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Product: Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2002 DVD (U.S. Edition)
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 yet more to the ever growing encyclopedia by putting a number of new features into the reference Library. But does it add enough new features or is is just another yearly rehash? Here are a few of the features:

Work Smarter. Work Faster.

Encarta Reference Library 2002 is the ultimate reference resource and engages learners with more up-to-date information and multimedia than ever before. Its easy-to-use interface, fast, complete searches, dependable information, and captivating multimedia fulfill the learning and research needs of the whole family …

Encarta Reference Library combines the #1 multimedia encyclopedia brand1, Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe 2002; Encarta Interactive World Atlas; Encarta Dictionary and Thesaurus; Encarta Africana, the authoritative source of black history and culture; Microsoft FactFinder2; one year of free3 access to Encarta Online Deluxe; and Encarta Researcher4.

Inside the Library--Tools for Success

Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe
With a single search, you'll discover an array of information from tens of thousands of engaging articles, rich multimedia--including pictures, video and sound--and related articles written in the time period you are studying.

Encarta Interactive World Atlas
Develop a better understanding of the world and its inhabitants through an interactive globe with printable maps, built-in audio, video, multimedia, and worldwide statistics. Get a global perspective on climates, ecoregions, and world trends by exploring 22 different map styles--each linked to a wealth of details about people, places, and animals from across the planet.

Encarta Africana
Experience black history and culture with this critically acclaimed multimedia reference.

Encarta Dictionary and Thesaurus
Quickly find the right definitions and synonyms of words with the click of a mouse.

Encarta Researcher
Powerful tools help you easily gather and organize notes and images from Encarta and the Web so you can create first-rate reports and projects. Researcher even keeps track of what you’ve gathered, and builds the bibliography and footnotes as you go!

Microsoft FactFinder
It's ready when you are with instant access to definitions from the Encarta Dictionary including translations to Spanish or French, antonyms and synonyms from the Encarta Thesaurus, and content from the Encyclopedia. With FactFinder, the information comes to you as you hover over a word you need more information about. Even stock quotes are immediately available with FactFinder.

Contents Page
Type in your search term(s) and instantly access a wealth of articles and engaging multimedia.

NEW! Update Encarta
Stay current as your content gets updated automatically every time you log on to the Internet.

Encarta Online Deluxe
Free access to the premium online edition of Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe from any Internet-connected PC--at home, school or work. The information you need will be available anytime, anywhere.

Dynamic Timelines
Explore important events in history with scrolling multimedia presentations.

NEW! 3D Virtual Tours
Step back 2,000 years with 3D virtual tours and explore the Roman Forum or Ancient Greece in their full glory.

NEW! Live Streaming Media
Enhance your understanding with live radio broadcasts and MSNBC news and weather reports from around the world. Learn about events shaping lives, cultures, and countries--as they happen!

NEW! Club Encarta
Membership is free when you register for Club Encarta. As the world changes--so will your Encarta. Updated content is seamlessly integrated into your Library, keeping you current and up-to-date. In addition, you will be eligible for special offers on future Encarta products.

Installation and Settings

The Encarta Reference Library 2002 usually comes on 5 CD's, which had us wondering what has been cutout of the reference Library this year as last years edition came on 7 CD's. With the DVD version there is no need to spend time swapping around the CD's when you are searching for information. Encarta now only has a couple of different installation choices for you to pick from compared to the numerous ones with previous releases. You can also choose to copy the whole of the Encarta DVD to your hard drive if you feel your can spare 4.5 GB's of space! Installing the Encarta 2002 DVD can take a while  but it installed without any problems.

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 2002. Encarta Encyclopedia is filled full of documents, topics, accounts, illustrations, sounds, videos and 360 Degree views, everything you would want from a computer encyclopedia. This latest release of Encarta yet again increases the amount of information you can gain access to, both via the DVD and via the internet.

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:

  • File -- This allows you to print articles

  • Edit -- Find and Copy articles

  • View -- Change text sizes and captioning

  • Favorites -- Add articles to your favorites list

  • Features -- Access articles, maps, timelines etc

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

  • Help -- Get easy access to help options.

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 and can be accessed via the "Advanced Search" feature at the bottom of the panel. With the new DVD version you can also search through various categories of the Library such as Africana, Religion etc or the dictionary from just one place.

The first part of Encarta 2002 that you are likely to notice is the "Encarta Today" area in the middle of the home page 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 supposed to be updated every day with new articles or information on helping you achieve better grades or special reports on certain special dates of the year, but so far I have yet to see new articles appear after using Encarta over the past few days.

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, which, while the last release shot off of the DVD in such a quick speed you don't notice any kind of wait at all, this new release seems to take a fair while to stream the information off of the DVD. Certain articles also contain different types of multimedia such as sounds, images, video footage and some excellent 360-Degree Views.

