Encarta Reference Suite 2001

While billed on the box as the Australian Edition, from the help files on the CD it appears to be a generic World Edition with some Australian modifications. That's not to say it lacks Australian content - on the contrary, there's plenty of it, helped along by a full-time Australian editor. This content includes references to a great deal of Australian history and geography, as well as many images and some articles specially written for Encarta by prominent Australians. There are also some Australian Lesson Plans developed in conjunction with local educators.

The World English Dictionary uses British English words as its primary references, as opposed to American English. It also understands uniquely Australian words like "larrikin" and "billabong", although the English-French and English-German dictionaries can't translate these words.

During installation, if you choose the Encarta Researcher option, the program adds a version of Internet Explorer 5.5 with a Researcher button to the toolbar to your system (it doesn't support Netscape). Researcher then lets you highlight text and images from the Web and import them directly into your Researcher organiser. The tool automatically appends Web sources and bibliographical references to copied items.

From the organiser, you can edit and arrange your notes, and then export any or all of the items to your word processor or to an HTML file. The software's Web Centre makes it easier to get to related online resources: pull up an article on any major topic, and you get embedded links to Web sites chosen by Encarta's editorial team.

Other features include an improved interactive timeline, which lets you select timelines from different parts of the world and match them against each other, as well as greater numbers of articles and references compared to previous editions. Historical sidebars from contemporary publications, including The Sydney Morning Herald and other local sources in addition to the international ones, add to the depth of coverage.

One notable downside: the CD-ROM version contains six discs, and swapping them to use the software can become tiresome. However, a one-disc DVD-ROM version is available at the same price, and is recommended if you have a DVD-ROM drive.

Encarta 2001 successfully concentrates on the essentials - comprehensive, current content presented with state-of-the-art multimedia and design. Others put out worthwhile competing titles, but Encarta's amount and quality of content, and superior online integration, keep it consistently in front of its competitors in popularity.

Encarta Reference Suite 2001

Price: Reference Suite 2001 $199, Deluxe Encyclopedia 2001 $149, Standard Encyclopedia 2001 $89, World English Dictionary 2001 $69, Interactive World Atlas 2001 $89Supplier: MicrosoftPhone: 13 2058URL: www.microsoft.com.au

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