[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Review CornerSoftware
Microsoft Encarta World English Dictionary 2001
Rating: four and a half stars
The Bottom Line
A treat for word lovers and a valuable resource for everyone else, this electronic reference combines a dictionary, computer dictionary, style guide, thesaurus, book of quotations, and almanac in one easy-to-use program. This is a powerful resource that's also totally contemporary with definitions written in a refreshing style that make them entirely readable and clear.
Award of Excellence
Ages: 10-up  Subject: Utilities/Reference  Brand: Microsoft
Review Sections: Product Overview  Technically Speaking  Design  Dollar Value
Microsoft Encarta World English Dictionary 2001 Product Overview
More than "just" a dictionary, this exciting reference is a word lover's dream come true. With a dictionary, thesaurus, almanac, computer dictionary, style guide, and book of quotations all rolled into one integrated resource, researching a word or phrase is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse. Whether you're looking for a more effective word with which to express yourself, the exact meaning of a word, some statistics to help with a report, or a quotation, this electronic reference CD-ROM will deliver quick and valuable results.

Ideal for students, office workers, or anyone simply hoping to improve their command of the written language, the Encarta World English Dictionary 2001 is a handy and valuable resource designed for a broad audience of dictionary users.

The featured Dictionary itself reflects a unique world view of the English language. Compiled by a team of over 320 lexicographers, etymologists, and phoneticians from across the globe, every effort has been made to present definitions in plain English. There's nothing stuffy or overly-technical here. Definitions are very readable, clear, and modern. Plenty of idioms and phrases are included — things like "cool as a cucumber" or "from the bottom of your heart" — as well as dated language and slang, clearly marked as such. Truly interesting etymologies and usage notes (for example, a word may be described as "often used ironically"), as well as examples that help place words in context are included.

Besides over 60,000 audio pronunciations, there are 3000+ photos, illustrations, maps, and hundreds of audio clips (demonstrating musical styles, sound effects, etc.) contained in the dictionary. Audio pronunciations wipe out all the ambiguity of traditional written pronunciations. For those words not pronounced this way, written pronunciations are provided. These do not take the traditional IPA format — instead, an original method is employed that eliminates undue reliance on cryptic symbol keys.

This work is all-encompassing, which means you'll get some "colorful" entries, appropriately labeled as "offensive" or "taboo" — and Microsoft has thoughtfully added a password-protected Parental Controls option that hides words and phrases labeled this way, if parents choose to activate these controls. As well, the dictionary is extraordinarily modern, including entries like "steam punk" — a phrase recently coined by the computer games company Sega.

An excellent Thesaurus is included and arranged in such a way to give most relevant synonyms first. Like the others in this reference CD-ROM, this book is extraordinarily easy to use. Moving about the book via its hot links is enjoyable and allows for users to thoroughly investigate entries and their related words. Taking the time to browse this exciting reference is guaranteed to give a huge boost to any user's vocabulary, young or old.

There are 30,000 quotations in the Encarta Book of Quotations, drawn from literature, politics, popular culture, and history. These are grouped into over 1,200 categories. You might find yourself looking for a specific quotation, and stumbling upon a category that piques your interest (such as People on People, or Insults) — if you have time on your hands, simply clicking on the arrow icons will allow you to scroll through more quotations under that heading.

The Style Guide included here may not be detailed enough for editors or professional writers, but most will find it more than adequate. Here, the fundamentals of grammar, punctuation, word choice, business communication, and the like, are presented in natural language. It's thoroughly contemporary, too, as it addresses the use of word-processing programs and electronic correspondence, including guides for email messages and online etiquette.

The Microsoft Press Computer & Internet Dictionary covers terminology the average computer user might expect to encounter. Over 7,300 entries include computer-related terms (relating to such things as hardware, internet, programming languages, operating systems, applications, and more), as well as acronyms.

Facts, figures, and statistics, mostly in table format, are included in the Encarta 2001 Almanac. You'll find such diverse facts as 1999's year-end top video sale (Austin Powers), the largest recorded earthquake in the US, a large list of phobias, and recommended weight tables. Oodles of results for major sports events, economy and business entries, awards and prizes, weights and measures, and a whole lot more, make this book not only a handy reference, but also a joy for those simply skimming through.

Electronic dictionaries won't likely replace hard-copy ones just yet — there is something to be said for the portability and sheer physicality of using a "real" book — though they offer clear advantages. For one, searching for a word or phrase is a fast process (once you're in the program). Having an assortment of reference books integrated into one program means you don't have to struggle with more than one book — if you're interested, you can gain more knowledge by seeing the word you are researching in context through quotations, words similar to it (thesaurus), etc, all with a few clicks of the mouse.

If you expect to use this reference often and you have lots of free hard drive space, the best thing to do is copy it to the hard drive. This makes it all the more accessible (eliminating the need to fumble with the CD or DVD), thus augmenting its value. You'll need approximately 95 MB of hard drive space, and note that no multimedia can be copied.

Little extras include a "word of the day" and "quote of the day" — each of which can be turned off if desired. For extra accessibility, while working in a Windows application or while surfing the Internet, QuickShelf is available, producing quick results without even having to start Encarta Dictionary. This feature includes QuickDefine, QuickSynonym, and QuickQuote.

Word lovers can easily get lost in this program for hours, but this electronic dictionary is also well-suited to anyone needing fast and accurate information to support virtually any writing activity, whether it is a class assignment, correspondence, or a business document. Designed somewhat like newspaper articles — with more relevant information at the top, and details below — this dictionary offers "quick definitions", then in-depth ones for those who want more. As such, it caters to both types of users.

This year's model includes 10,000 new words and 15,000 new audio pronunciations. Note that this amazing CD-ROM is offered in Microsoft Encarta Reference Suite Deluxe 2001. For $30 more, you'll get an Encyclopedia, World Atlas, and more, in addition to this reference software.

Technically Speaking
Minimum requirements are Windows 95/98/NT 4.0 with Service Pack 5 or later/2000 Professional/Me, a Pentium 90 processor, 16 Mb RAM for Win95/98, 24 Mb for Win NT, 32 Mb for Win Me, 64 Mb for Win 2000 Professional, and 4X CD ROM. This title requires 20 MB of hard drive space, but if you intend to use the Copy to Hard Drive feature, you'll need an additional 125 MB.

The interface is completely intuitive. Users can search the entire suite of offerings, or each book individually. While typing in a word to search for, before even pressing "enter," the program starts scrolling through the list. Thus, results are fast. Children ages 9 and up should have no problem using this dictionary.

Dollar Value
This package retails for $44.95 US. Note that for only $30 more, you can get the entire reference suite that also includes this product, Microsoft Encarta Reference Suite Deluxe 2001 (see our review).

Released: 2000
Reviewed: December 2000