See also the
Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Reference software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the
Mac versions of this title.
PowerMac 6400/200 with 32MB and 8XCD
Pentium166 with 16MB and 12XCD
According to the package, Microsoft Bookshelf 98 provides "fast easy access to all the resources you need..." That's a pretty tall claim, but one that we found to be close to the truth.
In a single CD, Microsoft has bundled ten commonly needed reference tools, and integrated them with a single search engine. Access while using other programs is also possible. The advantage of such an approach is obvious -- no more hunting down multiple CDs, or thumbing through volume after volume of books from the library. The question our reviewers had, was "Are the reference sources good?"
Dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. This is an excellent dictionary, providing over 300,000 definitions. For most users, this is the central feature of the product. Our only complaints about it are common to all of the elements of this CD. First, the search tool, while easy to use, does not carry search parameters from basic queries over to any follow-on, advanced queries. Instead, the user must re-enter the search terms, and identify which books to search through. Our second concern was with the quality of the audio pronunciations that are available - they all sound very mechanical.
Thesaurus. The Original Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. Roget's is the yardstick by which all other thesauri are measured, and Microsoft's CD version is well-done. In fact, it is actually better than a paper version, because of its hyperlinking which allows the user to quickly move from synonym to synonym of the synonym!
Quotations. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. This is the weakest element in the set. Promising "18,000 quotations," this collection somehow chose not to include the first four we looked for, including: "Wherefore art thou Romeo" Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet); "Fourscore and seven years ago" (Lincoln's Gettysburg Address); "in order to form a more perfect union" (U.S. Constitution); and "a date which will live in infamy" (Roosevelt's war message to Congress). Each of these were easily found in our paper version of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.
Encyclopedia. This is a lightweight version of Encarta 98, with shorter articles, and less multimedia. Good, but not a replacement for a complete CD Encyclopedia.
Atlas. The Encarta Desk Atlas provides 125 high level maps of various parts of the world. Good perhaps for a quick look, but nothing like a dedicated CD Atlas, or even the old paper Rand McNally Atlas we grew up with. For example, the one map of Minnesota identified 20 cities, and a half dozen lakes, nothing more. If you need an atlas, this one probably won't do it.
Chronology. The People's Chronology, provides 35,000 historical entries, from 3 million BC, to 1997. Want to know when some major event occurred? Type in the event, and you will find the date and a short description.
Almanac. The World Almanac and Book of Facts. This is a nicely done almanac, full of all the facts and figures one would hope to find. Looking for sports records, historical events, major news stories for 1997? We found a lot of them here.
Internet Directory. This was Microsoft's attempt to provide a bit of a primer on the Net, ranging from "how to pick an ISP" to a searchable list of popular web sites.
Computer Dictionary. You would expect Microsoft to do a nice job on this subject -- and they did. 7,300 terms defined, including many we had hoped to never see again!
National ZIP Code Directory. Enter a partial address, click a button, and find the zip code. Perfect for all those holiday cards!
Best for... / Bottom-Line Bookshelf 98 is an impressive all-purpose reference set. We would recommend it for any student who has the need for more than a couple of the reference books included in this title. Most of the elements of Bookshelf are commonly needed by students, or writers of any age. Having them all on one searchable CD is handy, economical, and useful.