Another year, another version of Encarta. Well this time we're at the 2007 edition, once again it ships on a single DVD or on multiple CD's. The last few versions of Encarta have shown smaller and smaller amounts of new features and once again this is the case with Encarta 2007.
Installation and Settings
The installation of Encarta Premium 2007 took around about 15 minutes to get up and running on our machine. You have to have at least a Windows XP service pack 2 machine with 1.2 GB's of hard drive space freed up and 512MB or memory to get the most out of the program. There were no problems when installing the program and nothing else was forced onto us during the installation which was nice to see. Once installed, you get the icon on your desktop and away you go.
Once we had Encarta up and running, the screen is full of colour thanks to the bright interface. The home page lists various subjects that you can click on such as History and Arts & Literature along with a search field at the top right. The icons that you make use of in the top left are meager but help to prevent useless icons being strewn across the interface. You have a back, forward and a home button up there. You can also track viewed pages by clicking on a small drop down arrow that is below the "Back arrow", this was a nice feature especially when you have gone a few articles into Encarta and want to drop back to something. Once again, on the right edge of the screen you have Encarta showing up the matches for articles, photos, videos, web links and any maps etc that have popped up when you have run at search. The visual browser is here still too, which rotates subjects around, I'm not a big fan of it, but clearly some people liked it as its still here.
While Encarta 2007 has improved the articles yet again, there is once again very little new video, sound or 3D views so once again my yearly complaint is that with increasing PC resolutions, the pictures and video are starting to look worse and worse each time, especially now we are in the age of high-definition. Maybe a multiple DVD edition or hopefully a HD-DVD edition will come out next, because really the picture and video are starting to let it down, especially as better quality ones could well be downloaded off of the internet at any time by the user.
Anyway less of me moaning. Encarta 2007 contains hundreds of videos, some from the Discovery Channel which are pretty decent. Timelines and virtual tours of landmarks and other things are here once more too, but as started earlier, nothing is really new from the previous version. Encarta also has over 2,500 pieces of audio for you to listen to, from speech snippets to full blown pieces of music.
Updating Encarta & Web Stuff
Next we have the "Update Encarta" option. This means you can keep your version of Encarta up to date with the latest articles and web links regularly. There are about 3/4 updates per week which come as one single download, these update older articles and add new ones, while also adding a number of new "Web Center" links for you to go through. The Encarta web center has links from all over the world, these are all checked first by people in the know to make sure that all the information is valid and correct. As I mentioned earlier, the web center has had a number of new sites added to it, and I assume it will do year after year.
Kids, Research & Homework Tools
In the new 2007 addition to the Encarta series, Microsoft has once again made some steady improvements to the already excellent homework and researcher side of Encarta. As usual there are some excellent pieces of information on how to write essays, poems, do research and more. With the dictionary and thesaurus still at hand, you can't go wrong with letting your child or yourself use Encarta for studying.
Encarta Researcher helps you to quickly find, collect, and organize information so you can write first-rate reports. With Encarta Researcher, you can:
They are very useful tools for those who have children still at school or anyone studying at college. Or those who want to write articles for websites! What you do is if you find an article you like in Encarta you can either drag over the specific text you want to put into your work or add the whole page by clicking on "Add to Researcher". It adds all of the text you want and informs you what the source of the writing is. You can then later save your work as a document or a web page. With so many interactive parts to Encarta I won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about the world around us. Just a reminder that there is Microsoft Student 2007 that would appeal to students more than just Encarta, it includes everything you would need for your homework and studies.
Encarta Kids is a special area for younger learners, ages 7 to 12. Packed with age-appropriate articles and lively multimedia, Encarta Kids provides a safer place to explore all kinds of topics. Make learning fun and easy with a colorful, easy-to-navigate environment designed just for kids, with plenty of maps, photos, and interactive quizzes. It uses large colourful icons that children love, has loads of pictures in place of the large amounts of text the regular Encarta has and is generally a good application for young kids to use and explore.
The Encarta 2007 Premium Edition dictionary hasn't gone through any changes, it still has the translation tool which works works very well, and is a great tool for those wanting to know the most basic of terms, words and sayings for difference languages. The dictionary contains over 31,000 synonyms and antonyms. It's hard to say much more about the Encarta Dictionary each year, especially when there is little added to it, but overall it is a very useful tool, updated or not.
It is hard to go into all of the details that Encarta has to offer to you, but once again it has excellent chart makers for students to use, live media, news and weather reports (which is spot on every time I check it here in the UK), it has the brilliant world Atlas which I never seem to go into detail with. The web center as I have mentioned in previous reviews contains lots of links to sites that have been reviewed by the Encarta editors. You also have the 3-D and 2-D tours that have been with us over the last few years, but once again haven't had an overhaul like they really should do in this age of fantastic 3D graphics.
Once more Encarta 2007 remains one of the top encyclopedia for students, children and parents alike, but this version feels once again like a point release rather than a full blown update. Encarta 2007 is still worth getting, but only if you have one of the editions released 2 or more years ago as I don't seen enough improvements other than updated articles here. If Microsoft can improve the package next time by adding better quality photos and high quality video (and more of it), maybe even push out for a high-definition release then Encarta will still be a good buy, but right now its slowly losing the improvements that once made it great, especially when you consider that all the articles, photos and video it offers could probably be found by using Google.