Encarta 2009 looks, well, remarkably similar to Encarta 2008.
It consists of the main reference library and a children’s encyclopaedia, a world atlas and a set of bilingual dictionaries. It’s still much cleaner, tidier and easier to find your way around than Britannica. When you open the program, the main screen presents you with a simple list of topics. Choose the one you want and drill deeper into it to find the information you want, or use the search bar. Other features, such as the atlas and dictionaries, are accessed from a drop-down list.
As in previous editions, Encarta does multimedia better than Britannica, too. Pop-up illustrations, animations and videos are integrated into the articles, rather than stored separately with links. The multimedia features, particularly the map treks (walkthroughs illustrating a topic via a series of maps), really hit the spot. This is even true of the 360 degree views: slightly gimmicky, yes, but fascinating and addictive. The bilingual dictionaries are a huge time saver: choose a language, type in a word and you instantly get the translation.
The articles themselves are generally shorter than Britannica’s, and while they cover the breadth of a topic, they don’t go into the same depth. There’s certainly enough information to satisfy idle curiosity or serve as a starting point, and students who find the children’s encyclopedia beneath them may find the level here is right for them.
But, far more often than with Britannica, the serious reader will be thrown back on external sources.
If you’re buying for younger users, from toddlers onwards, Encarta is the way to go. It’s easy to use and colourful, and with its clever use of illustrations, sounds and videos, it’ll hold their attention.
A short introduction showing how to search for eBooks at Wardman Library using EBSCOHost.
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