I am a great fan of Encarta on DVD-ROM. This latest version adds even more to the ever growing encyclopedia by putting Encarta Africana and a number of other new features into the reference suite. Here are a few of the features:Encarta Online Deluxe *
* Free Encarta Online Deluxe offer is valid through 12/31/01. Access to and use of the internet may require payment of a separate fee to an internet service provider. Connect time charges may apply. Offer valid in the United States, District of Columbia, and Canada only.New in this Release! Encarta Africana 3rd Edition
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Global English Dictionary Created for the Internet Age
Installation and Settings
The Encarta Reference Suite 2001 usually comes on 7 CD's, but now with the DVD version there is no need to spend time swapping around the CD's when you are searching for information. Encarta has a number of different installation choices for you to pick from, once you insert the DVD you can install various components as shown below:
Installing the Encarta 2001 DVD can take a while (Especially if you choose to install Internet Explorer 5.5 as well) but it installed without any problems. Some of the additional features such as Speech Recognition are no longer classed as components but part of Encarta itself.
I have decided to break the review down into separate components just like Encarta itself is. I will begin with the Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2001. Encarta Encyclopedia is filled full of documents, topics, accounts, illustrations, sounds and videos, everything you would want from a computer encyclopedia.
For those of you who have not seen the layout and design of Encarta I will explain the basic layout for you. The basic design is similar to that of the old MSN that Microsoft used to run, the borders and menus are in black, while the main area you read, view articles, images etc from changes color depending on what you are reading, although it is usually a white background. At the top of the Encarta layout are the main menus, they include the following:
The main area from which you search from is called "Find" once you click on this option via the menu, a bar appears on the left hand side of the layout, from here you can enter letters/words to find items you are looking for. You can also search by type of information, this way you can filter out items and only choose a certain type such as an image or some video footage, something that is very useful. With the new DVD version you can also search through each part of the Suite such as Encarta Africana or the dictionary from just one place.
The first new addition to Encarta 2001 that you are likely to notice is the "Encarta Today" area at the bottom of the home area. This is the first place that the internet is being blended more and more into Encarta as each new version comes out. Encarta today is updated every day as expected, with new articles or information on helping you achieve better grades or special reports on certain special dates of the year.
Encarta is full of very well written articles from science to entertainment, each item you read is streamed off of the DVD in such a quick speed you don't notice any kind of wait at all. Certain articles also contain different types of multimedia such as sounds, images, video footage and some excellent 360-Degree Views.
The 360-Degree Views are as I mentioned, very impressive. They add a good level of interactivity into the encyclopedia, even more so when they are used in the Virtual Tours section of Encarta. From the Virtual Tours section you can travel to destinations across the world and view them via the 360-Degree option, but it isn't limited to just one view, clicking on hyperlinks in the video window moves you onto new locations.
As you can already see, Encarta isn't limited to just basic articles and images it also has a host of interactive extras for young and old alike. By clicking on the Interactivities center via the Features menu you can view simulations on a host of subjects. They range from building up a dinosaur from its bones to viewing the human skull anatomy.
One of the features in Encarta 2001 is the Dynamic Timeline, from here you can explore and analyze history through a mass of timelines. At a first look it may seem a little bit confusing, but one you start to find topics or years, searching categories and places then it all becomes far easier and very interesting to read.
Next up we have more new features in terms of the new Web Center (Shown below). The Encarta Web Center integrates information from the internet which helps you learn more about the articles you are reading through. Not only that, it means that all of the websites you visit through the Encarta web center are suitable for children to use without the worry of them accessing information parents might not want them to see.
The web center allows you to search through Editor picks, the Encarta Online search engine, current events (very handy), periodicals and a general web search. All of the searches you do through the Encarta Web Center are displayed through.
The final new feature is The Encarta Researcher. With Encarta Researcher you can collect and organize information that you will use to write reports, homework assignments, essays, and more. First, use Encarta Researcher to gather information from Encarta Encyclopedia, Encarta Interactive World Atlas, and other resources. Then create sections to organize your research. Finally, export your project to a word processor and edit it. You can copy text and pictures to Encarta Researcher notes and credit all sources efficiently and easily. Another excellent addition to the series.
