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When purchasing a CD encyclopedia, potential buyers must first know that it will provide the information that their families need for work and school, as well as personal enrichment. Compton's 2000 did an acceptable job with all three of our research trial questions, however the answers provided were not as expansive as those found in other encyclopedia programs.
We began our first search, ("How does a battery work?") by inputting the question itself in the search field. We immediately found an article on "Battery and Fuel Cells". Scrolling through the article outline, revealed a section on "The Modern Dry Cell." Although the article did an excellent job explaining lead-acid batteries, it was vague in its description of dry cell batteries, leaving our younger testers with little more understanding than that with which they approached the question.
We approached our next question with another natural language search ("What is the Dow Jones Industrial Average"), and were rewarded with an article entitled "Dow Jones Average". This proved to be less than a full article, more like a short sidebar or definition. No list of included companies could be found.
Finally, we again did a natural language search for our last question ("What is the deepest spot in the ocean"). The results included an article on "The Ocean", as well as a sub-heading within that article entitled, "Underocean Seascape". We chose the latter result, scrolled through this section, and found our answer here. To find the explorers who first reached this spot, we looked through the article outline, and discovered a section on "Oceanic Exploration." Eureka, the answer was found.
Encyclopedia buyers must also know if the program's content is well-indexed. Parents in particular need to know if their children will be able to use the encyclopedia independently, or if they will become frustrated when searching for specific information.
The layout and look of Compton's 2000 is unlike that of other encyclopedia programs. The article itself is situated on the right half of the screen, while the upper left-hand portion of the screen holds the article outline and below that is a list of related articles. The screen background is textured like parchment, and color-blended from steel-blue on the left to yellow on the right. The text default is a large black, sans-serif font, with search terms in red. Although our testers were not entirely sold on this year's color scheme, they preferred it to last year's lilac background.
The program's word search is contained in a floating box or 'pop-up viewer' (the "Find Viewer") that lays on top of the basic screen. This box can be moved around and closed at will, but cannot be minimized and left open on the task bar. We found this layout to be awkward -- to read an article's outline, the search window, which lists all items found in a particular search, must be moved or closed. Related pictures and movies are also displayed in pop-up viewers, as are article sidebars, and the program's dictionary and thesaurus. The user can quickly become overwhelmed with boxes that must be closed or moved to simultaneously view the article, its outline and related articles.
The "Find Viewer" itself allows the user to access topics by subject, by words or phrases using Boolean search parameters, or alphabetically by title.
Compton's 2000 includes a menu option which allows the user to copy and paste text into a word processor (MS WordPad is the default, but other applications can be selected), highlight text or print. Also included is a "Presentation Maker" which allows the user to gather items from the encyclopedia, and make them into a show. Clicking the 'back' button reveals a history list, allowing the user to go back and view previously accessed screens. Although this is a nice option, our users noted that it is a time-consuming undertaking, and not as useful as the simple one-click back button found on browser toolbars.
PC: Windows 95/98 or Windows NT 4.0 or later, 486 DX2/66 MHz or better, 15 MB hard drive space, 16 MB RAM, 256 color SVGA display, Double-speed or faster CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card.return to top of page
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