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Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007 review: Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007

Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007 is fun for exploring the arts, history, science, and geography through articles, images, and videos, especially for elementary school learners.

Elsa Wenzel
5 min read
Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007 is a well-designed reference tool that's especially friendly for young learners. Encarta offers some 68,000 articles, only two-thirds the amount within Encyclopedia Britannica 2007, but to support interactive learning, Encarta's pictures, videos, and audio files are more easily accessible.

Installing Encarta Premium 2007 via DVD took about 15 minutes in our tests. This program also includes five CDs, in case you lack a DVD drive. You'll need a Windows XP SP2 computer with at least 1.2GB of hard drive space free; and 512MB of RAM is recommended. Microsoft was polite to not force us into installing a desktop shortcut. When the setup process asked whether we wanted our usage of Encarta to be monitored, we declined.


Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007

The Good

Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007's information includes recent world events; offers rich multimedia content, including atlases, videos, timelines, and educational games; excellent version for young children; sleek interface; regular updates; online component; free tech support.

The Bad

Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007 requires Windows XP only; fewer articles and citation styles than Britannica; requires more mouse clicks than Britannica to view full articles.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007 is fun for exploring the arts, history, science, and geography through articles, images, and videos, especially for elementary school learners.

Encarta's uncluttered layout makes it a snap to explore a variety of subjects, or you can zero in on a particular topic through the search field.

Once installed, Encarta's bright interface offers more blank space and pictures than Britannica's. The Home page lists subjects, such as Arts & Literature, and a search field. The function icons are sparse, preventing clutter. As with a Web browser, back and forward arrow buttons and the keyboard let you navigate. You can trace recently viewed pages by clicking a tiny drop-down arrow underneath the back arrow, but Britannica's tabbed organization of pages was more obvious to us. However, we liked being able to jump to various tools from any page via Encarta's Features drop-down menu. And along the right edge, the program stacks up best matches, articles, photos, Web links, dictionaries and maps related to your query. Encarta also serves up a Visual Browser that rotates subjects so that you don't have to scroll up and down to find them.

The Explore features encourage you to check out hundreds of videos, including some from the Discovery Channel, along with timelines, and virtual tours of landmarks, natural wonders, and the like. Videos include encyclopedic staples, such as the first moon landing, to quirky stuff such as "machine-shaped kaiser rolls." Encarta's 2,500 audio files let you hear music from around the world, such as that of Grandmaster Flash, classical sitar melodies, and excerpts from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. And we prefer Encarta's rich Timeline to Britannica's, although it's almost too visually overwhelming to digest at first.

Encarta's Atlas pages include a Map Trek feature that walks you through basic facts about regions of the world, which you can display by day, night, topography, statistics, and more.

Other goodies include World Atlas's political, physical, and statistical views, as well as satellite imagery of the planet by night and day. But Encarta doesn't offer the equivalent of Britannica's GeoAnalyzer for comparing countries' statistics, although you can use Encarta's Customizer to fine-tune views of places. A dictionary and thesaurus are embedded within Encarta, but make sure to install the free Macromedia Shockwave to check out World Languages.

If you're buying Encarta to help a child with classwork, you might consider paying a bit more for the $69.95 Student 2007. Student includes Encarta and on top of that, adds homework help, such as term-paper tutorials, foreign-language verb conjugations, a graphing calculator, and step-by-step assistance with equations, complete with answer keys.

Microsoft Encarta Kids 2007's big, bright images invite you to wander. The science section's Environment page, for instance, shows 28 pictures from Acid Rain to the Water Cycle. The rival Britannica 2007, by contrast, may be too text heavy to tempt visual learners with short attention spans. However, Encarta Kids could be even more intuitive, When you zero in on a topic, such as the Ecosystem menu's Sahara Desert, the picture of a dune links nowhere. The Read Article button in the corner just sent us back to a write-up about ecosystems in general. Encarta for Kids' articles are more descriptive than those of Britannica Elementary--more like features writing than hard news style. For example, the storytelling approach for an entry on fossils begins: "Wading in chilly water under a seaside cliff, you spot an odd piece of rock."

Encarta's Timelines are a lot to swallow, as they place all types of information on the page, but we had fun homing in on subjects.

For older children and adults who may not need such descriptive narrative, the grown-up tools within Encarta Premium still emphasize text search and images, without an alphabetical list of subjects, as the gateway to articles. The search field may eerily anticipate your query: Encarta knew by the time we typed "I H" that we were looking up the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We looked up Hurricane Katrina and found an impressive collection of articles, photographs, and a timeline complete with political controversy and environmental damage. Britannica did a relatively poor job with such recent news; nevertheless, Encarta failed to serve up the latest news about Pluto's status as a planet.

And some of Encarta's editorial selections may be controversial. For instance, it mentions that nearly 3 million people died in Soviet Gulag camps in the mid-twentieth century, while Britannica cites death estimates of up to 30 million. Should you contest its content, Encarta invites you to send in your own edits for consideration--although you can't make updates yourself as Wikipedia allows. And if you're writing a research paper, Encarta offers only one citation style, while Britannica provides three. For a heavy-duty research project, we feel more comfortable depending upon Britannica's centuries of expertise. If you want to cut to the chase and read first, Britannica also puts the writing front and center. With Encarta, you'll often have to click subheadings within an article to display more text.

Encarta's tech support includes a detailed menu that you can search both on your desktop and online. You can reach free, toll-free phone help from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific on weekdays and from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. E-mail support and online chatting are also free, 24/7.

For scholarly research, we still prefer the depth of Encyclopedia Britannica 2007, which consolidates all the information from its bound volumes. Encarta offers a wealth of resources as well, and it better incorporates recent events than its competitor does. Still, we prefer Microsoft Encarta 2007 or Student 2007 as an entertaining and informative learning tool for adults and especially young grade school children, but we would graduate to Britannica for upper-level academic research.


Microsoft Encarta Premium 2007

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 0Support 7