Encyclopedias for the Bookshelf Challenged
by Alan Zisman (c)
1993. First published in Our Computer Player, August 20, 1993
Microsoft has been pushing CD-ROMs for years... well
before the current multimedia
craze. Even before Bill Gates unveiled his "Information at your
phrase, the company saw the little laser disks as vital to their view
of the future
of personal computing.
(Some people have claimed that Microsoft lacks vision,
and is always playing catch-up
with their competitors ideas... in this case, however, Microsoft spent
One of their first products to make use of the 600
megs or so space that each CD-
ROM disk offers was the Microsoft Bookshelf. This presented a
collection of well-
known desktop books, available for easy, on-screen access. Over the
Bookshelf has been updated, but maintained that idea-- that it should
be a single
source of handy reference information.
The Bookshelf made the big jump from DOS to Windows.
This let it more easily mix
text and graphics, and gave it the ability to be easily kept in the
waiting to be used by writers, journalists, or anyone looking for facts
on the fly.
The latest version comes bundled on a single CD-ROM
disk with Microsoft's well-
known word processor, Word for Windows. Alone, either would be a
application. Together, each gains from the lniks between them.
The program is packaged simply. Instead of the big box
full of floppy disks and
multiple manuals found in the traditional version of Word for Windows,
simply a CD 'jewel box', just like an audio CD. A 20 page mini-manual
in place of
the lyric sheet found in your music best seller. Hmmm... no
Installing this duo is a joy to anyone used to the
floppy disk shuffle. Insert the
CD-ROM disk, and run the SETUP utility on it. Fill out your name,
directory for each application. Pick an option for how much to install
on your hard
Yes, even with CD-ROMs, you have to install to your
hard disk. Some parts of the
program HAVE to be on your disk, other parts are optional. Choosing to
means those parts will be accessed faster-- CD-ROM players get data at
the speed of most hard disks, but at the price of taking up hard disk
this package, you can choose to install as little as 5 megs, or as much
as 17 megs
on your drive.
So far, it seems identical to a floppy install. But
when you click okay, you can
just go away and get a cup of coffee. In a few minutes, it's done. No
"INSERT DISK 3 IN DRIVE A:". When you come back, you've got two new
groups, one for Word for Windows, and another for Bookshelf.
But wait... what's that in the W4W group? Along with
the program, and the expected
README, there's an icon labelled WORD USER'S GUIDE. Clicking on it
brings up the
familiar Windows Help engine, and your CD-ROM player lights up. On
disk, you've got
the complete documentation. It's all there, from "First Things to Know
to "Error Messages". It can also be accessed from the Help menu in Word
Windows. You can't read it in bed, but you do have it right at hand
working with the program.
There're a couple of other surprising icons in your
Word for Windows group. Without
telling you, the program installed the Media Player, and software to
run Video for
Windows clips. The Media Player and one sample video, "Windsurfing"
installed. (Well, not a complete surprise... if you'd chosen CUSTOM
paid attention during setup, you might have noticed that one of the
was labelled something like 'Sound and Video').
You can use the Media Player to watch videos in a
small (1/16th of your screen)
window... complete with sound and action. As well, you can insert
videos as OLE
objects in a Word document (or any other Windows application that
You can't make your own videos, however, without
getting additional software, such
as the $199 Microsoft Video for Windows package, as well as, in most
additional hardware, such as any of the new video capture boards
even if it's not immediately useful to you, the Media Player is a fun
toy, and a
vision of the near future. And there are a total of five sample videos
the CD-ROM (in a directory called WINVIDEO), ranging from a Martin
speech to a 'rock video' starring Bill Gates titled "Cool".
