Microsoft Encarta on DVD-ROM: A Home Run
With multimedia encyclopedias, information that once filled dozens of volumes
now fits on several CD-ROMs-- or in the case of Microsoft's
Street-priced at $139, Encarta 99 is the only multimedia encyclopedia currently available on DVD-ROM. It also comes in a fiveCD-ROM edition for $100 (see "Top 10 Titles of 1998," page 245).
After reviewing beta copies of both editions, I think the advantage of having all resources on one DVD-ROM cannot be overstated. Along with Encarta encyclopedia, Microsoft packs in Virtual Globe 99 (maps and atlas), Bookshelf 99 (dictionary, thesaurus, quotes, and such), plus research and homework wizards. At 4GB, this DVD-ROM is bigger than my hard drive. Sheesh. (Encarta 99 demands a whopping 195MB of hard drive space for a full installation.)
The DVD-ROM edition does more than save on discs: Its multimedia features work markedly better than do those on the CD-ROM edition. Video clips are larger and sharper, and audio clips sound better. The DVD-ROM edition offers many more videos and 360-degree virtual tours of famous locales (such as San Francisco's Chinatown).
Encarta 99 (on either media) boasts a vastly improved interface, with a browserlike approach to navigating forward and backward through documents. Microsoft has built in a few voice-control options for basic commands; I found this feature more cool than useful.
If you have a DVD-ROM drive, Encarta 99 is a must-have. But even on CD-ROM, it beats the competition--namely, IBM's World Book Family Reference Suite 1999 and the 1999 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia--in the breadth of its content and the convenience of its interface.