Okay, let’s throw out a tangential line here. What if you were an alien, visiting Earth – imagine that. If otherworldly inspiration lets you down, just pretend you’re Bill Bailey or Grace Jones. What’s the first thing you’d do? Aside from wondering (a) What that wet stuff falling from the sky is (assuming you’re in England); (b) What the hell an “asshole” is (if you’re Stateside) and (c) Why do DJ’s exist? Hint: “Take me to your leader” is a complete non-starter.
But navigation would be an important consideration, so nipping to the nearest software retailer and picking up a copy of 3D World Atlas would be high on the list of beneficial possibilities. It would be a font of edification in which to bathe your extraterrestrial mind, with knowledge of the geographical, political and social aspects of our planet. Or would it?
This program is quite simply what it says on the box – a 3D model of the globe you can spin around with your mouse hand. Graphically it’s reasonably impressive and the globe scrolls fairly smoothly. Click on any country and you’re offered a chance to examine detailed statistics concerning the place.
These go into some depth, with information provided on population, level of education, crime, tourism, along with economic and political status (with some very interesting and detailed pieces of text on these sections). Much of this is commendably current, covering up until the end of last year.
There are five different modes of display into which the globe can be switched, with five levels of zoom. These include a general map, a physical map showing tectonic plates and volcanoes, a satellite view displaying physical features such as mountains (you can click on any mountain or river to see its name, although no further info is offered), along with bio-geographic zones and an earth-by-night view.
Along with this solid core material, extra content is provided in the form of Earth-related topics. Those that wish to learn about the environment, natural disasters, the global climate and similar issues can explore a range of sub-topics based on these themes. They’re rather skimpily detailed however, and only a few photos are provided with some concise text.
It seems that developer Dorling Kindersley missed the chance to really flesh these extras out. The multimedia content is pretty scarce and they could have gone to town with videos in these sections. Still, it wasn’t to be.
Nevertheless, the program is fundamentally concrete and well presented. It also boasts an easy to use interface and some smart extras like the ability to bookmark any number of places on the map and add your own comments, along with a distance tool to measure the miles between any number of points.
Company: Dorling Kindersley
Contact: 01480 496600
Essentially this is a well presented atlas containing a good range of informative details on every country in the world. The interface is well thought out and easy to use, although the multimedia content is rather weak and the developer could have done much more with certain sections of the disc. It's a fair price to ask, however, for a fairly impressive program.