Not only do we have the 360-Degree 2D views in Encarta 2002 but this time we get full 3D tours (shown below) which are really really great, despite there only being seven of them. They are no where near as detailed as the photo realistic 2D versions are, but these offer music from the time period and setting along with animations and some great lighting (especially in the mummy tombs), but be warned, you need a powerful pc and graphics card to get the best out of them as they were very very slow even on my review machine. I would love to see these be improved in the next version of Encarta as they really help to give out a feeling of "being there".

3D Views

There are again more new features coming into the articles, this time around we have weather reports from cities you search for in Encarta. I searched for my home town of Cambridge, UK and went to the main section for it and low and behold it showed up the weather for my area. Not only are weather reports included, we also get internet integration via news stories that are happening in the various cities you look up, such as New York etc. These are all instantly updated when you visit the article on the DVD if you have your internet connection on. Finally we have links to local radios stations for the various locations in Encarta 2002, such as the U.K and America.

News, Weather and Radio
Review Quotes
  "Who can knock a program which even finds information on our very own ActiveWin!"  

Updating Encarta

Next up we have the Internet options. By clicking on TOOLS and then DOWNLOADS you can update your version Encarta with the latest articles and images that has been updated by the Encarta team. Thankfully this time around the Encarta updates are no longer monthly releases, there can sometimes be as many as 5 updates a month to make sure you are up to date with all of the latest news and articles world wide.

Encarta World English Dictionary

Encarta 2002 Reference Library 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 that shipped with the previous release of Encarta is no longer included, although there are signs it has been partly integrated into the dictionary. New additions to this part of Encarta include the Encarta Thesaurus and more articles, text and pronunciations.

Microsoft FactFinder

Another new feature - Microsoft FactFinder, is a quick reference tool that gives you dictionary definitions, encyclopedia articles, and relevant Web content. You can use FactFinder in two views. In Full view, you can perform in-depth searches on reference information and view search results easily. In Mini view, you can work in any other application while keeping the FactFinder window open, and get on-the-fly definitions or other quick information. This is a surprisingly useful tool for working on articles, news or anything written. Basically what you can do is hold down ALT and then click on ANY word anywhere in Windows, Encarta, Word or an Internet webpage and Microsoft FactFinder will search the internet and Encarta for Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Thesaurus, Translation, Stock Quotes and Company information on the word/words you clicked on. You can also run FactFinder in mini view, this allows you to just hover over a word for a second and then FactFinder finding out what the word means. Who can knock a program which even finds information on our very own ActiveWin! Note: FactFinder does not seem to be included in localized versions of Encarta.


FactFinder In Mini Mode

Encarta Africana

Review Quotes
  "Links and articles to a number of different styles of music from the 1870's to the 1980's and is an excellent read and listen through"  

In Encarta 2002, there is no longer a separate area for Encarta Africana, it has now been completely blended in to the rest of the Encarta Encyclopedia.

The first 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, Quincy Jones and Colin Powell, each video lasts 3-4 minutes and each one was very interesting to listen through.

Next we have the Africana Timeline, the Africana Music Timeline and 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. You can also read all about Africana music via the timeline shown below, this contains music media, links and articles to a number of different styles of music from the 1870's to the 1980's and is an excellent read and listen through. The Africana Timeline shows African history from Pre-History to the 1970s

Finally we have the "Library Of Black America", it now contains over 160 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 2002 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.

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Ease Of Use: 91%
Articles: 92%
Design: 93%
Video: 82%
Online Access: 92%
Sound: 92%
Music: 92%
Manual: 0%
Interface: 94%
Overall: 91%

 

I can't say enough good things about Encarta 2002 Reference Library, it really is an excellent purchase. There is so much information that it will take months for most people to work through it all. The only downside has to be that most of the images and videos you will have seen before if you have owned any of the previous last 3 releases of Encarta on DVD and I feel that with the DVD edition they could certainly be expanded on and the videos made in a better quality than they are currently, especially when you consider just how much space can be used on a DVD.

One last complaint, if you are going to use the Encarta.com website in Encarta DVD Microsoft, please make sure you don't have popup adverts like you do now. But there are yet again some very good additions to Encarta and the quality of the Encyclopedia can't be bettered right now in my view. So if you are going to buy any version of Encarta this year, get this one.

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 91%
Version Reviewed Encarta 2002 Reference Library DVD
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 DVD
The Good Points Massive Articles
Great Sound
Easy To Use
Great Online Parts
More Updates This Time
New FactFinder
Great 3D Tours
The Bad Points No Manual
Photos and Videos The same as previous years
Slow Page Loading
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Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
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DVD TV Player - Pioneer DV-626D
Widescreen TV - Sony KV-28WS2U 28"
DVD-ROM: Memorex 12xDVD Maxx

PC Required Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium 200mhz
32 MB Ram
DVD-ROM Drive
Mouse and Keyboard
640*480 video card with 8mb ram
Windows compatible sound device
335 MB of free hard drive space

 

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