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The IBM 1999 World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, Family Reference Suite, is a suitable for students, parents, and teachers who want the most powerful and robust reference. It is an all-in-one reference product (a combination encyclopedia, reference library and almanac), with easy-to-use search features; extensive online functions; a collection of integrated multimedia features; Homework Wizard learning and organization tools; an array of additional research tools; and ViaVoice Gold continuous speech-recognition technology which lets users dictate notes using a microphone. The program comes on three CDs. IBM has expanded the World Book product line and it now includes: 1999 World Book (without extensive multimedia features or functions); the 1999 World Book Deluxe Edition (includes multimedia features and learning tools), the 1999 World Book Deluxe Macintosh Edition (includes same as PC Deluxe Edition), and the 1999 World Book Family Reference Suite (only one that includes Merrian Webster Reference Library, 3 almanacs, and the ViaVoice technology). The products range from $39.95 to $99.95. The World Book Web site is:
Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced PC users and children ages 13 and older. Articles are written with the probable age of the reader in mind. For example, the introductory text on cats is written for younger readers. Mature topics such as the history of Europe would be written in a more sophisticated and in-depth style. As a result, the articles in the encyclopedia are written and presented in a way that is both interesting and easily understood by the age group most likely to research them.
  • All articles from World Book's 22 volume Encyclopedia (18,900 on CD and 12,700 online);
  • 360-Degree Photo Bubble Views;
  • Extensive Multimedia: educational videos and animation; vitual reality tours; interactive simulations; and thousands of pictures and sounds;
  • Five (two new) Homework Wizard learning and organization tools;
  • Wordprocessing tools;
  • 800 cartographically accurate maps;
  • Microphone;
  • San Diego Zoo Safari;
  • One year free online subscription;
  • Contains the Merrian-Webster Reference Library that includes: Collegiate Dictionary; Collegiate Thesaurus, Biographical Dictionary, Encyclopedia of Literature, Intermediate Dictionary, Medical Dictionary, and QuickSpell;
  • Contains three of Information Please's popular titles: general, entertainment and sports almanacs;
  • Includes ViaVoice Gold speech recognition technology.

Installation. The program is not difficult to install but it does take some time. It also takes a lot of hard drive space, but you have a variety of installation options. It is important to know what your computer will take before you install and have to choose an option. Also if you plan to use the ViaVoice Gold speech recognition technology, prepare for more time to set up the microphone and train the program to recognize your voice. Again, it is not difficult but I have a setup that made it hard to get behind the computer to plug in the microphone and I had it in the wrong jack. After moving a variety of peripherials so I could move the computer case to see what I was plugging the microphone into, there was no problem. There is a step-by-step training module accessed from the Windows Start menu.

User Guide. The guide is small but does give in-depth explanations of the program's various functions. It goes into detail for the ViaVoice capabilities and the Homework Wizards.

Interface. When you start World Book, your see the Main Menu entry screen. You use this menu to get to articles, media, the dictionary, or online. Once inside a section, you can still easily go from one feature or function to another using the Control Panel, discussed below, that is always available.

Browse has three sections: World Book--go to "Just Looking" where you can browse articles, pictures, videos, and other media; Media--go to Media Resourse Viewing Area where you can find and display many types of media; and Monthly Spotlight--go to a special browsing article that will spotlight a different subject each month.

Search has five sections: Topics--opens up World Book searching tool; Maps--takes you to Around the World where you can view maps; Dictionary--takes you to an article with dictionary open; Time Frame--search entire contents of World Book by a time period; and What's Online--takes you online. You also access the San Diego Zoo and the Homework Wizards.

Once you enter a section, the interface is mainly the same throughout. There is a Menu Bar across the top of the screen with the usual Window choices: File, Edit, Tools, Online, and Help. Below that is a Control Panel that consists of eleven options displayed in two groups. To the left of the screen are major tools and functions: Tool Kit, Search and Dictionary; to the right are navigation controls: Back, Main Menu, Article, Just Looking, Around the World, Time Frame, What's Online, and Stop. The Menu Bar and Control Panel are always available within World Book, making it easy to find options and move between features and functions. The middle of the screen is where articles appear and to the left is where the search and/or dictionary windows will open. The small search window can be moved and closed if you need more space. The interface is very clean, easy to use and intuitive.

Search Features. You have multiple search features.

Browse Options--You can browse through the entire program, browse only media elements, or look at "What's New" within World Book which highlights important events for the current month.

Topic Searches--You can search by topic using a fact index to find the most relevant information.

Word Searches--You can conduct a word search using an index of every word in the encyclopedia to find a term or phrase where it appears in articles, tables, maps, and picture and video captions. Users can also use the dictionary to find the definition of words with just a double click of the mouse.

