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Product: Microsoft Encarta Reference Suite 2001 DVD
Company: Microsoft
Website: http://www.encarta.com
Estimated Street Price: $74.95/59.99
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features

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 *

The Portable Encyclopedia
Research at your own convenience from any desktop - at work, school, or home. Encarta Online Deluxe keeps you up to date with current Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe articles from any PC with Internet access.

* 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
  • Encylopedia of Black History and Culture - Learn how people of African descent helped shape the world in this comprehensive reference from the world's leading black scholars.
  • Expanded! Library of Black America Books, slave narratives and poems written by African Americans from 1773 to 1918.
  • Dynamic Music Timeline - Hear, see, and experience the evolution of African American music from ragtime to hip-hop in this dynamic multimedia timeline.
Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2001

The #1 Best-Selling Encyclopedia Brand
Start with a wealth of authoritative reference materials on CD compiled by the world's leading authorities in reference and educational publishing. Then expand your search to selected web sites and beyond.

  • New! Web Center - One click on the new Encarta Web Center connects you to handpicked, quality sites relevant to your topic. No searching required!
  • New! Encarta Today - Get access to the latest online information and links to content relevant to the events of the day.
Encarta Interactive World Atlas 2001

The World's Most Detailed Atlas
Explore 21 map styles and nearly 1.8 million place names - eight times the detail of any printed atlas!

  • New! Flat Maps! - Get a global perspective on climates, eco-regions, and other trends. View the whole world in any map style and easily print flat maps for presentations or classroom displays!
  • New! Dynamic Place Name Switch - What are Egypt, Japan, and Moscow called by the people who live there? See thousands of local spellings right on the map with a mouse click!
Encarta World English Dictionary 2001

Global English Dictionary Created for the Internet Age

  • New! Words - More than 10,000 new words keep you current with global English.
  • New! Audio Pronunciations - More than 17,000 new audio pronunciations let you hear difficult words pronounced correctly!
  • Updated! Five Additional Resources - New! Encarta Thesaurus, Encarta Book of Quotations, Encarta 2001 Almanac, Encarta Manual of Style and Usage, and Microsoft Press Computer and Internet Dictionary.

Technology:

  • Web Center seamlessly extends searches to the World Wide Web.
  • Encarta Researcher makes it easy to collect and prepare information for reports.
  • Encarta Today integrates current information from the Web into the Encarta Encyclopedia home screen.
  • Homework Center provides quick and easy access to Encarta schoolwork tools
  • Integrated Searches cover all four titles and editorially selected Web links and sites.

DVD-Edition Only:

  • More content -
    • 105% more videos than the CD version
    • 220% more 360-degree views than the CD version!

DVD-Edition Only:

  • Unified Search - Simultaneously search the Encyclopedia, Atlas and the Dictionary for your answer.
  • No Disc Swapping: 7 CDs of information on one DVD disc.
  • Integration: Suite Links provide one-click integration between products
  • Better quality: full screen video clips and high quality audio files.

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:

  • Encarta Research Organizer A tool that helps you gather and organize information for school reports.

  • Encarta Lesson Collection Lesson plans and activities for students organized by topic and grade level.

  • Encarta Africana Third Edition: Learn about black history

  • Encarta Interactive World Atlas Access virtually anything on the map

  • Natural Language Query A utility that lets you ask questions as well as use keywords to search in Encarta Encyclopedia.

  • Text to Speech A utility that lets you have articles read aloud to you in Encarta Encyclopedia.

  • Speech Recognition A utility that enables you to use voice commands instead of the mouse or keyboard to perform many common functions in Encarta Encyclopedia.

  • Multimedia Catalog A multimedia preview of many Microsoft games, home reference, and other CD-ROM titles.

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.

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:

  • Find -- Allows you to search for items by writing in a letter/word, you can also sort items by their type, such as sounds or images.

  • Home -- This brings you back to the encyclopedias main page.

  • Features -- From here you can bring up some of the main parts of the encyclopedia such as Time lines, world maps, access to the Web Center, Virtual Tours and much, much more.

  • Tools -- You can load up the dictionary, homework center, report writing guide and more school related tools from here. You can also update your copy of Encarta from here via a connection to the Internet.

  • Options -- Find, Voice Controls and settings can all be accessed from here.

  • Favorites -- Add certain Encarta pages to your favorites list for easy access.

  • Suite -- You can load up a different suite from here.

  • Help -- Get easy access to help options.

encarta_2001_6.jpg (11649 bytes)

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.

encarta_2001_11.jpg (153007 bytes)

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_2001_10.jpg (88843 bytes)

Review Quotes
  "The 360 Degree Views Are Very Impressive"  

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.

encarta_2001_9.jpg (109308 bytes)

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.

encarta_2001_7.jpg (152503 bytes)

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.

encarta_2001_8.jpg (160646 bytes)

Review Quotes
  "Encarta Researcher: Another Excellent Addition To Encarta"  

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

encarta_2001_1.jpg (208923 bytes)

  • Articles: Clicking here will take you to a random article in the Encarta Africana Third Edition database.

  • Welcome: Shows a welcome video featuring Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Kwame Anthony Appiah.

  • Features: You can access a whole load of features from here such as timelines, maps and virtual tours.

  • Library: A whole load of books.

  • Tour: just as it states, it shows you the basics on how to browse through Encarta Africana Third Edition.

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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.

Review Quotes
  "Encarta Africana Is Another Excellent Encyclopedia From Microsoft"  

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.

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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.

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Ease Of Use: 91%
Articles: 92%
Design: 93%
Video: 87%
Online Access: 91%
Sound: 92%
Music: 90%
Manual: 75%
Interface: 94%
Overall: 92%

 

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.

 

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 92%
Version Reviewed Encarta 2001 Reference Suite DVD
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 DVD
1 Manual
The Good Points Massive Articles
Encarta Africana Now Part Of The Suite
Great Sound
Easy To Use
Great Online Parts
The Bad Points Big Memory Leaks In The Interactive Atlas
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Reviewers PC Setup Pentium II 450
Windows Me
128 Meg SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
DirectX 7.1a
SoundBlaster Live! Value
17" LG Electronics Monitor
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80
Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

DVD TV Player - Pioneer DV-626D
Widescreen TV - Sony KV-28WS2U 28"
DVD-ROM: Toshiba SD-1202

PC Required Windows 95/98/ME Or Win 2000
Pentium 133mhz
32 MB Ram
DVD-ROM Drive
Mouse and Keyboard
640*480 video card with 8mb ram
Windows compatible sound device
155 MB of free hard drive space

 

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