While the W4W program group has these multimedia
treats, the Bookshelf program
group is more straightforward. There's an icon for the Bookshelf as a
icons for each separate volume. There's also an icon for a Bookshelf
which brings up the Help viewer again. This time, however, the Help
a series of animations, using our old friend the Media Player. These
combine sound and cartoons on topics ranging from an introduction to
using the mouse, to how to find information in the Bookshelf. To fully
make use of
them, you should have a sound card installed under Windows. I was out
of luck... I'
d given back the Pro Audio Spectrum card I'd reviewed last issue, and
was back to
my internal PC-speaker. The narration was understandable, but
to like that.
As well, there's an icon labelled QuicKeys. Clicking
on it seems to do nothing. But
searching through the Help file, I discovered that this can be a very
feature indeed. With QuicKeys running (for example, if it was loaded
from Win 3.1's StartUp group), if I select a word in ANY Windows
click on the QuicKeys icon, the QuicKeys program will search the
for any reference to that word. You can choose which books to search,
and you can
search for multiple items at once.
I'm not going to go into detail about Word for
Windows. You get the current
version, 2.0c, with some additional import filters, and a bunch of
Version 2.0 has been out for about a year now, and along with AmiPro
Perfect for Windows, is one of the power-hitters among word processors
or any other environment. Anything you can imagine doing with a word
be done with this product. Add-ins include the obvious spell-check and
along with an equation editor (in my day job, I sometimes create math
basic draw program, a charting utility, and Word-Art, for creating
by bending text around circles. Like all its competitors, there are
built in hooks
to a grammar checker.
You don't need the CD-ROM version for any of that.
What's special in this version
(aside from having the documentation on disk) are the links to the
can get to the Bookshelf by selecting a menu item, or by clicking on a
the Toolbar. And the Bookshelf recognizes Word. If you've found a topic
Bookshelf that you want to use, clicking on Edit/Send in the Bookshelf
that information, or a part of it, into your Word document. You can
You can copy and paste from Bookshelf to other Windows
applications, but the
automatic Send feature only works with Word... in fact, if Word isn't
will start it up, inserting your chosen information.
On a more frivolous level, there's the Quote of the
Day, found via Word's VIEW
menu. The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations randomly told me
taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness."--
1881- 1973. You can even choose to have a quote automatically appear
you start WinWord up for the first time each day.
ON THE SHELF
So what have we stocked our bookshelf with, then?
You'll find seven reference books:
-- the American Heritage Dictionary is, as you'd expect, words, with
definitions. Choose a letter, choose a page, select the word you want.
to the stuff you'd find in your traditional version, click on the
icon, and a voice will pronounce your word. Even on my tinny
PC-speaker, it was
undertandable. There's a separate list of 'Sights and Sounds'... words,
from AARDVARK to ZYGOMATIC BONE that include black and white line
-- Roget's II Electronic Thesaurus. No bonus extras...
just a solid thesaurus.
Identical interface to the dictionary for finding your word. (Why a
ask? Doesn't my word processor already have one? Yes, it does... but
not as big as
this one. Remember, you've got over 500 meg on your CD-ROM to fill
room for a lot of synonyms!)
-- The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia. I've had a red,
paperback copy of this for
years. A one-volume encyclopedia, with relatively concise explanations.
can hear your word sounded out. Again, there's a SIGHTS and SOUNDS
option, but it's
much more elaborate than the dictionary's. You have several levels of
NARRATED ANIMATIONS (Circulatory System to Volcano) gets a traditional
the addition of a VCR like control panel. Click the > to play, and a
the concept, while the drawing changes. Plain ANIMATIONS
(Arteriosclerosis to Wind
Tunnel) give you an animation without voice-over to accompany the text.
EXAMPLES (Canon to Scale) let you hear the music that illustrates the
explanation (but not on my PC-Speaker... I suspect you need a sound
card that supports
MIDI). Finally, IMAGES are articles with pictures (Aaron, Hank to ZR--
the element Zirconium). Nicer than the dictionary's line drawings. In
than in my red paper edition, which also lacked animations and music.
