Focus Multimedia – Encyclopaedia Britannica Millennium Second Edition review

massive collection of reference material
Photo of Focus Multimedia – Encyclopaedia Britannica Millennium Second Edition

This edition of the Britannica encyclopaedia is stamped with a 2002 date, although it has just been re-released this year at the budget price of £9.99. So what do you get, exactly, for your tenner? A full suite comprising the Britannica A-Z, a world atlas, dictionary and various other facets such as a fully featured search option and a research organiser.

To begin with we spent some time browsing around the main A-Z topics. The first thing that hits home here is the level of detail and the impressive extent of the cross-referencing. A massive range of historical, social and political topics is covered, from North American rodents to the Sex Pistols, with closely related material, cross-referenced from elsewhere in the program, clearly marked and linked on the left-hand side of the screen.

There are also hyperlinked words in the texts themselves and the minutiae of presentation is considered; for example, a document scrolls to a linked reference automatically, so you don’t have to hunt down the screen to find it. As well as related topics, links to relevant Web sites are also included in many cases, along with extra items of media and thoughtful asides such as a list of additional reading you might wish to consider.

These Web site links are a bit hit-and-miss, however, with some providing relevant information and others drifting off or taking sharp tangents (such as the aforementioned Sex Pistols topic, which linked Web sites pertaining to sex offenders, and the only actual mention of the band led to an incorrect page). To be fair though, they’re more hit than miss.

There’s a somewhat ineffectual amount of supplementary media scattered throughout the 90,000 articles, including 3,000 images, 24 pieces of video and 60-odd audio clips. As you can tell from these raw statistics, most articles are merely text-based affairs, albeit extremely thoroughly described, well written and cross-referenced ones. Even so, the disc’s multimedia aspect isn’t particularly strong.

To help you find your way through the A-Z topics there’s a full search engine and a “knowledge navigator” which breaks various topics down into branches; a sort of knowledge tree you can browse your way through. This is pretty useful and the search engine works well enough, giving you Web site search results into the bargain.

Delving into the atlas feature, this is quite basic but still useful. Decent maps of every country in the world are provided, with major cities marked, complete with concise textual descriptions and various geographical and historical references. It’s not hugely in-depth, though, and better thought of as a pleasant bonus.

Britannica Millennium also boasts a pretty comprehensive dictionary with over 200,000 definitions drawn from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (a US work, but British spellings are included), and a research organiser which allows you to take notes from various reference entries and collate them into projects. Excellent stuff.

To round it all off, there’s an online update option which – in theory – updates the program with bug fixes and new information. However, despite registering at the Britannica Web site as requested, we couldn’t get the update to work, which was disappointing.

Company: Focus Multimedia

Contact: 01889 570156

Considering the budget price, you're getting a high quality reference work here. The Encyclopaedia Britannica Millennium Second Edition is well presented with a ton of content and in-depth cross-referencing, decent extras such as the atlas and dictionary, along with great organisational tools like the research utility. On the down side, there's not much in the way of multimedia and it's a shame that the online update feature doesn't appear to work, although the content is largely up to date anyway.