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Reference and education software Reviews
15,463 Reviews

Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 DVD

£60 inc VAT (CD version costs £40)

Manufacturer: Encyclopædia Britannica

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

If knowledge is power, get ready to be crowned King Brainbox - provided you've got the time to read the 180,000 articles contained in this little collection.

If knowledge is power, get ready to be crowned King Brainbox - provided you've got the time to read the 180,000 articles contained in this little collection.

The program is split into three sections, each suitable for a different age group. Elementary is for school children; Student for older adolescents and those at college; while the main blue Encyclopædia Britannica pane gives adults access to the most detailed information.

Each of these is colour-coded and has its own home page from which you can navigate to all the encyclopedia’s sections: Timeline, Dictionary, Atlas, Homework, Games and Activities, plus a Browse tab. Articles you view appear as tabs beneath the navigation bar, so you can instantly jump back to them. Any you're likely to need for future reference can be saved as bookmarks.

Search me

To the left of the viewing pane is a search bar that lists alphabetically all the articles in Britannica's database. It has a basic keyword tool so you can jump to specific topics, and an Advanced Search lets you add criteria if you wish. Results are split into articles, images and multimedia content, though we were disappointed to find no articles at all on several topics we entered.

To whet your appetite, Britannica offers an Animal of the Day, Important Person of the Day and This Day in History for youngsters, students and adults respectively. The Timeline is another good starting point as, the Elementary section aside, it’s split into the sorts of knowledge you’re after, such as Daily Life, Exploration and Medicine. Similarly, the Atlas drills down into quite scary detail about populations, cultures and geography. However, the very first attempt we made at using Britannica's GeoAnalyzer came up with a dead link related to the Kingdom of Bhutan. Ho hum.

Brainstorming

If the linear approach to seeking out information seems rather dry, you can instead try Brainstorming. Rather than you, the user, scribbling down a list of connected ideas, Britannica does it for you, suggesting a huge number of links and sub-links that update dynamically before your eyes almost as if the software were, in fact, a brain going through the process of working out associations.

Brain of Britannica

Having researched your chosen topic, you may want some help giving it a bit of structure so you can turn your findings into a narrative or present it in a cohesive manner. To this end, Britannica has bundled a trial version of The Brain, a third-party program that functions as an information organiser and mind map. Some people swear by this sort of thing - my sister-in-law, for one, finds it a great help in planning and structuring school lessons. We didn't find it sufficiently compelling to continue using The Brain beyond its 30-day trial period, though.

Encyclopædia Britannica Expert Verdict »
350MHz Pentium II processor
Windows 98SE/2000/Me/XP or Mac OS 10.3/OS 10.2.6 with Java 1.4
256MB RAM
1.1GB hard disk space (full installation requires 4.3GB)
  • Ease of Use: We give this item 8 of 10 for ease of use
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 9 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

If you hate trawling the web for information - and having to cross-reference to verify its accuracy - and dislike the online updates and modules of packages such as Microsoft Encarta, Britannica is for you. Note, though, that it takes an age to load and 4.3GB of space for the full setup.

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