-- The World Almanac and Book of Facts (1992) is
everybody's old favorite trivia
volume. I found that the small town in New Jersey where I grew up
code 07205) still had about the same population (20,000 more or less)
the 1990 census as when I left in 1968. Lots of information ("Young
Heroine: Julia Roberts"), all in traditional almanac lists. All text,
bells and whistles.
-- Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Arranged by author.
SIGHTS and SOUNDS again,
this time a choice between spoken quotations and portraits. The
either famous poets or John F. Kennedy, speaking their own quotation,
portraits are black and white photos.
-- Concise Quotations, which we've already seen in
action with Word's Quote of the
Day. Why two volumes of quotations, I hear you ask? Well, while the
volume is arranged by author, these are selectable by topic. You want a
DOGS? You'll find nine of them, ranging from Lee Marvin ("If your home
rescue the dogs. At least they'll be faithful to you.") to Mark Twain
("If you pick
up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that
is the principal
difference between a dog and a man.")
-- Hammond Atlas. As a 1992 edition, you can see maps
of recent chaos... the
Commonwealth of Independent States or the Balkans. You choose an area
on a world
map, and focus into more detail, choosing a political or attractive
map. But no, you can't focus in infinite detail... I could focus from
the World to
the United States to the Middle Atlantic states, but I couldn't see my
town, or the street where I lived, or... (there IS a CD-ROM Street
Atlas of the
United States that would let me do just that). Click on a city name on
a map, and a
voice pronounces it; click on a little picture of a flag on a map and a
opens with a picture of the flag, and buttons that let you find out
country in the encyclopedia or the almanac. A sound icon would play the
anthem, but not on my PC-Speaker.
WHO WANTS IT?
The target for this product is anyone who does a lot
of writing. You can use the
Windows clipboard with all of the books on the bookshelf and paste
other Windows applications. (Unfortunately, you don't seem to be able
to copy and
paste maps from the Atlas). It's especially designed to work
together with Word for Windows. The Bookshelf, however, can be used by
pasting, with any Windows application. The QuicKeys feature makes this
easy and powerful.
Regardless of choice of word processor, this makes it
a natural for all of us formerly
ink-stained wretches. Definitions, synonyms, statistics, facts,
and of course, all those quotations. All just a few clicks of the mouse
away, and all
easily insertable into whatever we're writing.
School children... my 9 year old likes the maps, but
doesn't really have a use for
this product. My 12 year old, however, has already had to do projects
on Peru and
Ecuador this year, and says her class is studying Japan right now.
not enough information on its natural resources in the encyclopedia,
she could see
the usefulness of having the maps, flag, and encyclopedia's overview
Bill Gates' "Information at your fingertips" quote
isn't listed in the Microsoft
Bookshelf. I couldn't find reference to him in the Alamanc, either. He
in the encyclopedia, however... along with a photo, it
says: Gates, William Henry, III, 1955 - , American businessman. At 19
(1974) the Microsoft Company with Paul Allen. By purchasing the rights
an existing software package, Gates built Microsoft into one of the
microcomputer software companies in the world."
With the Word for Windows/Bookshelf package, Microsoft
is successfully using the
power of CD-ROMs to help make that "Information at your fingertips"
NOTES: The 1993 edition of MS Multimedia Word &
Bookshelf package has a
suggested retail price of $729 CDN. The upgrade from the 1991 edition
is $249.95, Word 2.0 users can upgrade for $129. If you have the
1992 edition, the upgrade is $19.95, while customers who obtained it
after March 29, 1993 can obtain an update for free. The MS Bookshelf
CD can also be obtained separately.
All tests were carried out on a homemade 386-33DX with
8 megs of
RAM, using a Mitsumi CD-ROM player.
(Note from the year 2003): The above
article was originally published in 1993, as a review. A decade and
later, I've gotten a series of emails from Bookshelf fans hoping that I
could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where
it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am
not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for
of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If
on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)