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We set up Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2007 from the enclosed DVD in about 20 minutes in our tests on a Windows XP system. During the application's installation, you're invited to join Microsoft's Customer Experience Improvement Program, which monitors your use of the product.
You pay a price for convenience with Student. The time-saving presentation, chart, and graph templates in Student rely upon Excel and PowerPoint, not included with Student. If you don't already have Microsoft Office, then the $149 for Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003, or a more recent version, will substantially increase Student's $69.95 price tag (not counting the $20 mail-in rebate).
The interface of Student 2007 is friendly, clean and easy to use--important for the audience of sixth to twelfth graders grappling with complicated school projects. Borrowing from Encarta, Student has three large buttons to navigate to and from the home page: Homework, with math and foreign language help tools; Projects, with tips and templates for common school projects; and the catch-all Discover and Learn category, with links to Encarta, college-preparatory materials, games, and other miscellany. There are four intuitive pull-down menus, and a Homework Tools button links you to help with math, geography, foreign languages, literary subjects, and other topics.
The biggest changes within Student 2007 are its enhanced math tools, which assist students with concepts from prealgebra to calculus. Enter a math problem in the new Step-by-Step Solutions screen, and Student 2007 will solve the problem and, more importantly, show you the steps it takes to do so. The improved graphing calculator lets you animate and rotate 3D graphs to understand a concept better. Other Math Tools functions help you understand equations from physics, chemistry, and math classes. Math Tools also links to online solutions to problems in common textbooks, such as Hotmath.
The foreign language help for Spanish, French, German, and Italian is another strength. Student 2007 helps you translate words, plus it conjugates verbs and offers tutorials and Web links. Student also pools reference resources in one place. The literary tools provide citation guides for APA, MLA, and Chicago styles, and geography tools help you find maps quickly.
The excellent Encarta Premium 2007 and its Internet Explorer-only Web search companion are a click away. To access Encarta's extensive online content, you'll need to create a Microsoft Passport (or Windows Live) network account. When you sign up, you're told you will receive targeted advertisements from Microsoft--a term you must accept to set up the account.
Aside from the help file installed during setup, there is no free support for Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2007. We couldn't find Student 2007 within Microsoft's support Web pages. It's inconvenient that help resources are scanty and pricey for a product tailored to young users. Telephone and e-mail support costs $35 per incident, with no initial free calls or e-mails--a big change from last year's toll-free phone and e-mail support. When you pursue e-mail help, Microsoft asks if it can download a data-collection ActiveX control to help diagnose the problem.
With Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2007, busy parents can rest assured that their children have access to sound homework resources. Parents who have forgotten their high school math will find Student 2007's new math features especially useful. Microsoft Student 2007 is inviting and easy for tweens and teens to use. Parents should calculate in the cost of Office to use all of Student's features, however, and plan on hefty tech-support costs if they need live or online help.