Displaying serial information on a laptop

I am a bit of a newbie on the Arduino, but I have been fooling around with it since this spring.

To make a long story short, we are trying to add a timing function to our Pinewood Derby track, and would like to display the times on a laptop (or a desktop for that matter) so the kids could see them. I understand how to get the Arduio to serial print back to the computer, but what would I use on the computer to display the information? I would like something a little fancier than the serial monitor that comes with the arduino program, but it doesn't have to be anything real fancy either.

Thanks!

Use the Processing language to capture what you get back and display it in big fancy colored characters.

Its free to download:- http://processing.org/download/

As Mike suggests, Processing is a good and free candidate for your job, but you can use any programming environment that can read from the serial port, so if you are familiar with one programming environment, chances are that you can use that.

If you are starting out from scratch programming on the PC, go for Processing.

Look here for details how to read the serial interface:

http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Main/InterfacingWithSoftware

Thanks for all of the replies!

I downloaded the "Processing" software, it looks a lot like the arduino environment. Is this correct?

Yes that is correct, they are very cousins :-)

Arduinos IDE are based on the processing IDE, but programming Arduino is done in c(++), and processing is Java based.