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
Precision CW Tutor.

These help pages are valid for version 6.3.0 and newer versions

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 general purpose Morse keyer, and it will probably serve you quite well, but it has not been specially designed for that.

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How can I obtain this software?

You can download the software in a zipped archive from the Precision CW Download Page. 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 unlimited 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 "6.3.0" 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, very probably 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 Tutor. 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 specific 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 need another 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-tutor.exe" on your computer. With a right-click you open the context menu and then choose "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

The main screen operation has two modes: AutoStart (the default, which is shown above), and ManualStart (which replaces the AutoStart button). First we will discuss the AutoStart operation.

AutoStart mode

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 further below).

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

If you hear the sound of Morse code, then press a few more keys. You will notice that the letters on the screen 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.

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.

At this point, more typing will continue from the end of black text. And, as long as AutoStart is selected, sounding of Morse characters will start immediately.

ManualStart mode

ManualStart is the non-default mode of the main screen, it is selected in the Set PCW Parameters window. Turning AutoStart to "off" will relabel the AutoStart button to ManualStart.

When the AutoStart feature is deselected on the Set PCW Parameters window, you can still type characters you like to send, and these characters will appear colored in red. However, transmission will not begin immediately, it will only start when you click on the ManualStart button.

Once all the characters have been sent and all text appears in black, -----

Both modes

At any time you can interrupt the transmission of Morse characters by clicking on the Pause Button. This button then turns into a Resume Button. At this time any pending Morse character will be completed, then the processing is paused.
You can as well interrupt and resume the Morse transmission by pressing the Pause/Break Key on your keyboard.

You can clear the screen by depressing the Del/Delete key or by pressing the Ctrl and Z keys together.

Note that the AutoStart on/off setting also applies to text read from a file, which is covered here.

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Are there any keyboard shortcuts I should know?

Here is the list of keyboard shortcuts that can help you to control PCW Tutor.

These can be used from the Main Window:

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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. In case you prefer speed given in WpM, words per minute, we'll come to that shortly.

You can change speed by clicking on the small (▴) and (▾) buttons to the right of the speed display, and you can also increase and decrease speed with the up and down cursor keys. Speed normally changes in increments of 1 CpM or 0.2 WpM. But when you press these cursor keys or click with your mouse together with one of the two SHIFT keys, the increment value changes to 10 CpM or 2 WpM. When you press SHIFT and CTRL together, the increment value is 100 CpM or 20 WpM.

Many more items can be adjusted in the Set PCW Parameters window. You reach this by clicking on the Set Parameters button or by simply pressing F2.
You should notice that all changes and adjustments have immediate effect, it is not necessary to close this window first.

The Set PCW Parameters window is separated into left and right sub-panel.
Let's first look at the right hand sub-panel. On this panel you have control over the Morse Output Parameters.

Right panel of Set PCW Parameters window

On the Output Parameters sub-panel you can choose between sound output via your PC's loudspeakers, headphone 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 the sound output, you can change the sound frequency from the typical 800 Hz to a value that pleases you. The attack and decay slopes of the audio signal are smoothed a bit. This slope is given as a number of audio samples. You can experiment with that value: smaller values give a more "clicky" signal, while larger values give a more "smooth" sound. When you are not sure what to do, then stay with the value of 10.

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 interface numbers can be chosen that are actually available on your computer. In case there is more than one COM interface on your computer, you have the choice for more than one COM number. Here you have to experiment a bit to identify the number that corresponds to exactly that interface you want to use.
More information about the use of RS-232/COM interfaces is here.

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

Left panel of Set PCW Parameters window

If you are running a Morse code class, you can at any time use PCW Tutor as a Morse keyer, just like you would use a straight key or semiautomatic "bug" key. The main feature though is that randomly generated Morse characters can be produced. And this is equally helpful in a Morse code class or for training all by yourself.

