Digital Blue QX5 Microscope Software
QX5 can do amazing things that are not dissimilar to what we use for advanced research microscopes. It can take snapshots of images, make time lapse movies, make measurements, and average frames (to improve image quality). While fairly advanced, the basics are easy for kids to use.
Digital Blue can be operated either from a PC (see software provided with microscope) or a Macintosh. Our school district uses Macintosh computers, and I think that the software for the Mac is superior to the PC software provided by Digital Blue. The Macintosh software (miXscope) (very nice indeed!) was developed by Eric Hangstefer and can be downloaded for a very small licensing fee from:
There are two versions of the software: miXscope and QXScope. Both are very good. The miXscope has several more features, is ~$5 more expensive (only $15 versus $10 individual license and $10 more for each for a school license), and has a different graphic user interface than the QXScope. Although I like miXscope and have used this in the classroom, the QXScope software is somewhat simpler and probably the better choice for elementary school kids. If you want add features, including measurement tools, then go with miXscope. See the powerpoints on this www site to get an idea of how to use the two software packages and the user interfaces.
See also comparison of features of miXscope and QXScope.
At the time of writing this www site, version 3.0.1 was available for down load. Digital Blue also sells software for Macintosh, but it is not as good as the latest version of miXscope that you can download from Eric Hangstefer’s www site.
I have found that elementary school kids (3rd to 5th grade) are off and running after 5-10 min of instructions, although it may take a full class period to become comfortable with it use. My recommendation to teachers: take the microscope home and play with it for 30 min on your home or borrowed computer. This is all that it takes to become a Digital Blue expert.
To guide you through, please see the powerpoint in this www site. Also, the “Help” menu for miXscope is very good and covers more advanced functions than contained on this powerpoint.
A guide to the software is provided in the accompanying powerpoint presentation. The software has a more extension help menu, which describes features in more detail.
Please use miXscope version 3.1.1 or higher for any newly purchased QX5 microscope. The latest production of QX5 draws excess current at high video rates, which exceeds power limits and causes the OS drivers to reset or suspend that particular USB port. This problem is managed with this latest version of the software. There is no problem with QXScope.
Recommendations for Teachers/Principal
Ideally, one would like to purchase enough QX5 microscopes so that kids can work in pairs or threesome (~10-14 microscopes). This would constitute a purchase of ~$1000. Of course, there would have to be corresponding numbers of computers, which might constitute a limitation. If there is a “technology” class room with multiple computers, you can house the microscopes in such a room and have teachers come and use the computer in the technology class room.
If a school district is interested this program, Digital Blue will offer a 20% educational discount for the purchase of 50 or more microscopes.
For teachers, I would recommend taking the microscope home, if you have a computer at your house, and playing with the microscope, trying different samples around the house and becoming familiar with the software. You are likely to have fun with it, and also get an intuition of what your students can do and will like.