Encyclopedia Britannica 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite
Encyclopedia Britannica is one the of the most trusted names in reference publishing, and its latest electronic offering, the Encyclopedia Britannica 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite, tries to live up to this legacy. When viewed alone, the content suffices. However, when compared to , which offers more detailed citations, more frequent updates, and an easier-to-use interface, Britannica sinks. Britannica's arcane interface and antiquated search structure drag it down. To best take advantage of the digital world of the 21st century, our advice is to get Encarta instead.
The Encyclopedia Britannica 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite is available on a single DVD-ROM or a set of six CD-ROMs. A full installation that includes application, articles, images, and multimedia files requires 4GB of space, comparable to Encarta. Within 15 minutes, we installed everything but the multimedia and video clips, consuming a modest 2.6GB on our hard drive. The software works with both Macs and PCs and requires 256MB of memory.
Britannica divides its content into three sections: an Elementary library for kids ages 6 to 10, a Student library for 10- to 14-year-olds, and the full Encyclopedia for adult users. Tabs across the top of the main menu access each section instantly.
As you would expect, the Elementary and Student sections offer shorter, more rudimentary explanations, in simple language. Although the simplified content will be easier for kids to understand, Encarta's colorful, kid-friendly interface is the same for both the Elementary and Student sections--perhaps a little off-putting for 18-year-olds. What's worse, this single interface doesn't organize its information well. The search bar is easy to find in the upper left-hand corner, and results are listed in a scrollable bar along the left. However, after conducting a search, the right-hand three-quarters of your screen is left gray and blank until you click one of the results. Then, that space is populated with a small text box displaying the citation. This seems like a lot of wasted screen space.