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Microsoft Student 2006


Ages 12 and up

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
Kid Appeal
Ease of Use

Microsoft Student 2006 screen image arrow indentSystem Requirements

arrow indentPC / Mac Price Survey

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Microsoft Student 2006 claims to “help students find information faster, improve study skills, and accelerate the learning process.” It comes through in only one of those claims. Microsoft Student 2006 will allow for faster finding of some information because it is a collection of general scholastic knowledge in one place.

Microsoft Student 2006 is a variant of Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia, or an updated version of Microsoft's Bookshelf program, with a more academic focus. The software is designed to bring helpful information in many high school subjects into a single, easy-to-use interface for students to access without having to search through less important factoids. Along with standard articles and search capabilities it has an atlas, a dictionary, and a language translator that translates to and from English to Italian, German, Spanish, and French. For help in mathematics, it has a computer-screen version of a graphing calculator, though it is more cumbersome to use and not as powerful as many math-only programs such as Mathematica or Maple, and not a handy substitute for an actual graphing calculator. Other subjects covered include Social Studies and History, Geography, English, Science, Arts and Music, and College Prep.

Educational Value

Microsoft Student 2006 focuses in on the academic formulas, tools, and information that a student needs to know or have available to them as they progress from junior high school all the way to college. It has the power of an encyclopedia for Social Studies or Science as well as the graphing calculator and a chart maker for math. It also has MS Office templates for book reports and a foreign language translation dictionary for each subject area. All these are tools that facilitate problem solving; however they are not teaching or learning tools.

  • Encyclopedia search results were spotty. For example, a search on "Calvinism" correctly noted this belief's central tenet of the absolute sovereignty of God. But clicking on the 'comparisons with other sects' link to related articles gave only a tangential reference to Calvinism in an article on the Brandenberg region of Germany. Interestingly, even a simple copy/paste of text automagically tagged the piece with the appropriate copyright citation.

  • The graphing calculator has lots of features, but the visual representation is reminiscent of a clunky TV remote, and a bit difficult to read. It has some very handy features, like the ability to quickly and easily calculate greatest common factors, and least common multiples, and solving polynomial equations, but access to these on homework might defeat the very purpose of that homework. Our math reviewers also noted that they found the user interface to the calculator surprisingly inefficient.

  • Some subjects were treated in such a cursory fashion, that our reviewers found them interesting, but unlikely to be useful. For example, each subject area included the ability to see Encarta's "top articles" for that subject. Unfortunately, the concept of "top articles" for a subject like "Social Studies and History", didn't make a lot of sense to our reviewers.
Kid Appeal

Truth in packaging -- Microsoft Student 2006 lacks a kid-appealing title for good reason; it lacks a major amount of kid appeal. Included games are mostly boring match games with limited amounts of variability. As noted by one of our reviewers, "a game of matching the cat picture to the cat breed does not match the educational grade level of the academic tools presented" in Microsoft Student 2006.

Ease of Use / Install

Installation of Microsoft Student 2006 is unnecessarily difficult. The Learning Essentials portion of the program requires that the user have access to their original Office 2003 installation disks before it can be installed. In addition, Microsoft requires registration for their online “Club Encarta” to get access to the online math help portion of the program. Unfortunately, a quick persual of the privacy policy for Club Encarta reveals that doing so grants Microsoft permission to market things to you in the future.

The screen for Microsoft Student 2006 is set up like a web-browser. A back-button, forward button, search bar, and a home button are available at the top of the screen. The organization of topics in a list in the main “home” page allows for easy searching by category.

Best for... / Bottom-Line

Microsoft Student 2006 uses a backpack for a desktop icon, and that is an apt representation of the program: it is a useful storehouse of scholastic knowledge. A backpack, however, will not help a student learn the information within, merely provide convenient access. Like the encyclopedia Encarta, Microsoft Student will be most helpful to those knowing how to solve the problem, but lacking the necessary tools.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other reference software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of this PC-only program.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 2000 SP4/ Windows XP, 500 MHz or faster cpu, minimum of 850 MB hard drive space, 256 MB RAM, 16-bit color display, DVD-ROM, 16-bit sound card. Learning Essentials requires Office 2003 or later.

Reviewed on:
-     Pentium 4 running Windows XP, with 512B RAM and DVD-ROM
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