Microsoft Encarta from Microsoft Inc. offers an entire section for kids, making our "TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award " encyclopedia software perfect for families. Encarta's slogan is "Make learning fun again" and this software package makes the encyclopedia as fun it gets. This user-friendly product is great for children and computer novices alike.
Though this program is full of convenient features, it does lack some of the basic tools needed to write research papers, like an organizer and a report wizard. Our #1 and #2-ranked products from Britannica also include more timelines.
Ease of Use
Microsoft Encarta is broken up into various sections for quick access. Each category includes a list of five or six subcategories that you can browse. For example under the "history" category, you will find historical maps, timelines, historical quotes and more.
Three icons make navigation a cinch—you can navigate forward, backward or strait to the homepage. Similar to other encyclopedia software, Encarta provides a dropdown toolbar at the top of the screen where you can find extra tools like a world atlas, videos and a direct link to the Encarta homepage.
Encarta has an impressive map database with 1,800,000 locations on detailed, user-friendly maps. The software also includes over 68,000 different articles, 26,000 pictures and educational videos.
Though impressive, Encarta's features fall short of the Britannica products. Microsoft only offers some basic timelines and doesn't include brainstorming, a research organizer or report wizard to assist in research and paper writing.
Encarta offers a convenient search bar where you have a choice of searching all of the files in the program or search only maps, photos or web links.
The only downside to the search bar is that you can't search for articles without searching through everything else. This means, if you're looking for an article, you may have to dig through some other material first. However, under each category, Encarta does include an articles section that you can browse.
Ease of Installation
We didn't have any problems during the installation and setup of this product.
Microsoft doesn't have a phone number where you can reach customer support. The software also lacks a FAQs page and tutorials. Though the product is easy to use, these features would be nice to have, just in case.
We used the email address provided to contact customer service, and though they took a few days, they answered all of our questions.
The mapping section of Encarta is especially impressive. This is a product those interested in geology will find useful. Microsoft has also done a good job catering to children and students. Though this software package doesn't include some of the features our gold and silver products offer, this is definitely one to check out.