Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006 review: Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006

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The Good Deep information; GeoAnalyzer and BrainStormer search features; student help options; language-learning program.

The Bad Terrible tech support; hard drive hog; infrequent information updates; desktop firewall interferes with some online resources.

The Bottom Line This is a fabulous reference resource from a trusted provider, but the Encyclopedia Britannica DVD needs some technical help.

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6.0 Overall
  • Setup 6
  • Features 8
  • Support 4

Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006

Finally, a reference company creates reference software. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006 has an enormous amount of data to please curious browsers and serious researchers, with a language-learning program and flash cards to boot. Thanks to a range of search features, you can mine installed and online content for anything under the sun. Literacy rates in Algeria? A time line of medical history? No problem. However, quarterly updates make this program better for researching historical topics than current events. Britannica's information is unbeatable and its interface simple, but the company needs to address technological problems such as wretched technical help, ultraslow installation, and the program's enormous size. Your computer must have a CD or DVD drive and at least 3.7GB free on a hard drive. Unlike the CD version of Microsoft Encarta, the one for Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006 is sold only online. Although we think Britannica has better data, you'll have fewer technical hassles with Encarta.

At $49.95, the Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite offers a lot of bang for the buck. You get the Encyclopedia Britannica Library, the Britannica Student Library (for ages 10 to 18), and the Britannica Elementary Library (for grades K through 5). Three tabs let you choose the library you want, and a top-of-the-page search bar offers buttons for the Atlas, the Dictionary, and other tools. Britannica 2006 also includes a separate interactive language-learning program (Transparent Languages' Languages of the World) and a flash-card program (Transparent Languages' Before You Know It).

The lumbering 4.3GB Ultimate Reference Suite took an hour to install via two DVDs (3.7GB for the full CD install) on our Windows XP test machine, hogging far more disk space than Microsoft Encarta 2006's unobtrusive 950MB. The monstrous Britannica software makes the free, Web-based Wikipedia attractive by comparison. We were happy that Britannica 2006 didn't ask to monitor our usage, as Microsoft Encarta does. Like Encarta, Britannica makes more intrusive registration questions, such as marital status and number of children, optional.

With installation complete, Britannica 2006 confused us by prompting to install the encyclopedia again. It also failed to update QuickTime to version 6.5.2; we had to install it manually to get videos to work. You may also need to turn off antivirus software (Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security 2005) and firewalls in order to access Britannica resources and updates online--a manual process that can get annoying. If you don't want to burden your hard drive with this beast, you can subscribe to the Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 Web site (with fewer features than the software) for $69.95 to $79.95 yearly or $11.95 per month. Luckily, it took us only 10 minutes to install Languages of the World and another painless several minutes to set up the Before You Know It flash-card program.

Encyclopedia Britannica 2006's clean layout provides a variety of browsing and searching options.

Encyclopedia Britannica updates content quarterly and will e-mail notices of new content to registered users. Upgrades are available for one year, after which you'll need to purchase the 2007 software. Users of the 2005 edition can purchase the 2006 Encyclopedia Britannica for $24.95.

Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite is available on either two DVDs or six CDs. However, you'll need to track down the CDs at the Britannica online store because they're unavailable in retail shops.

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