In some ways, it feels gloriously outdated to be installing an encylopaedia product onto a computer. This is, after all, a market that the Internet has decimated, leaving the long-running leader, Encarta, as having long since flown the software coop.
Which leaves the DVD-ROM of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2011 standing pretty much alone. To compensate for the fact that it’s immediately out of date compared to the online world with which it competes, the software has two strategies. Number one is to offer you regular updates. Number two is to hit you with as many different facets as possible. Thus, in this Ultimate Edition, you not only get the Britannica Encyclopaedia Library, but there’s also the Student Library and Children’s Library too. On top of that, the package includes a dictionary, a world atlas, Britannica Biographies, a thesaurus, and assorted tools to make use of the wealth of information potentially at your fingertips.
You can choose, as you work your way through the installation system, to part- or fully-install the product to your hard drive. The advantage of the latter is that you’ll no longer need the DVD in your drive, but the downside is that nearly 5GB of hard drive space will be eaten up instead. This, as you might expect, scales down if you opt for the part-install.
When you head to the opening screen, though, it all instantly feels just a little dated. Encarta, as we’ve discussed, gave up the ghost and moved on because it simply couldn’t compete with the level of interactivity that the web offered. And while there are distinct advantages to having this level of information available offline, not least from a parental control perspective, it doesn’t take long to feel just a little boxed in, and to be aware that the content here inevitably isn’t up to date, a fact not helped by the slightly aged-feeling, if efficient, interface.
It’s also still slanted more towards an American audience. That’s not to say it skimps on its British material, but you’ve got ‘z’s where there should be an ‘s’, and anything ‘British’ is marked as such.
Still, there’s little doubting the quality of it (easily the most compelling reason to buy the package), and there’s little doubt you’re getting your DVD’s worth. Plus it throws in unusual and interesting little tools. The brainstorming segment, for instance, is a fun, if occasionally muddled, way to get around the content here, but it does work well. The timelines are neat, too, and it’s when it’s doing less-webby things that Britannica thrives.
Yet, you can’t shake the feeling that this is primarily a DVD-ROM for parents who don’t want to let their kids on the Internet. It certainly serves a purpose there, but for the majority of us, the web is cheaper, faster, broader and, ultimately, better.
Company: Focus Multimedia
Contact: 01889 570156