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red line SuperKids Software Review - The Parent's and Teacher's Guide to Childrens' Software
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spacer all reviews >>> encyclopedia software

CD Encyclopedia -- The Big Picture

SuperKids' review teams looked at four traditional CD Encyclopedia packages, two CD desktop reference tools, and a new encyclopedia for younger children. For comparison purposes, we also took a quick look at a potential alternative to CD encyclopedia -- the World Wide Web.

To evaluate the softwares' content and ease of use, we asked our kids reviewers to suggest a list of four questions they might go to the encyclopedia for, for answers. Their list:

  1. How are mirrors made?
  2. How does general anesthesia work?
  3. In baseball, what makes a curveball curve?
  4. What ended the McCarthy Era?
The results of their trial and the answers to their questions might surprise you!
  • Encarta 98 found information helpful to our kids' research trial on three of four questions. What differentiates Encarta is the level of detail provided, and the writing level -- Encarta is better suited for older users. Windows 3.1 users, however, are out of luck - Encarta 98 is for Win95/NT/Mac only.
  • Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1998 tied with Encarta for providing the most detailed answers in our kids' research trial. This is a good choice for junior high school students and above.
  • Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1998 also found the answers on three of four questions. Grolier's offers a solid search engine and functional display layout. Generally provides less detail than Encarta or Compton's, but in language more suitable for middle school and above students.
  • World Book 1998 gave the broadest coverage, providing at least some information on all four research questions. The level of detail and writing is most appropriate for grade school students and above.

  • Eyewitness Children's Encyclopedia is another piece of software that our reviewers thought might be purchased by some parents as an encyclopledia. This program is great for exploration, but it is not a substitute for an encyclopedia.
We also took a look at what some parents might consider as an alternative to purchasing an encyclopedia -- the World Wide Web.

  • The World Wide Web, searched using the Excite! search engine, provided some information all four questions. Excite found the best answers to two (curveballs and McCarthy), a reasonable answer for one (mirrors), and a confusingly detailed deluge of data - but not an answer - for the fourth (anesthesia). To be fair, however, this quick test was done by one of SuperKids' editors, who is an experienced Web surfer and searcher.


SuperKids Ratings Ratings Key
Title
Publisher
Content
Breadth
Content
Depth
Ease
of Use
Buyers Guide
(Price Survey)
Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
    The Learning Company
4.0 5.0 4.5 PC / Mac
Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia
    Grolier Interactive
4.5 4.0 5.0 PC / Mac
Encarta
    Microsoft
4.0 5.0 4.5 PC / Mac
World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia
    IBM
5.0 3.5 5.0 PC / Mac
Eyewitness Children's Encyclopedia
    DK Multimedia
4.0 5.0 4.0 PC / Mac
The Web!
    via Excite!
5.0 5.0 3.0


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