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PC Reviews: Microsoft Encarta 2004 Premium Suite

"The world at your fingertips with just one click!"

Once again Microsoft is here to rescue us from ignorance with this brilliant reference tool. Presenting as either a DVD or 4 disc set (in the United States, this was actually a 5 CD set, not sure why). As is the case with a number of other products in the Microsoft stable this year for 2004 dated product, the emphasis on interaction with Encarta certainly appears to be very much a web browser related affair with navigation being very similar to a web page.

Installation of the product was a little bit lengthy as the entire content of each disc can go onto the hard drive with only multimedia content being left on each CD. The installation process took about 8 or so minutes and was not at all difficult. I did however find it annoying that I was required to keep the discs on hand the entire time I was using Encarta in order to take advantage of the extensive multimedia facets of the encyclopaedia.

Aside from the absolutely staggering amount of information actually presented on the CDs, Encarta also has online resources to assist those interested in learning more. For knowledge seekers, you are best starting off your search at www.microsoft.com/encarta

The emphasis on this version appears to be ease of navigation. Whilst there is still the standard index input window, Encarta also has what could loosely be described as an intuitive link system where related topics appear in your main window that can be followed. I found this system to be excellent for the simple reason that it actively encourages learning.

I found myself looking up a topic and from that point leaving that window to follow a presented link that lead to a similar item. By simply surfing the links, I found that in no time at all I was faced with a mass of new information that eventually led away from my initial search and presented me with an amazing amount of information.

Something that is vitally important for parents and students is the fact that Encarta Premium also has wizards that will assist with the creation of projects and assignments. The key thing to realise is that with a product as informative as Encarta helping you do the homework, the chances of having a good looking end result are all but assured. My only concern would be where students would rely on Encarta entirely as their source of information for an entire project. Considering the popularity of Encarta, there would have to be the odd occasion where different students would be turning in very similar work.

One of the new additions to the software (amongst others) is the inclusion of a number of video clips from the Discovery Channel. All of them are of a high quality and make for some compelling viewing. The beauty of something like this is the simple fact sometimes to see something makes for a better understanding than just reading some words of seeing a picture. To see something in action accentuates the process of learning. As the Encarta website quite rightly asks, "is learning all about answering questions?", though that in itself is a question.. go figure!

As with previous versions of the software, there is the inclusion of a dictionary and thesaurus, essential tools when putting together an assignment that doesn't read verbatim like Encarta! As far as being supported by Microsoft goes with this product, there is a wealth of info on the Encarta site that should get you on the right track. All things said and done, this is a great product that will be an absolute boon to anyone wanting to know more about the world around us. Highly recommended!

- Tory Favro

The Final Say!


Microsoft Encarta Premium Suite 2004
 reviewed by Tory Favro
Review Score: 9.0/10 
Distributor: Microsoft

Copyright 2003 www.impulsegamer.com