Online Encarta Encyclopaedia

I remember back in the early years of Churston Grammar School when my homework largely consisted of cutting and pasting huge quantities of text straight from a computer encyclopaedia Microsoft Encarta then changing it around a little so it looked like I’d written it.For example, the Americanism ‘color’ would always have to be replaced with ‘colour’, long words such as ‘discombobulate’ would be replaced with ‘confuse’ and I would religiously resize all the pictures so that the text ‘Copyright Microsoft Encarta’ was removed from the bottom of them all.I’m sure that all the teachers found it perfectly obvious as to what I was doing but at the age of 13 I don’t think anybody really cared too much and I remember that before long, everyone had access to a copy so we all got off with doing half an hour worth of homework a night.Of course, this couldn’t last for long as soon we were at the stage where such practices became frowned upon and we would have to write our own material and so Encarta ’95 soon found itself at the bottom of a dusty cupboard never to be used again.

Thinking this morning about what to cover in this weeks Click article I had a quick look at the Microsoft website to see if there were any new and interesting products coming out when I stumbled across an online version of Encarta.This took me back a good few years as the text of many of the articles was still identical – Of course, large sections have been updated and many new articles have been added but it was still the same old Encarta that I used to know and love.

Most importantly, a lot of the online content is completely free of charge and although the CD-ROM version that you can buy in the shops is slicker, I would still consider Encarta online worthy of a visit; whether you are interested in learning just out of general interest or you have assignments and essays to put together then head towards http://www.microsoft.com/uk/encarta/default.mspx and take a look.From the front page you have the option to immediately type in something that interests you and then to click on ‘Search’ which will bring up a number of related articles for you to browse.Although there is also an online atlas, dictionary and quiz for you to take a look at, the encyclopaedia is the main feature of Encarta and so it will form the basis of this review.All text in the encyclopaedia is supported by pictures, sounds and videos to illustrate points and make subjects more interesting and this works especially well if you happen to have a high speed connection. Some of the text is blocked unless you subscribe to MSN 8 which I believe works out at around £7 a month so to be honest with you, if you find yourself using the encyclopaedia a fair amount then it may just be better to go out and buy the CD version which would set you back around £25.

The quality of editorial is of good quality and is usually pretty easy to understand although it suffers from the same problems that Encarta 95 suffered from in that it is too Americanised.The CD versions of Encarta that you buy in the UK usually are more focussed towards British vocabulary and British events but since you are getting online Encarta in the main part for free there is little room for us to be able to complain.The range of subject matter that is covered is also extremely broad and one that particularly interested me is when I typed in ‘Iraq’ I didn’t just get information about the land mass and population numbers I also got material about the Iran-Iraq war, the Persain war and of course more recently the Coalition led ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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