Time Frame--Users can browse through a thumbnail version of each product's resources by category, by media or randomly. Then you can go direclty to the article screen or a media window.

Around the World--Users can navigate through hundres of maps of the world, and can get to the major city level. Also you can select overlays of country maps for population, climate, precipitation, terrain and economy.

Homework Wizards. Help wizards assemble text and media into polished reports. There are five wizards:

  1. Report Wizard--guides students through all parts of producing a written report. Students can start a new report from scratch or same them in partially completed form and return later. You get help with choosing a topic, making a schedule, doing research, choosing an approach, writing a thesis tatement and outline, creating a first draft and visuals, writing revisions, making a bibliography, and preparing a final draft.

  2. Chart Wizard--helps students prepare clear and meaninful graphics for reports or presentations. Instructions help with drawing comparisons between two lists of data, editing the chart's title and picking a style, choosing units of measure, and printing a final copy of the chart.

  3. Timeline Wizard--you can create and print a timeline or add a timeline to a report or presentation. They can contain events and dates you specify or events and dates found in the special World Book database.

  4. Web Page Wizard--you can quickly and easily create professional-looking Web pages by just putting text and pictures into one of the provided layouts and the Web Page Wizard creates the pages.

  5. Quiz Wizard--helps students study for tests and quizzes. Teachers, parents or students can use the Quiz Wizard to create quizzes on any subject. The wizard gives the user the ability to make flash cards, true-false questions, math problems, and spelling word lists.

Maps. There are a variety of maps. The overlays feature allows you to view locator maps, thematic maps, and legends. You can choose the following layouts: political, population density, average January temperatures, average July temperatures, average yearly precipitation, agriculture and fishing, mining and manufacturing, terrain, and economy. There is also a Distance Calculator that allows you to find the distance between any two points on earth. You just rotate the globe to any position you; then choose two locations and the Calculator will determine how far apart they are. When locations are set, they are marked on the globe and flat map and a line linking the locations appears on the flat map.

Online Features. World Book has up-to-date information on the Web.

Article Updates--Article Updates on late-breaking developments can be downloaded and integrated into individual articles to keek the World Book up to date.

The Month in Brief--Provides a calendar of current events and is downloaded once a month.

Web Sites--World Book Approved Web Sites guide you to thousands of high-quality sites on the World Wide Web.

Our Century--Contains articles from the World Book Year Book archieves as far back as 1922.

Online Library--Contains in-depth special Reports on related, timely topics and provide ideas for developing school reports.

World Book Web Site--Link to compay site with features and products for students, parents, and teachers.

Cyber Safari. This is an extensive multimedia tour of the San Diego Zoo. In Cyber Safari there are stories, sounds, 360-degree views, fun facts, videos and more that give you an up-close experience of some habitats and the animals that live in the San Diego Zoo.

Merriam-Webster Reference Library and Information Please Almanacs. The Reference Library combines dictionary, thesaurus and spelling tools into one easy-to-use research aid. It comprises the Merrian-Webster Biographical Dictionary, Collegiate Dictionalry, Collegiate Thesaurus, Encyclopedia of Literature, Intermediate Dictionary, Medical Dictionary and QuickSpell. The Information Please Almanacs gives you information on general topics, sports, and entertainment. It is more convenient to have all of this information in one program.

IBM Via Voice Speech Technology. You can navigate the Encyclopedia with your voice, dictate text in the Encyclopedia's study and research features, and have text read to you. This is a fun feature to play with. It took some time to set up but it was not difficult.

This is a great package that is useful for the whole family. The material is presented in a clear and direct style. The interface is easy enough for younger childern. The Cyber Safari is a wonder for any age. The 360-degree Photo Bubble views are intriging and very well done. The additional Merrian-Webster Reference Library is too good to be true and would be very welcome to college age students, parents, and students. And the Homework Wizards make you want to be a kid again so you have an excuse to use them. This would be a perfect gift for someone. Even if you already have another encyclopedia program, this would be a good investment.
Processor: 486DX/66MHz or higher
Operating System: Windows 95/98/NT 4.0
Memory: 16 MB RAM
Hard Disk Space: 39 MB
SVGA monitor 640x480, high-color (16 bit)
16-bit sound card
Double-speed CD-ROM Drive

For OnlineAccess
Hard Disk Space: 8 MB additional hard disk space
Internet connection

For ViaVoice Gold speech-recognition features
Processor: 150MHz Pentium with MMX technology/166MHz Pentium w/o MMX technology
Hard Disk Space: 50 MB additional hard disk space
Memory: 32 MB RAM

Graphics: Adobe ImageStyler
Web Page Editor: Symantec Visual Page
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series