The Encarta World Atlas has over 1.8 million places included within it from around the world and is supposedly more detailed (and who am I to argue) than any in-print atlas around at the moment. This new edition includes Flat Maps that allow you to look a the entire world, a place name switch that lets you view local place names on the map which is handy when you go on holiday. Although I find the Interactive Atlas excellent, the program has had a tendency to crash quite often when I have been using it.
Next up we have the Internet options. By clicking on TOOLS and then DOWNLOADS you can update your Encarta yearbook with the latest articles and images that has been updated by the Encarta team. New yearbook updates are released each month and only take a few minutes to download and helps keep your articles up to date if your children use Encarta for schoolwork.
Encarta World English Dictionary
Encarta 2001 Reference Suite DVD comes with a multimedia reference library, which you can use to enhance your written communication and find information about many different topics. Encarta Dictionary is the first newly written English Dictionary in over 30 years. From here you can access the Dictionary, Thesaurus, Quotations, Almanac, Style Guide and Computer Dictionary. The dictionary is again very well written and easy to use, with many sounds and musical items included within it. Oh and the computer Dictionary is also very nice too heh. New additions to this part of Encarta include the Encarta Thesaurus and more articles, text and pronunciations.
Encarta Africana Version 3
The first screen you will come across is the one shown above. From here you can access the main parts of Encarta Africana Third Edition:
I began my browsing via the "Find" icon at the top left of the Encarta browser, in my view this is the easiest and fastest way of finding out information, all you need to do is to enter a few words such as "Muhammad" and a number of articles relating to someone with that name will appear on the sidebar in a matter of seconds. Once I had found a name I was looking for "Muhammad Ali" for example, I would click on his name and a new contents area would load up in the Encarta Browsers main window, from here you can get to introductions about Ali, photos, web searches and Ali's great moments in sport.
Remember though that these kinds of large-scale information pieces are not just for big name African Americans, but also for lesser known people (to me) such as Sonny Liston (Another boxer) and Philip Randolph. Another point is that the large content pages are also not just for people, they can be for places, religions, sports music etc...there are a whole load of them to choose from and to read through.
The next section I visited was the "Africa On Camera" area, which is based in the features part of Encarta Africana. This area consists of a number of videos, which are narrated by some very famous people such as Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and Colin Powell, each video lasts 3-4 minutes and each one was very interesting to listen through.
Next we have the Civil Rights Chronology, from here you can read all about the Civil Rights Movement between the years of 1950 and 1968, again there are links to articles, video clips, music to listen to and photos to glance over in this section, yet another interesting read.
Finally we have the "Library Of Black America" (Shown Below), it contains over 140 pieces of work written by African-Americans prior to 1918 and there are pages and pages of work to read through here. The library ranges from novels, slave narratives to poetry and other works.
There are many, many more sections that you can go through that I have not mentioned in my review such as Historic Sites In Africa, African Maps, Africa To The Americas but a lot of these are similar in style to the Encarta 2001 release that came out not so long ago. As usual with Encarta there are a number of excellent links to websites that you will come across for example, if you were looking at an actors information in Encarta Africana you could click on a link that would take you to the Internet Movie Database to find out even more about that particular person.
Encarta Africana is another excellent encyclopedia release from Microsoft, there is yet again so much here to go through that it would take many, many pages to talk about it all, the new additions to the Music timelines and the Library of Black America are all worthy of a new release. Everything is well written and superbly designed and most importantly, easy to get to.
Although nothing new has really been added to Encarta Africana Third Edition this time round, adding it to the Encarta Reference Suite means that the package is better than ever before. A great encyclopedia about African Americans that should be checked out by everyone interested in African American history.
I can't say enough good things about Encarta 2001 Reference Suite, it really is an excellent purchase. There is so much information to go through that it will take months to work through it all. The only downside has been the crashes I ran into while using the Encarta Interactive Atlas, but these didn't really hamper my enjoyment of the suite. An excellent purchase, go out and buy it now.