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Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
1997 Edition

For Children and adults ages 10 and up

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other CD Encyclopedia, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC-only title.


Reviewed on:
Compton's Encyclopedia Screen Shot Pentium90 with 24MB and a 2XCD

Content
The first question a potential buyer of a CD encyclopedia asks is, "Does it have answers to the questions my kids will ask?"

In the case of Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia '97 (CIE), the answer is yes. CIE 97 tied with Grolier's for the best score in our kids' research trial, finding the answers to three of four test questions.

CIE correctly answered a natural science question from a first grader ("Why do leaves fall off trees"), a biology question from an eighth grader ("Why does hair turn gray?"); and a physical science question from a senior high student ("Why do some buried organic materials become coal, while others turn into oil?").

CIE only struck out on a history question that stumped all the programs we reviewed ("How did the ancient Greeks make perfectly cylindrical pillars?").

Ease of Install / Use
CIE installed without difficulty on our reviewers' test machines. The installation program acknowledges those users with small, or overcrowded hard drives, and offers three different size installations, ranging from a petite 450KB, to a hefty 30MB. Choosing the smallest install will preserve disk space, but at a significant performance hit - searches in our tests took up to two minutes to complete. We'd recommend the 10MB medium install, if you have the room.

The second question a potential CD Encyclopedia buyer should ask is, "Are the answers easy to find?" One of SuperKids' editors has frequently made note of the fact that he has "...a great filing system, but a very weak retrieval system." Similarly, an all-encompassing encyclopedia isn't worth much to a student if the answers are difficult to find.

CIE's retrieval system is very strong, benefitting from an exceptionally effective three panel screen layout. The bottom left quadrant is the home for the search engine. Articles can be accessed by subject, or more frequently, by stringing together keywords using Boolean search parameters like AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR. The search engine first checks for misspellings, then looks through the complete text of all of its articles for the words input by the user. Search results are displayed in the right half of the screen if text, and in the upper left quadrant if multimedia. Our parent and kid reviewers found this to be a "visually and logically clear display format."

Compton's offers a toll-free phone number for customer support problems.

Internet Connectivity
Like the other titles in our comparison - Encarta, Groliers, and Student Reference Library - Compton's offers links to the World Wide Web where CIE's editors' felt there was relevance to the articles or searches performed. The user may choose to subscribe to America OnLine for this purpose, using the bundled registration and browser, or to use any other installed browser. We used Netscape's Navigator with no difficulty.

Also like ENCARTA 97, CIE provides downloadable monthly updates. Although the product packaging and manual indicate that these updates are only available to AOL subscribers, Compton's has since made these updates available on the WWW, at:

http://www.comptons.com/cieupd

Bottom-Line
CIE 97 is a great reference tool for young students, up to and including high school. Based on our tests, it has excellent coverage, and best user interface. Unfortunately, CIE 97 is currently unavailable on the Mac, although industry sources indicate this may change.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other CD Encyclopedia, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC-only title.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1, Win95 not available
CPU Type and Speed 486DX2/66 or faster
Hard Drive Space 70KB
Memory (RAM) 8MB (16MB recommended)
Graphics 256 color SVGA
CD-ROM Speed 2X
Audio Windows compatible sound card
Other Needs mouse; modem optional

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