Well, in my amateur and professional opinion the CW Decoder gets a rating of 'pretty crap'. Fire up any of the free CW decode software and run side by side and you'll see.
K8JHR.... I agree with your opinion. If you don't want to learn the code to a high standard then use a 'decode crutch'. Personally I decode in my head and make notes. BUT..... I do run a decoder in the background that captures the whole conversation (to look at afterwards). I can then use this as a reference and also see if I missed anything. I think that some new learners and slower speed operators believe they are failing if they are not getting everything. It's just like learning any language, you just need to get a gist of what is being said, not get every single word, dit and dah. Just keep pushing yourself on speed until you get to where you want to be. I can operate at 40wpm, but I'll still lose track and miss stuff at times, especially if my mind drifts or I'm listening to German morse which has a ton of E's I's S's etc. It's really easy to say.... "oh sod it and look at the decode" ....discipline yourself.
An interesting story to support my point. When I was training in the RAF I had to learn to touch type perfectly at 50wpm. If you got caught looking at the keyboard they would place a metal box over it so you couldn't see it. Then we progressed to keyboards with nothing written on the keys. The very act of glancing at the keyboard slowed you down considerably and greatly slowed down any progress.
Of course, I respect those that just don't want to learn CW and decode it as just another digital mode like RTTY and that's fine. Radio is a different kind of fun to every individual,,, just make sure you're having fun with your radio :-)
Hope that helps someone..... :-)
Eric - G4VZZ