffer can hold up to 60 characters, the field to the right shows the entered text.
All four text buffers are empty from the start. For clarity, I have entered some text into the first buffer.

To the left of each text buffer there are five different buttons. Put your mouse over one of these buttons and you will get a short help hint.

The leftmost button erases the content of the buffer. The next button is for loading the buffer's content from a file, while the following buffer allows to save the content to a file.
Once you click on the red button, the content of that buffer is entered into the main window. When the last button is depressed and red, the buffer's content is repeatedly entered into the main window, until this button is released.
Of course, only those characters that have a Morse code representation are actually transferred to the main window and sent.

Buffer files are pre-named CWBuffer1.txt ... CWBuffer4.txt, but you can use any filename and any file containing ASCII characters.

When you terminate a session with PCW-Tutor, the current contents of all four text buffers are written into the files with the default file names.

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Can I load text data into the main window?

Yes, you can. Press the load from file button or select Open from the File menu, then select the name of the file you want to load. When the file exists, data is read and those characters that have a Morse representation are loaded into the main window.

By the way, you can always clear the main window by pressing ctrl Z.

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Can I save the text in the main window?

Yes, you can. Press the save to file button or select Save as from the File menu, then select the name of the file you want to save the data to. When the file already exists, you have to confirm that it will be overwritten. Then data from the main window is saved into that file.

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Sometimes some text seems to disappear. How can I get it back?

By definition, a string of Morse characters has a linear structure with no further structuring elements. In order to display it on a monitor screen, the string of characters is broken down according to the width of the program window. PCW-Tutor lets you structure the text by pressing the carriage return key. That adds a line break on the screen and is equivalent to a pause between words.

As space on a monitor screen is limited, only that much text is displayed as fits onto the window. If you want to see more, then re-size the window or maximize it. You can also reduce the font size to a smaller value.

If you still can't see all you have typed and sent, try to save the data from the main window into a file and then inspect that file with a suitable program.

The main window can hold up to 65000 characters. At a Morse speed of 120 cpm that would mean about 9 hours of work in CW.

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How do I start random groups?

Select the desired parameters on the left pane of the Parameters window, then hit ESC and go back to the main window. Now press the Random Groups button or hit F3. The Start Random Groups window will appear.

Start Random Groups Window

Hit the OK button and off you go. --

While Random Groups are running and if variable speed is not used, you can still adjust the speed with the cursor keys at your will.

After all groups of five have been keyed, you get a confirmation message that tells you the actual Morse speed according to the time elapsed for that number of characters.

End Random Groups Display

The display shows, that 150 random characters have been sent with a nominal speed of 60 cpm. 55 of these Morse characters were either numerals or punctuation marks. By convention, these are counted twice. Therefore the actual speed, as measured by the elapsed time, was 57.30 cpm.

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How do I best start Morse training?

Numerous ways have been proposed to approach the task to learn a new language, and learning to read Morse code by ear is a similar task. What has worked for me and the many Morse classes I held is a set of simple rules - and a PC with PCW Tutor running, basically unchanged since its first use in 1991.

Here is the order in which I normally introduce new characters into training sessions:

qs e m t a d j i r c 5 n l g 0 u b 4 1 h o z y 6 9 k w 2 7 f x . ? 3 8 p v , / =

And, just for your convenience, here is a paper form that helps you to write down the decoded characters in groups of five.

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I don't hear 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 a German version of Windows 10.

Audio Mixer

On the left you have the total audio output level for loudspeaker, and somewhere to the right there should be the level slider for PCW-Tutor output. Both sliders should not be way down and there should not be red signs near the small loudspeaker symbols. Get the sliders up and uncheck any suspicious checkbox. Now you should hear the Morse output.

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Which Morse characters are supported?

The Morse standard character set as supported by PCW Tutor is:
(in versions older than 5.4 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 or equal sign: <shift> and <0>. 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 '?' character can be reached even without pressing the shift key, only the 'ß' key.

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

Some of these characters are only available on foreign keyboards.

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How is Morse speed defined and how can I check it?

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 all time elements you need for encoding this word, you end up with 50 time elements totally. When you send this 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. It's easy to calculate that then a single time element must have a duration of 0.1 seconds or 100 ms.

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.

If you want to check the accuracy of PCW Tutor, and that of your PC's clocking, go to the main menu bar and select Work - Speed Test. The word PARIS will be sent 6 times and afterwards the actual speed will be calculated.

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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 Tutor, 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-Tutor. Within this folder you will find a shortcut with the name Uninstall. Double-click and follow any instructions. Voilá, Precision CW TUTOR is removed from your system, very probably without a trace.

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