You first select the characters you want to use in a training session, and there should obviously be at least two different characters in the entry field. In this field there is room for up to 100 characters. For your convenience, buttons for "all letters" (a-z), "all numerals" (0-9), and "all characters" (a-z 0-9 .,=/?) are provided. "All characters" in this context means that the standard 26 letters, 10 numerals, 4 punctuation marks and the very often used <BT> prosign (abbreviated by "=") can be entered with one click.
If you like to include more or other prosigns into your training session, then you can either enter their keyboard shortcuts or their long form with angle brackets like <AR>. More information on the supported prosigns is here

You can enter any character into the character entry field, but only those characters with a representation in Morse code will be retained after starting the Random Groups process. And this of course also depends on your previous choice of either the standard or the extended character set.
Furthermore, 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<ka>", and ends with the End Text, pre-set to "<ar>".

The Morse training speed can be chosen, this value is different from the speed value you may have set on the Main Window. When you use Random Groups, then the actual speed is taken from this field. While random characters and groups are produced, you can manually change the actual Morse speed on the Main Window.
The training speed can even be made variable from Start Speed to End Speed over the set of groups of five characters. In this case the actual speed is automatically changed from character to character, but the manual speed change is blocked.

A further feature of Precision CW Tutor 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. Of course, when the training speed is chosen to be faster than the Farnsworth speed, then the Morse characters are formed according to that faster speed.

Finally, you can adjust a few things on how the display works. First you can select whether the Morse speed is displayed in units of CpM, characters per minute, or in units of WpM, words per minute. Then 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 100 points for good visibility of single letters. And finally you can choose the ALL CAPS style.

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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 Precision CW 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.

and further on ...

When you are at least half-way through the list of all Morse characters, you should gradually start to listen to real words or abbreviations and phrases typically used in Amateur Radio communication.
For this you can load any text file into the main window and try to decode the Morse characters. But you may need to specially prepare the text file to contain only those characters you are already mastering. Luckily, there is software available to support you in this respect:
Have a look at MCPT Morse Code Practice Text by WA2NFN.

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How do I use Random Groups?

Random Groups supply you with random Morse characters that are taken from a list you can define. These Morse characters are presented in groups of five, with a space between them that corresponds to a space between words. To use Random Groups, you first have to select the desired parameters on the left pane of the Set PCW Parameters window:

Parameters for Random Groups

Select the characters you want to include in the test, then select the number of groups and the StartSpeed. If you like to have automatically increasing (or even decreasing) speed, then you should check the Variable Speed On box and adjust the desired End Speed.
Then hit ESC or F2 again, and go back to the main window. Now click on the Random Groups button or press F3. The Start Random Groups window will appear.

Start Random Groups Window

Click on the OK button and off you go. First the Start Text is sent, and then random characters are taken from the pre-defined list.

Please note that the initial training speed is taken from the Start Speed field in the Set Parameters Window, the speed setting on the Main Window is overwritten at the start.

While Random Groups are running and if you did not select Variable Speed, you can still adjust the speed with the cursor keys at your will.

After all groups of five have been keyed, the End Text is sent and 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.
48 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 58.10 CpM.

If, for whatever reason, you have to stop the session, then simply hit the Esc key. The session will stop after sending the End Text, but without the confirmation message.

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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 click on 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 when you start the program for the first time. For clarity, I have entered some text into the first three buffers.

In a training session, or when you use PCW Tutor as a Morse keyer, you can enter the contents of each of the four buffers 1..4 into the main window by simply pressing one of the F5, F6, F7, or F8 function keys.

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 button 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 turned 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 converted to Morse output.

Buffer files are pre-named CWBuffer1.txt ... CWBuffer4.txt, but you can use any filename and any file containing ASCII characters.
If you need separate access to these files, you should typically find them in this location:
C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Roaming\
On some systems this directory may have the "hidden" property.

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. And when you start the next session, the contents of all four buffers are filled by reading from these files.

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Can I load text data into the main window?

Yes, you can. Click on the Load text icon or select Open from the File menu, then select the location and 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. Of course, this also depends on your previous choice of either the standard or the extended character set.

A special treatment is applied when the loaded data contains angle brackets as needed to describe prosigns. Valid 2-letter or 3-letter prosigns are retained, while invalid 1-letter, 2-letter or 3-letter combinations with <> angle brackets are discarded. When there are more than 3 letters between angle brackets or when there is a single angle bracket standing alone, then only the brackets are removed.

When AutoStart is selected, then conversion of text data to Morse characters will start immediately and go on until the end of file is reached, unless you pause or interrupt it as described in the How do I start working? chapter. When ManualStart is selected, then the conversion will only start when you click on the ManualStart button.

