|Encarta 97 is an interactive, multimedia encyclopedia that can be used
for information, education, or entertainment. It is available in a standard
or deluxe version. I will be reviewing the deluxe version for this article.
Encarta 97 Deluxe contains articles, media images, sounds, movies and interactive charts. New features in the Deluxe Edition include over 31,000 articles (6,000 are new or revised), 35 new videos, and 6,000 new photos. It also allows you to jump to the Encarta Web site to download updates or jump to thousands of sites on the World Wide Web. Yearbook updates are free to Deluxe Edition users. 20 new Guided Tours are also included, just select a topic and Encarta will guide you through related articles and media.
Encarta 97 Deluxe Edition comes on 2 CD's. It requires a multimedia PC with a 486DX/33 MHZ or higher processor, Windows 95, Windows 3.1x, or Windows NT 3.51x operating systems. 8 MB of RAM is recommended to operate under Windows 95 or Windows 3.1, 12 MB for Windows NT. Hard disk space requirements are 14 MB for Windows 95 or Windows NT and 21 MB for Windows 3.1. Other requirements include a double speed CD-ROM drive, a SVGA monitor and 1MB of Video VRAM, soundboard with speakers and a mouse. To use the Encarta Yearbook, Web links, and to receive monthly updates you will also need a modem (9600 bps or faster), access to the Internet and 4 MB of additional hard disk space. Monthly updates require 1 MB of hard disk space each.
Encarta's home screen menu allows you to start with a 13-screen overview of the program showing you what's new and how to navigate through Encarta. The overview is a nice introduction and will help the user to quickly grasp the basics to use the program. From the home screen you can jump right into the articles. This screen allows you to scroll through the 31,108 articles or type in a search word automatically taking you to the article. When the article is retrieved you can scroll the text and view any photos that accompany the article.
Under the options menu you can copy or print the articles and photos. You can also change the text size to small, medium or large for comfortable viewing.
Many articles contain highlighted links referring to related subjects. Clicking on these links allows you to move from article to article without searching the main index. Another feature of Encarta lets you double click on a word in the text bringing it up in the dictionary included with the program. The main article screen has a tool bar that allows you to go anywhere in Encarta. You can see media clips, go online, use the atlas, or dictionary.
Encarta's media section contains 13,803 items. It consists of photos, sound clips, video clips, and 360-degree views that you control with your mouse. All are included in an index list like the articles. The only annoyance in browsing the media section is changing the CD's to view different pictures. Many of the pictures contain captions that provide information about the subject. Overall the media section is very good and contains portraits that will help students with school projects.
The atlas included with Encarta is a small globe that can be rotated. You have the option to zoom in and out at any point. If you zoom in on the United States and then Texas you can choose from selected sites on the map. San Antonio was a simple map with a few key locations marked and provided a link to the article on San Antonio. There are probably much better atlas products on the market and Microsoft recommends their own Encarta 97 World Atlas as a companion to this encyclopedia.
Mindmaze is Encarta's entertainment game. The player can choose from different categories of questions and levels of difficulty. You are given a question worth points and the longer you take to answer, the more points you lose. A correct answer will lead you through an ancient castle room by room. A small maze screen helps you keep track of your progress as you work your way to the finish shown on the screen. The questions can quickly broaden your knowledge and can provided hours of entertainment.
Microsoft claims that Encarta 97 contains more information than a 29-volume encyclopedia set. I found it to be a great reference tool for school students as well as adults, providing informative articles and Web links.
Encarta 97 Encyclopedia is no longer available because it has been upgraded to Encarta 98. The Encarta 98 Encyclopedia can be ordered directly from Microsoft or can be purchased from most retail software retailers. The Deluxe Edition runs around $70.00 and the Standard Edition $45.00.
Audie Nelson is a Game Warden with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.