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CD Encyclopedia Software Reviews

1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia
by Grolier Interactive


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other CD Encyclopedia software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot Quadra with 8MB and 2XCD
Pentium90 with 8MB 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 Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia '97, the answer is yes. Grolier tied with Compton's for the best score in our kids' research trial, finding the answers to three of four test questions.

Grolier's 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?").

Grolier's 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
Grolier's installed without difficulty on our reviewers' Mac and PC test machines. On a PC, the user is allowed to select the drive and directory for installation, where the icon will appear, and the size of the install. Beware, however -- even the minimal installation requires 10MB of hard drive space. In our tests, this install provided adequate performance, with most searches taking less than 20 seconds.

The second question a potential CD encyclopedia buyer should ask is, "Are the answers easy to find?" A giant encyclopedia isn't worth much to a student if the answers are difficult to find.

Grolier's 1997 Multimedia Encyclopedia is built around a main screen featuring a search tool and an answer screen. The search tool permits title or full text key word searches. As with the other CD Encyclopedia we reviewed for this comparison, Comptons and Encarta, Grolier's users can perform searches using Boolean operators -- combining keywords with AND, OR, NOT and NEAR.

For example, in one of our test questions, we used the words "leaves" AND "fall" to successfully find an article that explained why leaves fall.

Unlike the other two CD encyclopedia, however, Grolier's screen layout doesn't show multimedia resources simultaneously with text. Instead, the user clicks on a tab to select the media form for the search (to see text, pictures, sounds or video), or to access online materials from the Internet. "My daughter and I loved the pictures and illustrations, but I would have liked to have seen them alongside the text. Sometime we would forget to look for them, and have to go back later," noted one parent.

Our reviewers found Grolier's easy to use once they became comfortable with the screen layout, controls, and search tools. A parent of an 11 year-old noted, "any child who is required to do school reports would find this easy to use. And a child who is attracted to computers would be especially motivated by the ability to travel through the information."

Grolier offers a toll-free phone number for technical support.

Internet Connectivity
Grolier offers connectivity to links on the World Wide Web direct from the program. However, both of the other major CD encyclopedia offer regular content updates, as well as access to the resources of the Internet.

For users new to the 'Net, Grolier offers bundled sign-up promotions from AT&T WorldNet, and CompuServe. Current netizens may use their existing browsers and service providers.

Bottom-Line
This is a great reference and exploration program for young students, especially pre-high school.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other CD Encyclopedia software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1, Win95 System 7.1 or later
CPU Type and Speed 486DX/33 or faster 68030/25 or faster
Hard Drive Space 10MB 10MB
Memory (RAM) 8MB 5MB free RAM
Graphics SVGA 256 color 256 color monitor
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio optional - wave-table sound card
Other Needs Quicktime for Windows 2.1 (incl);
mouse; optional - modem
QuickTime 2.1 or later (incl);
optional - modem

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