Note: The Number of Groups setting on the Set PCW Parameters Window is not used when reading from a file.

Default location to load data from is the %AppData% directory, typically found under:
When you choose a different location, then that location will be remembered.

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Can I save the text in the main window?

To save the text in the main window, click on the Save text icon 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.

Default location to save to is the %AppData% directory, typically found under:
When you choose a different location, then that location will be remembered.

You may receive an error message saying that a file with a name, you were trying to save to, was not found. This error message is caused by the Windows security system and the protection against ransomware. Very probably you have received at the same time a corresponding message from the system, that you can reach by clicking on the message button in the bottom-right corner on your screen.
Windows normally prevents 3rd party software from storing files into certain areas on your PC, like the "Documents" folder. But there are two workarounds: you can either try to store your file onto a different location on your PC, e.g. to an USB stick, or you can go to the Windows security application and specifically give PCW Tutor the right to save files into normally forbidden areas.

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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 has to be 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 will fit on the window. If you want to see more, then resize 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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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 Get 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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Can I use the program to key an external device?

In order to key an external device like an external buzzer or even a transmitter, you can use a serial RS-232/COM 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.
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 following picture shows a 9-pin D-sub male socket on such an adapter.

male 9-pin D-sub socket

Next you need a kind of interface between your external device and this RS-232/COM interface on your PC. Such an interface can be as simple as one resistor and one small transistor, but the exact design very much depends on the device you want to control. There are a number of commercially available interfaces for this task, but as there is no standardization, the connections may not match in the first place. So you may need some experimentation.

Here is basic information about how PCW Tutor controls the RS-232/COM output:

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Which Morse characters are supported?

Standard Character Set

The Morse standard character set as supported by PCW Tutor is:

Extended Character Set

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.

Optimization for special keyboards

On so-called QWERTZ-keyboards, typically used in Germany, two keystrokes are needed to produce the Morse pattern for question mark "?": "shift" key and "ß" key together. Therefore an optimization is provided: the Morse pattern for question mark can be reached without pressing the shift key, only the "ß" key needs to be pressed.

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What about Prosigns?

International Morse code has been in use since 1848, and it has been used for all kinds of communication services. And most, if not all of these services had to implement a way to signal an operational status like "Start of Message", "End of Message", "Wait", and "Error, I repeat". And, naturally, a Morse pattern was used for signalling. Of course, patterns had to be chosen that were easy to memorize and detect, but not so easily mistaken for a Morse letter or numeral.
Operators quickly found out that these Procedural Signals or Prosigns could be memorized by representing them as a sequence of two letters. And one of the several ways to write them was to include these two letters into < > angle brackets.

Precision CW Tutor lets you use and generate the following set of prosigns. A few of these prosigns are also regularly used in Amateur Radio communication via Morse code, especially the first two on the list.

When you want to enter a prosign via the keyboard, you have two choices: you can either use a single-key abbreviation as given in the list, or you can type an opening bracket and two letters, e.g. "<ar". Then the corresponding prosign is produced and the closing bracket ">" is automatically added on the screen.
For the three-letter prosign <SOS> you can either type "{" or enter "<so". The remaining letter and the closing bracket "s>" are then added automatically.

If you type an opening < bracket, followed by an invalid combination of letters, or when angle brackets with an invalid combination of characters between them are read from a file, then the input is ignored and only two angle brackets with a question mark <?> are printed on the screen.

These nine prosigns are currently supported:

Further optimization for special keyboards

On some of the PC keyboards used in different parts of the world, two keystrokes are needed to produce the frequently needed <BT> prosign, the dash or equal sign: The "shift" key and the "0" key have to be pressed together. Therefore an optimization is provided:
If you check the "= key optim" checkbox on the Set PCW Parameters window, the following relation between keyboard and Morse characters is in effect:

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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 had 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 and after some further adaptations 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. And, of course, 12 word spaces of 7 element length are included with these 600 elements. Then it is easy to calculate that 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, you have two choices:

You can simply install the new version over the existing version. This way all your settings in the Set PCW Parameters window will be left unchanged and used by the newer version.

Or you can first uninstall the existing version: 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. Then you can install the newer version. This way you will have a clean new installation with all parameter values set to their default values.

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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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